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Iceland 2010 – The Travel Blog

So what was all that fuss about Eyjafjöll...?

The eruption at Eyjafjöll certainly made the headlines, and has brought the fascinating world of volcanoes into the public domain for, unusually, our lives here in the UK were actually affected by it. Of course, whilst people were cursing their flights being delayed, the Winster Cavers viewed this as an opportunity not to be missed, and immediately looked to see if they could get to see the eruption -  except for the small detail of work getting in the way!

Work commitments dealt with, flights were promptly booked, and Iceland here we come. Bloomin' typical that just after we book flights, the volcano stops! That said, we're set to hook up with some local cavers, visit the volcano, trek across a glacier - so it should still be hoot.

Here's the blog: Enjoy!

The Blog:

Arriving in Reykyavik 11 June 2010
A trouble-free journey and we arrived at Keflavik - gliding past what may just have been the last few fragments of the famous ash cloud as we descended towards the island. The flybus works superbly, and by early evening we were safely installed in the perfectly pleasant guesthouse 'Sunna'. A stroll around Reykyavik and we were feasting on pizza & beer :-) We're now installed in a local bar where the Vikings cost a mere £4 a pint (not half as bad as we feared) and a local rock band has just kicked off. LOUD!!! Tomorrow we go caving, probably with serious tinitus.

A caving we shall go... 12 June 2010
At 9:30 prompt, a white jeep came round the corner, and in it were three local cavers - Gudni, and two of his friends. We drove out onto the Reykyans peninsular, via a brief stop to meet with Ragnur, a 4th Icelandic caver, and another stop to pick up carbide for Gudnis light. As the weather started to turn, we made our way up a rocky jeep track, before parking up and walking in howling winds to our first proper stop for the day - Buri Lava cave. 800m of impressive passage, terminating in a 17m pitch. An hour or two later we emerged in torrential rain, and made our way back to the jeeps. From here, we drove out to Sængurkonuhellir ("Pregnant Womans Cave") , more rain and the Floki Lava tube - where the prospect of a long walk in horizonal rain brought about a sudden change of plan. So we went to Rósahellir (Rose Cave) instead, a short lava tube festooned with some excellent ice formations. Back to base for some fine veggie scoff at a local cafe. Many thanks go out to Gudni, Ragnar, Halldór and Vladimir of the Icelandic speleological society (Hellarannsóknafélag Íslands) - to Ed and Hayley - and Björn at for helping put us in touch with the right people. A fine day out, and we are glad the rain has stopped - although the forecast for the next week is not too great!
View the Photo Gallery of Icelandic Lava Caves from our days adventures.

A volcano film to be proud of 13 June 2010
A relatively easy day - we wandered down to the old harbour and went out on a boat whale watching. A few glimpses of some minke whales is all we saw, but they were magnificent nonetheless. Why the locals feel compelled to hunt down these beautiful animals to be served as lightly seared minke steak is beyond me, but that's a debate to be held somewhere other than here. We returned via absentee-puffin rock.
The evening started with a fine feast at the highly recommended A Naestu Grossum veggie restaurant before paying a visit to the totally unique Volcano Show. Cameraman, director, producer and host Villi Knudsen has created a miniature cinema in what looks like his garage, within which you get a viewing of some extraordinary films of the various volcanic eruptions to have occurred on Iceland. The vintage footage of the eruption on Heimaey was so rivetting we started to wonder if Villi's dad was aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the Winster Cavers!

A long drive to Vatnajokull 14 June 2010
Having collected a hire car, we made our way to Skaftafell to confirm, or not as the case happened to be, our big walk up Hvannadalshnukur tomorrow. The threat of bad weather has meant our guides have postponed the walk until Wednesday. We drove onwards to guesthouse Hali, stopping off at the amazing glacial lake of Jokulsarlon. Here, the tip of one of the tongues of the Vatnajokull glacier reaches the sea, and mini icebergs float around in curious lagoon - amazing, and very photogenic.

Not-so-bad weather stops play. 15 June 2010
So having had our hike up Hvannadalshnukur postponed until tomorrow due to poor weather, it was somewhere between irritating and ironic that our hosts at Guesthouse Hali should gleefully greet us over breakfast, announcing how fine the weather was this morning. We drove to Hofn, where we went to the exhibition about the glacier we should have been climbing, and looked on longingly from the viewing gallery at the crystal clear peaks in the distance. Arse!!!
We returned to Skaftafell for a short but pleasant walk, and to catch up with our guides. The forecast has shifted and is now giving rubbish weather for tomorrow, clearing up in the afternoon. But we're being all optimistic and are hoping that tomorrow's weather forecast is equally wrong. We RV at 5:00am tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

Glaciers in the rain 16 June 2010
We met our guide for the day, Gudmundur, along with a couple of American travellers, as the rain started to fall. Undeterred we all kitted up in wet weather gear and, armed with crampons and ice axes started on the 1900m climb to the summit of Hvannadalshnukur, the highest peak in Iceland. The rain continued, and so did we, but as we got higher and higher, Gudmundur started to become concerned that the rain was falling as rain, and not snow, and that the snow in the upper reaches would be too soft to reach the summit safely. At 1000m we reached the snow line, and Gudmundur's concerns were confirmed. The decision was made to turn back. Bitterly disappointing given that we'd originally planned to ascend yesterday when the weather had, in fact, been perfect!
So on returning to the car, we were taken for a scramble around one of the lower glacier tongues by way of compensation - a fascinating experience that turned the day round. Gudmundur was an excellent guide - our thanks to him. Our next three nights are at the Hotel Edda in Skogar, from which we hope to hike to the site of the Fimmvorduhals eruption. There's blue sky out there now, so fingers crossed!

Skoger to Fimmvorduhals 17 June 2010
So having spent yesterday climbing glaciers and so on, today we were to ensure that we didn't overdo it. We set off from the impressive Skogarfoss waterfall with the intention of doing a circular walk - up by the waterfalls as far as the river crossing towards Fimmvorduhals, and back via the Jeep track. The route along the riverside was a real treat. A high-sided canyon with numerous waterfalls of magnificent proportions. And from high above the gorge, we gazed over towards the distant Eyjafjallajokoll volcano as she treated us to a nice little puff of ash. Half an hour (and lunch) later, we were still waiting for a second volcanic outburst. It didn't happen, so we pushed onwards. On arriving at the river crossing, a bridge beckoned (sadly, erected after a young Scottish chap drowned attempting to ford the river in 1984) so we decided to push on a little further to see if we could see the site of the Fimmvorduhals eruption earlier this year. An hour later, the mountain hut was in view, but we'd already clocked up 14+km and knew we had to return to Skogar. We returned via the jeep track, arriving at the hotel just in time for the buffet. A grand 27km day out.

The Myrdalsjokoll glacier 18 June 2010
Feeling astonishingly lively after yesterday's Marathon walk, we headed to thakgil for a 'short' walk to hopefully take in some views of the Myrdalsjokoll glacier. A liberal covering of ash from the Eyjafjallajokoll eruption, combined with being the first people of the season to tread some less popular routes meant that almost all trace of the planned footpaths had vanished, and route finding was tricky, to say the least. We struck out onto a local peak for some fabulous views of Iceland's interior, and down to the small seaside town of Vik. The originally planned route could be seen in the distance, only if one used some considerable imagination. We returned via our ascent route, happy that we had still had a pleasant walk with fine views.

Gullfoss & Thingvillir 19 June 2010
We headed back to Reykjavik, taking in the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall on-route, and then the site of the one and only original Geysir at, urrr, Geysir. Geysir itself only spurts a few times a day now, but it's smaller neighbour was happy to oblige us on a regulr (~6 minute) basis.
Then to Thingvillir, the site of the orginal Icelandic parliament and, more interesting, a huge rift zone where the Pacific and Eurasion tectonic plate are separating - a fascinating day out.

Kleifarvatn lake and Seltun Geothermal area 20 June 2010
A relaxed day visiting the Kleifarvatn lake, followed by a visit to the geothermal area at Seltun - where sulphurous steam bubbles up through muddy puddles of many colours. From there we headed down to the impressive sea cliffs at Krysuvikurberg, where a long dirt track and small ford giving access to about 4km of high, unspoilt rocky cliffs, on which thousands of sea birds nest. Gulls, Guillemots, and puffins a plenty. Too late to pay a visit to the blue lagoon, we returned to Reykjavik and had a final beer at the bar Karambar. Homeward bound tomorrow.


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