Monday, June 13, 2016

Iceland - The land of Fire and Ice

There are a few places in the world everyone one should visit at some stage in their life in order to get a really appreciation of geology and how the world works. Top three places on my lists (so far) include the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river, Nepal and now Iceland.

When working out my plans to fly from Munich Germany, straight after the Europeans, to Denver Colorado for the USA freestyle tour I came across a super good Iceland Air deal. A deal that not only beat the price of any other airline and was kayak equipment friendly but that allowed a three night four day stop over  in Iceland for free. Now I have heard many tales of amazing trips and boating adventures in Iceland so the decision to book this extra adventure was pretty easy.

Iceland Air Stop Over

I landed Monday night, picked up my hire car and the adventure instantly begun. As I left the tiny little airport in my tiny little car and drove down the tiny little, quite, tarmac road I was instantly surrounded by Icelandic beauty. Volcanic rock outcrops everywhere setting the landscape, uninterrupted just natural beauty sprawling out for miles. In the distance as I looked west I could just make out the ocean and east I could make out the snow capped mountains breaking up the crisp blue sky.

Stunning Volcanic Coastlines

I had planned to drive directly to the city of Reykajvik from the airport and find my accommodation for the night but quickly realised that actually what I needed to do was make the most of every minute and just go explore.

I drove a lot that evening and again the next three days and fitted in as much as possible into my trip to this incredible place.

Day 1 :

My first adventures took me south from the airport along the coastal road to Grindavik. Along the way I saw so much just in my first two hours in the country. I saw the bridge across and stood between the Europe / America tectonic plates at their divide in Miolina, I saw rustic lighthouses, coastal volcanic cliffs and beaches, red rock, black rock and loads of steam from the amazing hot springs. The sky was crystal blue and as the sun shone bright I quickly forgot the time.

Geology lesson every way you look

Beautiful Coastlines
Bright red rock
Massive Natural Steam Outlets
Hot Springs everywhere

Eventually about 9pm I started the drive back to Reykajvik to get some sleep for the night. Completely forgetting that Iceland at this time of the year has almost 24hr sunlight. I arrive to my YHA dorm only to regret having booked a 6 bed dorm room as everyone else in the room seemed to be full of energy, super chatty and ready to just start their day / night. Heading into the city at 11pm allowing me to try get some sleep. 12 midnight it was still super bright keeping me wide awake a little while later after using a collection of towels and tshirt to try and block out the light I managed to get some well needed sleep.

Driving towards the mountains

Day 2 :

The next morning I was up early and one my way again. I had a big adventure day planned. Including my first ever Ice Climbing adventure and Glacier walk. I drove for three hours through stunning scenery passing some incredible waterfalls to meet up with the Icelandic Mountain Guides at the Solheimajokull Glacier. I also met up with another Aussie boater Nicole, Together with the rest of our group we set off on our four hour Glacier adventure and had an amazing time. I learnt loads about how a glacier forms and works and how much global warming has effected Iceland's glaciers in recent years. I learnt how to use crampons, ice axes and had a blast climbing route after route on the glacier. Its much more challenging than I initially thought. 

Ash covered Glaciers

Stunning Glacier valleys

Ice Climbing in Iceland!!!

Off the glacier I was back in the car heading to the black beaches of Vik. A strange contrast after recently being on the pristine white beaches of Whitehaven with Jez in Australia. These beaches had dark black volcanic sand and some amazing rock formations and arches. Heading inland again I traced my way back to explore some of the waterfalls I had a passed on my drive out that morning. Stunning vertical falls just fell of the mountain sides. With a back drop of snow capped mountains. The falls were all banked by beautiful green moss and grassed walls. Some fresh fish dinner and local ice cream desert and with the daylight still glaring it was once again 11pm and time for bed this time in a really cool cabin in Hella.


Iconic Rock Formations


Massive rock formations

Beautiful Waterfalls

Todays rain brought the falls to life

 Day 3 :

Golden Circle tour. Another early start and a big day on the road. This time to drive the famous Golden Circle tour a 300km driving loop that takes you past all the main tourist attractions in the area and then back to Reykjavik. First stop was an amazing Kerio Volcanic crater, then the massive Hverageroi greenhouse tomato plantation, kind of strange in the middle of the Icelandic scenery suddenly seeing a massive farming plantation.

Kerio crater


Then just before I got to the impressive Geysirs and Gullafoss waterfall I saw a sign for  Arctic Rafting and deciding it was worth the shot, drove the 5km+ down the gravel road to their base to see if they had any trips going out. Luckily they did, they had a massive 100+ kids rafting trip going out just an hour or so later and were happy to lend me a boat and have me tag along. My disguise as a random passing paddler was blown only a short time later when one of the raft guides Kate recognised me from paddling together on the Ottawa river. I guess it would have been blown anyways as soon as I got in my gear. So along with Kate and the rest of the Arctic Rafting crew we hit the river for a super fun Grade 2/3 paddling trip through a beautiful Icelandic gorge, in the rain.

A completely unplanned kayaking trip in a borrowed boat

Straight of the river I was back in the car and back on my way as a true tourist again. Stopping to watch the Geysirs fire hot water into the air and check out Gulfoss before hitting the narrow windy road back through the Pingvellir National Park or National Cloud. Stopping briefly on route to take photos and check out the faults and continental drifts between the American and Europe Plates again. As the weather closed I drove out the last few hours of my journey back through Reyjakvik and on to my base for the night in Grindavik.

Geysirs are incredible

Natural Bright Blue Ponds 

Crazy impressive waterfalls cutting through the valley

Rustic Iceland

Every corner deserves a photo

Day 4 :

My final day in Iceland and last adventure. I woke up to the sound of sheep in the field and the wind whistling through the masts of the boats in the harbour outside my bedroom window. I quickly grabbed some breakfast and then set off this time on a very short drive to the Blue Lagoon Hot Springs only a short drive down the road. The Blue Lagoon is a Hot Spring site that has been turned into a very successful business and tourist attraction and is a must visit location on your tour. I spend an hour or so in the Lagoon enjoying the blue warm water, applying white mud face masks and warm waterfall massages before taking a walk around the bright blue streams surrounding the Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon

Exploring the Lagoon streams

On checking my emails on leaving the Lagoon I realised my flight was delayed an hour which meant I still had time to drive and explore the remaining coastal towns. Stopping for a bite to eat in an awesome harbour town and then checking out the ocean and a few light houses I enjoyed my last few hours in this amazing naturally beautiful and relatively unspoilt country before jumping on my flight to the heart of the USA.

Working Fishing Harbours

Classic Lighthouses

More working fishing Harbours near the airport

If you haven't been to Iceland and get the chance I would highly recommend it. It was an awesome remained of how lucky I am to be able to travel and explore this amazing world.