In this post, I make a complete fool of myself, show you just how varied Iceland’s landscape can be (and this is just in summer!), watch a very frightening video, and fall just a little bit in love.
That’s a seal. There were more of them. <3
There’s so much to tell you that cutting things up by sunrise and sunset does it an injustice- especially when the sun didn’t exactly ‘set’. So instead of sticking to chronological order I’ve divided this adventure into three and this post is about the power of Iceland’s nature.
Mountain meets glacier meets sea. Those icebergs in the water are each about the size of a house.
I’ve had a couple of weeks of non-stop travel, which left me with 37 mosquito bites at last count and a sock full of spare change that would be banned as a weapon in any prison (yet was completely ignored by airport security as they debated the danger posed by my two inch long knuckleduster charm.) 😛
I didn’t tell you about Iceland as I was so scared of jinxing it, but finally announced it on my Instagram (where most ‘advance notice’ goes) when I was at the airport. 😉 I was part of somebody else’s adventure which meant that I saw things I would never have known about but missed a few things on my personal list- which is one of the many reasons why I’m planning a second trip!
I’d spent the whole night in the airport (the first all-nighter of three last month) and as the crew were all tired we decided day one would be a sightseeing day; no work allowed. So we jumped into the car and drove- we saw glimpses of everything people come back raving about; geysers, waterfalls, open space, mountains and tiny little houses! For some reason, I had pictured the country as tiny- maybe the size of Scotland, but it’s as big as the whole UK, just with about six different fantasy landscapes… including flowers! We arrived a few weeks too late for full meadows but those we saw were beautiful and wild.
Look at these horses!!! (Sorry for the crap photo- it’s a photo of my computer screen as I paused the video I shot from a moving car.) They look like ponies but they’re a native species of small stocky horse. 🙂
I’m a huge fan of the Icelandic band “Of Monsters And Men”, and this looks as though it was taken out of their mesmerising lyric video for “Mountain Sound”.
Look at this view.
How can the average Brit possibly appreciate Britain’s beautiful land when the average Brit hasn’t actually seen the land? England is so covered in houses, roads and warning signs that we can’t see the country underneath. Even our natural beauty spots are carefully sanitised, with fences and signposts and warnings that yes, this mountain is steep too. The country is too full of people and the land meaningless to most of us because we simply don’t see it. We’re brought up to think little square parks are ‘nature’ and meadows are ‘scrubland’- it’s like growing up eating nothing but strawberry laces and never experiencing a real strawberry.
Iceland has virtually no sturdy fences. Even between a path and a waterfall. Even around a scalding hot geyser. Even at the edge of an abyss. There are warning signs but in general, people are credited with common sense and if there’s any danger, a thin rope is placed around the edge of the thing we’re looking at. THIS was nature, trusted and celebrated.
Look at the tiny people! This is Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”), protected by the state of Iceland.
We found another waterfall with a tiny island and incredible view. It would be one of many we saw that week but even now I think I’d still stare with my mouth flapping open. 😛 This is (I think) Beljandi.
It was cold- even in early August- but the days weren’t usually freezing. We had sunny days, gloomy atmospheric days and one rainy, windy, miserable weather day- but we were usually able to outrace the weather. The mountains and volcanoes break the island up into microclimates, shielding some parts, exposing others and leaving great plains covered in volcanic rock: the lava fields.
Those are seals. I love them.
This is a wonderful but revolting place and I’ll show it to you in my next post. 😉
In 2010, I got stranded in Hamburg because of this bloody volcano!!! It erupted, sending a huge ash cloud over half of Europe, making it too dangerous for planes to fly! Eyjafjallajokull (“Island Mountain Glacier”). I’m still learning to say it at normal speed.
Look at it. Sitting there all innocent… I KNOW WHAT YOU DID!
The whole time we were driving through, we kept comparing the landscape to other parts of the world; this bit looks like Scotland, that bit’s like Patagonia, the view over there reminds me of Lanzarote, and all of it looks like Lord of The Rings. 😛
One of the most obviously ‘Icelandic’ sights (other than Reykjavik’s famous church) is the Icelandic Moss that coats vast areas of the country. It’s actually a very thick kind of lichen and this is where I got stupid. While I was writing this blog, I googled Iceland’s nature to see what else I could tell you and I came across this article: Dumbest Things to do in Iceland. I’m extremely nature-focussed, generally smart, with respect for the natural world… yet I did two dumb things in this post alone; one that risked the land and one that could have potentially risked me. I’m incredibly embarrassed writing about it here but if someone reads this and decides not to be an idiot then it’s worth my red face!
My first discovery was the mossy lichen which was soft and thick and bouncy! So I rolled down a hill.
It turns out that you are not supposed to even walk on it as it is fragile and any damage takes decades to repair. Just like a coral reef. Fortunately, the team did not start peeling off great strips of the stuff for tent insulation (the most recent tourist blunder) or stripping it off to make our initials(!!!) so while it could have been worse- the moss remained intact and my weight was spread- the best thing to do is be gentle and then leave it alone.
Iceland is volcanic, and was formed relatively quickly. The fact that there are still active volcanoes on the island mean geothermal pools are everywhere and heating is free! The rocks are black pumice or giant basalt columns (like in the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland) which mean even the sand is black.
Part of a dolphin or porpoise backbone!
There’s a particular area with a black sand beach and these giant columns (NOT the beach photographed above) which is very beautiful and very, very, very dangerous. The sea conditions mean the area is prone to freak waves (also called sneaker waves), which are mini tsunamis. I’d never seen this phenomenon before- or even heard of it- until getting back and reading this article.
It’s a damn good piece of advice, never put your back to the sea if you don’t know the beach or area. Well, I was lying on the beach above getting photos as the tide came in, waiting for the perfect wave to crash on the rocks behind me and maybe get some rainbows in the sea spray- and then one crashed down on my head and I came up drenched and swearing. It was hilarious- it happens to people all the time, it wasn’t a huge wave and that particular beach was not known or marked as dangerous. BUT… I could have picked the wrong beach or the wrong time and done the same thing. Not now.
This is not just a ‘rough sea’; if you want to see a sneaker wave, go to minute 2 on this video. It’s one of the most distressing things I’ve ever seen. The people survived– the video is captioned ‘drowning’ but they survived- it says in the description.
Pay attention to warning posters, if there are any, and listen to/respect tour guides and locals if you have been warned.
The only warning you’re going to get here.
This place was my first glacier! Though we ended up seeing waterfalls and glaciers every day, I never quite got used to them. I’d never seen a glacier before. I saw icebergs up close for the first time and a few hours later, I touched one!!
This is the same location as in my second picture- Vatnajokull (“Water Glacier”). It’s the largest ice cap in Iceland and one of the largest in Europe.
This is near the famous Jokulsarlon (“Glacial Lagoon”), our next stop. I think people living in the UK expect to go searching for amazing natural phenomena- because in general that’s what we have to do in the UK, but Jokulsarlon was right there at the roadside! It’s by the equally famous “Diamond Beach”. The lagoon is relatively new- as the world’s temperature has risen, the glacier has begun to melt and form this lagoon. It’s the deepest lake in Iceland and the water is around 2 degrees- though it doesn’t freeze, even in winter. It is full of fish… which means it’s also full of seals. I also saw terns and skuas (which are gorgeous but bullies!)
The icebergs drift through the lagoon, crash down a waterfall and enter the sea in a beautiful procession, where they either drift out to sea or more often get carried in by the tide to their final resting place on the black sand beach.
This (below) is where I touched the iceberg. Where it was safe and not floating in a deep blood-freezing lake. 😉
I really loved this place….. and guess what they filmed here? 😉
I’m wearing a top by Psylo Fashion- you can have 10% off using my code “LIFEOUTTHERE10”
Living in such a ‘geologically safe’ country, actually seeing nature’s power is a primal culture shock; the steady grind of glaciers vs the boiling geysers and the lava fields, and the near-constant wind. On a particularly frustrating day full of slow relentless very cold drizzle it seemed all the more surreal to be in a volcano crater, looking at the evidence that once this was full of molten rock; proof of its former heat lay all around us while it seemed impossible I’d ever be warm and dry again!
(But of course I was, just short while later!)
Wearing Badass Official
I knew I’d see some incredible things and Iceland had been a ‘goal’ location for me for a long time, but I was not prepared for half of the experiences I had – especially being a accidental “dumb tourist”. (Lesson learned). I have a list of things I think everyone should experience in their lives and while ‘feeling stupid’ was already on there, seeing a true force of nature has now been added. I might even get a chance to show you the list- I’d like to shoot more videos for my Instagram and Youtube channels.
For now… have another glacier- with a massive bus for size reference!
Next post: I visit the Bog of Eternal Stench, do another stupid thing, and find out why so many Icelanders believe in trolls.