Iceland – Meeting on Another Planet XV
23. 8. 2013
We return to the camp. We try to build tents and we find out that it is really very complicated. First, the strong wind prevents tents to be in the right shape. The problem is that we have to thrust stakes to the ground which was very difficult to penetrate, perhaps it was partially a lava field. Some manage this situation to put heavy rocks to the tent to weight it down, and prevent it from moving. It take us pretty long time to build tents. Then we are deciding what to do next. I am told to make up a supplement program. So I try to call to the farm that breeds Icelandic horses. The farm also makes horse rides to the surroundings. The lady is very nice yet she rejected us. It wouldn’t be possible to do a ride in the strong wind.
There is no other way than to make use of what we have at the site. Near the camp, the waterfall of Seljalandsfoss demonstrates its strength. It is more popular than other waterfalls. It is relatively narrow. Water falls down to the small, shallow lake. What is the most impressing about this sight? That you can go behind the waterfall. Yes, there is a trail which allows you to get behind the water curtain. You have to count on being splashed with water. You wont maky it dry, yet the experience itself is great. We walk around the waterfall for a while but it is still raining. So we have no other option than to spend time in the social room in the camp. There we will have a really pleasant evening accompanied by sounds of an acoustic guitar.
24. 8. 2013
The weather improved. It was no more raining so we could go to the Vestman Islands, finally. These islands were not within our reach just a day ago. We set sails from the harbor at 10 o’clock. The ride takes about 30 minutes. We observe seagulls, and gannets that fly around the ferry. Waves are large even today which wobble with the ferry pretty much. Now we are entering the harbor inside beautiful cliffs, and are looking forward to new experiences.
First, we are heading to the infocenter. Then we ascend around “Pompei of the North” – one of the island’s highest peaks - Eldfell.
Vestman Islands consist of more than ten small volcanic islands scattered over the area of about 10 kilometers. The only inhabited island is Heimaey. Two attractions lure tourists here – Pompei of the North -Kirkjubæjarhraun which is a solidified lavafield covering a third of the lost city buried during huge volcanic eruption in 1973. Another attraction is the puffin colony as they nest on the island.
As I have already said, we are going up on the first observation platform. There we enjoy beautiful vistas on the cliffs of Heimaklettur. It is there when we can observe birds – only hundreds of guillemots. The road goes up following lava slag, surrounding nature is as colorful as it can possibly be, mostly in the tones of red and orange. Clouds are still wandering above the island. For a while, we enjoy the opportunity to observe neighboring islands, and the southwest coast. Then everything got covered in the clouds again.
Our group is not entire. Couple of subgroups were formed and each of them goes its own way. First we reach the peak of volcano Eldfell. We enjoy the vistas of the surrounding, then continue exploring the island to the south. There are supposed to be large puffin colonies. Unfortunately, as for several days already, the weather has been worsening. It is raining intensively, and we even experience a horizontal rain. Without any doubt there are no conditions for taking pictures. And it is hard to see anything through waving raincoat anyway. Icelandic horses feed on the grass around, which makes me happy as I see something at least.
Hiking to the south part of the island is very long. And it is not nearly certain that we would even enjoy puffins. I start to consider if we should return back to the town of Heimaey. Puffins, lundi in Icelandic are the species of auk. They are something like penguins in the south hemisphere. And puffins look similar to pengiuins. They are chubby, pretty small, and their typical colors include black body, white stomach area and head. Legs are orange, and distinct beak. The body is pretty comic, and their landing also looks comical. They lower their “chassis”, stretch their legs to the front to break the flight.
The best time of the day to observ puffins is in the early morning, or shortly before sundown. During the day, puffin hunts and return in the evening. What I can only hardly imagine is locals eating puffins as they are often part of Icelandic meals. I wouldn’t try it.
So I resign. Slowly I return to the cliffs and back to the city. I am lucky to take a picture of a puffin. I know it is not much as there are usually hundreds of them. Yet the weather conditions prevents me to take better pictures which makes me really proud of my work. The weather is really unstable. I don’t spend too much time on the cliffs as it very likely that fog will appear. It would be really dangerous to move in such conditions while on the cliff. Unfortunately, I don’t know the opening hours of the Aquarium and the Museum of Natural History – another of island’s attractions. I came too late. I had been looking forward to see the Volcano show. It captures the events of the 1973 eruption. And I also missed it. The screening takes place daily at 14 and at 16 o’clock. Well, the only thing I could do is to visit local restaurant and try some of local specialties.
I return to the harbor, and to the land by ferry. Too bad that the weather was not good enough for us to thoroughly explore the Vestman Islands.
In the next article, we will learn something about local horses, and will see another waterfall.
Text and photo: Magdaléna Radostová
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