Iceland: Day 4

Seljalandfoss

another tour day. usually, i hate going on tours. i would only like to be limited by the train and bus schedules and not by other people. i want to stay in a place for as long as i want.   the problem with iceland is that there are no trains. local buses only go as far as Keflavik airport and back. there are some buses that go farther out, but they only operate in the summer. During these times, tours are the only way to get around. That and taxis, and car hires which can cost an arm and a leg. maybe literally too if you can’t handle rugged terrains, icy roads, limited visibility due to fog or dust storms, and high winds.      

and so we were picked up again at the hotel by GTI and headed on for the South Coast tour.  

  

icy path leading up to Seljalandsfoss

first stop was the long and thin waterfalls – Seljalandsfoss. You can usually walk behind the waterfalls through a path. But the paths are too icy today.   

other waterfalls near Seljalandsfoss

there are other waterfalls in the area as well. as we were heading out, our guide pointed a most peculiar waterfall facing the coast – you can see water rushing from above, but the strong winds catch it and throws the water back, littering the cliff walls with ice. on a windy day like today, it is a waterfall whose waters didn’t quite fall to the ground.      

Skógafoss

next stop is Skógafoss – a picturesque and wider waterfall. Legend says that the vikings hid treasures behind this waterfall. someone was able to catch a glimpse of it but only managed to get a ring on the chest before it disappeared. Nowadays, when the sunlight hits the waterfalls in a certain way, you can see the ring of gold (the rainbow?).       

the landscape around the south coast is really beautiful. iceland enjoys a particularly remote location, long nights, and a relatively large land for such a sparse population. only the coastlines are habitable in this country. i am fascinated by their folklores. tales of elves, and trolls and hidden people. superstition abounds though not anymore in these days. but they acknowledge that there are things that cannot be explained.       

These area around Skogafoss is dotted by troll stories. trolls are huge, monstrous beings that can only go out at night. they’re blamed for stealing livestock and sometimes people. there is a troll couple at the distance, facing each other. they ventured out late and sunlight hit them before they were in cover. The young troll man, realising their fate, faced his lover and told her he love her. So there they stood – tall stones facing each other. Their parents, worried, were looking for them every night. They stayed out too late in their searches and were turned to stone when sunrise came.           

a troll and a three-masted ship (other troll not visible in this picture)

There were 2 man eating troll living in a cave here in the south coast, one of them smelled human flesh and saw a three-masted ship out in the sea. they ventured out and took the ship dragging it with them towards their cave. But they miscalcualted how much time they still had before sunrise, and so they were turned into stone before they reached the shores.      

The hidden people are like you and i. they live lives like we do but they’re not seen. they can, however, make themselves visible to anyone they choose. back during the time of Adam and Eve, Eve was busy preparing the children for God’s visit. She didn’t have enough time to have them all cleaned when God arrived. So she hid the ones who were not cleaned up yet. God asked Eve that he thought she had more children than the ones he can see. Eve replied this is all of my children. God was angry at Eve for lying and so he said, those who are hidden from me will remain hidden from everybody else.   

There was a woman living in the villages in Iceland. one day, as she finished milking the cow, she left the pail full of milk. after a little while, she came back finding the pail empty. the next day, she decided she would always leave a bit of milk at the bottom of the pail. And at the end of each day, she would find the pail empty and cleaned. One night she had a dream, a woman was speaking to her thanking her for leaving her some milk. her child was ill and needed the milk. in return, she would give her a knitted shawl. the woman woke up from sleep and found the shawl under her pillow. she wore it often. and gets complimented as it was beautifully made. when she died of old age, the shawl disappeared.  

I asked our guide if he ever gets tired of looking at these scenes. he answered no, because the landscape keeps changing. he says he’s got the best job in the world, getting paid to see these beautiful sights. he ventures out with us everytime, sightseeing as if he’d never been here. he’s maybe 60. and speaks about his land with such passion.        

the glaciers from a distance

we headed out into the glaciers. the glaciers keep changing, receding into the mountain tops. changing the landscape as the melted waters rush down into the rivers. huge boulders seemed out of place as the glaciers moved them from the mountain tops.   

i'm somewhere beneath all these layers of clothes beside an ice cave we went into

we climbed over the sand that covers the ice. we tried to walk at the edge of the glaciers and proceeded to slip synchronously and bumped into each other. had a picture taken of us, only for the camera click timing perfectly with a strong wind carrying dust into our eyes.    

the Sólheimajökull glaciers

we had a quick lunch at a rest stop in the village of Vik, Iceland’s southermost village. Reynisdrangar, basalt rocks jutting out from the sea, is in the distance. if you have time, best to visit the souvenir shops here as they are supposed to be cheaper than in the city.    

caves along the black sand beach at Reynisfjara shores, Vik

we’ve walked along the black sand beach at Vik. touted as one of the best beaches in the world. There are a number of caves with the most amazing walls in these areas. Note that you shouldn’t get too close to the shores as the strong waves have already claimed lives by pulling people into the sea.    

look at the rocks!
one of the best beaches in the world. yet hardly anyone would swim here.

we’ve made a last stop as we make use of the last of the daylight. our guide strutted his driving skills into sharp corners up the hills for us to get a glimpse of the arch at Dyrholaey (i dare not look out the side of the van, as it looks like a steep drop!) ships and small airplanes can pass through this massive arch.    

the door at Dyrholaey
lighthouse at Dyrholaey

the winds were really picking up in these hills and we were being pushed out as we head towards the view point. going back to the van, i was stopped twice because of the wind and the sand along with the freezing wind hitting my face was really painful.       

it was a long ride back into the city with the high winds forcing the van to slow down several times in the journey.       

got back at 7. tired and quite hungry. we headed for the reykjavik restaurant at Versturgotu armed with vouchers our guide gave us. they had a fish buffet on offer which we took. well trained staff who gave us a free entrance and drink to the Ice bar instead because our vouchers were not valid with the fish buffet. I enjoyed an asparagus soup, a couple of fish dishes and a roast pork + dessert and a glass of good argentinian house wine. al wasn’t too happy with the food though and was full right away. we headed for the ice bar – nothing more than a freezer with carved ice blocks on the wall. was served a couple of drinks and left right away. they had a small seating area there, but there was vomit on the floor, so no thank you.       

bartender/waiter was telling us about meeting a few filipinos in church. and how beautiful south africa is compared to what iceland has on offer. he doesn’t seem happy about his stay in the country as he found icelanders rude. i’ve found icelanders to be very warm and very accomodating. but i guess it’s one thing to just visit. it will be a totally different experience if you live in the country. after all, iceland turns away 90% of asylum seekers and has a rather ambivalent attitude to outsiders.

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