Once inhabited by fairies, elves and trolls, Iceland is definitely a mystical land. Icelandic folklore is riddled with numerous tales of mysterious creatures; a fickle of imagination of the inhabitants, who were lost in oblivion about the harsh power of the forceful nature around them. As hinted by various local writers, fables were the only source of entertainment. Not just a pastime, such stories passed from generation to generation reflected the conditions faced by Icelanders who struggled to survive volcanic devastations, frozen seasons and ferocious winds.
Nowadays, detailed and interesting reports about the formation of the island and the accompanying contrasting natural phenomena are being proved. One scientific theory states that since Iceland is situated in a strategic geological-activity position subject to volcanic eruptions, earthquake activity and geysers, one cannot exclude that it was created due to the volcanic activity through the mid-Atlantic ridge. Pockets of magma sitting beneath this land gave way to very hot lava which rose to the ocean surface, cooled down and gradually accumulated in forming this island. This took a very long process, estimated to be as long as a couple of million years. Quite surprised by the weather conditions, expecting it to be much colder than it actually is, I learned that Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic circle is balanced by the tail end of the Gulf Stream Current, which flows up through the Atlantic Ocean bringing heat from the tropics. Although a widespread of harsh landscapes, a good 25 % of the island is habitable, mostly along the southern and eastern coasts.
Into the distant world of Jules Verne
After the first three weeks trapped in Reykjavik due to the continuous storms, I soon start to explore the island with my partner. Invited by Basecamp Iceland and accompanied by our exceptional guide and university professor Eric, we part towards the Blue Mountains in the South West part. We stop to explore a 2000-year-old lava tube cave; leiðarendi, a prime example of an Icelandic lava tube. It immediately reminded me of the marvellous underworld of Jules Verne and his novel Journey to the Centre of Earth inside an Icelandic Volcano. We did not go so deep though, as we managed to reach just 59 meters down this subterranean world, consisting of a whole network of tunnels much deeper, beneath the snow-covered lava fields. We descend through tight holes almost entirely covered in snow. The first part is quite slippery and one has to be careful not to break a leg just before starting the expedition. Once descended, shining a torch into the darkness reveals forms of colourful old dried lava flows, hues of magenta and burnt orange, frozen rocks and glistening natural ice sculptures.
The next days we continue travelling down south to the east, through the surreal ever-changing sceneries. Mere words cannot describe the extraordinary views the southern part of this country offers. It has some of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes I have ever set my eyes on. As yet I have found nothing as intoxicating as the contrast presented by this bygone land, consisting of places frozen in time, in sheer contrast to the various powerful waterfalls.
First in the series is Skogafoss. Undeniably one of the countries’ most iconic waterfalls, it is also very much commercialised due to its ties to a very widespread ancient legend,
recalling back to the Vikings, whereby it
is believed that they hid a big treasure in a cave behind the torrential waters. One of the highest waterfalls I have ever seen, its water runs 62 metres high, dropping off dramatically from a rugged cliff creating a meteorological phenomenon on ground level. A thick dreamy mist pierced by the strong sun rays, refracting and dispersing when in contact with the droplets, creates a spectrum of multi-coloured light; the rainbow.
Seljalandsfoss, another sight to behold is this one, where water drops from 60 meters high. This route eventually takes you further south east with views of glaciers, and haunting black sandy beaches. VIK, the southernmost village, is the beast area to stop overnight. Surrounded by fantastic black beaches framed by dramatic and imposing stacks of basalt rock, local folklore has it that these were former trolls who tried to drag their boats to the shore only to be caught by the rising dawn and turned into rocks.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia