On Tuesday (Day 20) we drove into Reykjavik. We found a good parking place at the waterfront and walked towards the concert hall. It is a modern glass building with a honeycomb structure. We could not enter due to renovation. However we did meet our fellow Exclusive travellers Elly and Ton. We knew they are on an organised VW camper tour through Iceland. After 3 weeks, our path finally crossed. In the evening we had drinks together at the Reykjavik city campsite.
Reykjavik is a very spread-out city draped around several bays. The old centre has some individual houses close together along not so narrow streets, but the suburbs have apartment blocks of 2 -3 flours high among the individual houses built on reasonable size plot. The old town houses are built of wood on a stone foundation. The wood is then covered with corrugated iron sheets painted in various colours. It give the centre a colourful look, even in the often gray rainy weather. Our first stop was the settlement museum which is housed in the excavated cellar of one of the old town houses. When renovating the city centre, the ruins of one of the first buildings was found. It is a 10th century Viking long house build up of thick turf walls with a length of 12 m and a width of 5 m. The original had of course large wooden poles to hold up the roof of grass sods. From here we wandered the streets up to the Hallgrimskirkja (1945-1986). It has an outside structure which resembles basalt columns. There is an elevator to the viewing platform in the tower at 74 m. Inside, this Lutheran church is spacious with lots of light and white painted walls. From here we wandered down the hill passing a fish and chips cafe, as well as a bakery with cinnamon buns. The main shopping street has, beside the usual fashion shops, also many places to buy outdoor clothing and equipment. In the evening we camped at the city camping where the Dutch VW camper tour group has set up base.
On day 21 we drove again into the Reykjanes peninsula, south west of Reykjavik. We wanted to make another attempt to see the volcano in action. While waiting we toured the whole peninsula including a stop at the commercial Blue Lagoon resort and the “Bridge between 2 Continents”. The Blue Lagoon is formed by the mineral holding water disposed by the nearby thermal power plant. The water is milky blue from the very fine silica powder which is in the water. If you hold the silica paste in your hand all fingerprint patterns are filled and smoothed out. Since we had made no reservation, we were not allowed in the pool but did the next best thing and walked around the lagoon. We camped in Grindavik and kept an eye on the webcam to see if there was activity at the volcano.
At 24:00 Jamaliah woke me up and said that there was a glow above the volcano. We had seen this before but were too tired to react. This time we got up in the middle of the night and drove to the parking lot near the volcano. It was dark, windy and wet. Only a few cars were at the parking lot. We started our walk along a road we thought would lead up the mountain. We met a few people coming down. They said there was not much to see because of the mist. We decided to carry on. At one point we saw a sign stating that the road is closed. Fortunately a group of 3 young American men came by and had walked up the mountain before following this road/path. We tagged on. At one point the steep road is freshly made (slippery) and has many switchbacks going up. In the end some form of path takes you up to the hilltop. The slope is made of volcanic rocks covered with moss. Some of the moss is luminescent which gives you some guidance in the light of your headlamp. On the top you felt the cold wind. The rain had fortunately stopped. We stumbled over the hill in the direction of the volcano. Suddenly it cleared and we could see the orange reflection of the hot magma in the volcano against the clouds. We settled down on the mountain slope to watch the colour display of the volcano in the distance hoping that it would also start erupting lava. We stayed there till 3:30am. Several times the mountain become visible in-between the mist. It was a fascinating scene. The mist came from the cooling lava below where we had walked close to several days ago. Due to the rain and the hot rock, clouds of mist drifted up the valley. It became clear that there would be no mayor fireworks today so we stumbled down the mountain again. Fortunately the mist was gone and daylight started. We made it back down without incident. At 5:00am we were back at the campsite and went to sleep again. A great experience richer.
After a short sleep, we drove on to Landmanna Laugar, some 230 km north east. This is a lovely valley in-between very colourful mountains. Despite that you can only get here with a 4×4 and 2 rivers to cross, it was very busy. It is the main hiking area of Iceland. The tent area has 30+ small tents and the car park is full of buses taking tourists up from Reykjavik. They all left around 15:00 hrs. We waited a bit longer to try the hot pool (i.e. till the private cars have also left and the hot pool is not crowded and the rain has stop). The pool is in a small stream with a gravel bottom. It is shallow (50 cm) and is fed by 2 small steams. One hot and the other cold. In this way you can chose your desired temperature by moving around the pool. Jamaliah did not feel like going because there were warning signs that some people get rashes from the water. Rudy spent a good hour in the pool without side effects other then maybe some overheating. The evening at 600 m was colder than usual so he did cool down rapidly. Actually we went to bed early to stay warm under the down sleeping bag. The diesel heater has not worked during the whole trip.
Day 23, we slept out as usual to around 9:00 (at least Rudy) despite the early night yesterday. After breakfast we planned to take one of the loop routes through the nearby mountains. Just before we wanted to leave it started to rain heavily. When it had cleared up we started the walk. Unfortunately the first tourist busses started to arrive and it was bussy on the track up and over the mountain. The walk was very beautiful. The volcanic mountains here have many colours. Not just the dull black but ochre and white with sometimes a green sheen over it. The walkers with the large rucksacks make the 4-5 day trek over the mountains towards the coast. That seems like the thing to do (when you are young).
We, instead, drove out the same hobbely road we came in. Along the way we made a detour towards Haifoss. Yes another waterfall but actually this one was special. Two large streams fall of a 130 m high cliff into a canyon which quickly opens up into a valley. There is a lovely viewing site from the top but if you want you can go all the way to the bottom close to the splash zone.
After some more corrugated roads we made it back to the tarmac and had a relaxed drive over Rt. 26 to the main Rt.1 at Hella. A bit further on the coastal plain narrows because of Katla, a sub-glacial volcano. We stopped at the bottom of the mountain and stayed on a large campsite with 3 separate waterfalls coming off the cliff. We will fell asleep with the noise of falling water.
View from the camper