After spending all day and night traveling, we arrived in Iceland extremely sleep-deprived and did the first thing reasonable people do when they’re in such a state: go for an exhausting hike into the belly of a volcano. That’s just how we roll!
Our plane was late getting in to Keflavik where after a looong wait we were able to pick up our rental car and begin the drive to Reykjavik. We barely made it in time to our hostel where we were picked up by a very ill mannered bus driver. Good thing was that he only dropped us off at the meeting point and our incredibly nice guide from “Inside the Volcano” then herded 18 of us into a bus for the ride to the volcano. Thrihnukagigur volcano is located about 30 minutes drive outside Reykjavik. From here, it’s still a 45 min brisk hike to get to the mouth of it.
The day was sunny and mild and the surroundings beautiful. Even so, this is not an activity to be taken lightly, anyone with heart problems shouldn’t even think of it. The hike runs on a very narrow pebbled path thru lava fields and although the terrain seems flat enough, there were times when I felt my heart skipping beats due to how fast it was going. The guide kept us moving at a very brisk pace, we made the walk mostly in silence as holding a conversation was extra work. We only stopped once, at the place where our guide pointed out the plates for North America and Europe meet.
Iceland is a volcanic island created from the debris and lava left behind by the eruptions of its many volcanoes. Icelanders are resourceful people and have learned to look on the bright side of even volcanoes. As our guide calmly explained, they already have emergency plans in place in case of any major catastrophe in Reykjavik as it is only a matter of when and not if.
This attraction came to exist by simple luck: one day some outdoors-men noticed a hole in the ground and went rappelling into it only to find themselves inside a dormant volcano chute. Smart, resourceful people that they are, they turned it into a tourist attraction by fashioning an open elevator which takes you all the way down to the floor of the volcano almost 400 feet underground.
Our guide explained to us that after an eruption, once most of the lava has been expelled, volcanoes tend to collapse into themselves creating craters, which sometimes fill up with water and turn into calderas. Thrihnukagigur is different in that it didn’t collapse, just cooled off and left a great place for us to visit. He said it is the only one of its kind in the world. Somehow I think someone else must already be searching for un-collapsed volcano number two.
The boys were probably the youngest people on the tour and so were the first in line which of course forced their old mom and pop to breathlessly try to keep up. We were the first ones into the volcano and had the place to ourselves for about 20 minutes.
There is complete silence down there, water dripping thru, metallic colors on the walls. Breathtaking. It is a cold and eerie place.
Going into the volcano while in Iceland is definitely a must, the hike though…
After we got out, the crew was waiting for us with cups of piping hot “Icelandic” soup which should be mutton soup. In this case it was more like fat soup. Still, after the underground cold, we sipped it gratefully. The boys played with an arctic fox cub which lives at camp while waiting for the rest of our group to gather together for the hike back.
Since we had a little bit of time to spare, on our way back our guide deviated from the hike to lead us into a lava tube.
It was very interesting imagining the lava flowing thru and leaving the odd designs on the walls. At one point, our guide had us all turn our lights off to experience the complete underground darkness. Pretty cool. We emerged to find that the weather had suddenly turned on us and was punishing us with a raging storm. We made the rest of the hike back at double pace and without a sound.
Once again, we got a maniac driver back to our hostel who kept trying to drop people off at random corners because he thought it more convenient for him. What’s with these Icelandic drivers? It’s like: “Dude, you have one job, just get the people to where they’re going”. Passengers kept getting into arguments with him because of it but I missed most of it as I kept falling into deep sleep between stops. He did drop us off at our correct stop but I think it was only because Fernando played dumb when the driver tried to drop us off somewhere else and he had no other way to get rid of us.
After a quick shower, we went out to find food. We were told to go to this one restaurant on the harbor because they had “cheap” lobster soup. Cheap = $10 for a cup. Our definition of cheap differs greatly. The boys spotted whale stake and the waitress did a good job of talking it up so they ignored my pleas for cetacean compassion. What does whale stake taste like? Kind of a very salted stake with a liver aftertaste. Who ended up eating it? That’s what dads are for, right?
We then took a walk around Reykjavik and hit the major sights, all two of them. We walked thru Laugavegur which is Reykjavik’s main shopping street.
It’s not exactly a pedestrian walkway but cars are so few and far between that people walk everywhere. It’s a very nice street full of small shops and cafes for people watching.
The Icelandic National Soccer Team beat England just the day before we arrived and as you can imagine Icelanders are celebrating this very uncommon occurrence to the max. National Team memorabilia are everywhere.
Laugavegur ends at Hallgrímskirkja which is the tallest church in Iceland measuring almost 240 feet.
From here we walked down to the ocean for the Solfar, or Sun Voyager, sculpture.
It’s supposed to symbolize the promise of undiscovered territory, sailing towards the sun. To me, it looks more like a boat made of bones with the symbolism to accompany it. At this point, and maybe to punish me for my impious thoughts, a storm suddenly fell upon us and we ran, more than walked, back to our hostel and dryness for the night.
We thought we would wake early and begin our journey but we all overslept and woke up even more tired than the day before.