A little while go I decided to join the twenty-first century and finally, finally, finally cave in and get a mobile phone. I resisted for as long as possible because I have a phone in my office, a landline at home and I would never pick up a phone in the car between the two. Himself needs a mobile phone and so has one when we are out as a family, so getting an extra one seemed superfluous. Then friends told me about a new sort of phone, and I changed my mind. The phone is called a ” Fairphone” and differs from other smartphones in that every part of it has been as ethically made as possible. No child labour, no ripping off the producers of raw materials, or paying below market rate wages. The other reason of course was that Kiwi Daughter now has a phone and I need to keep us, especially now that I am at home and we have been having massive internet and phone connection problems in recent months. Another thing that my kids like about Fairphone is that they take deigns for their phone covers so I’m in the process of submitting their artistic efforts…
February 10, 2016
February 9, 2016
Our time in Iceland is coming to an end.
Four days have passed more quickly than we could ever have imagined and to our surprise, even though the weather has been mostly cold, grey, overcast, sometimes rainy and with an added helping of biting gale force winds, even the children are raving about Iceland, wishing that they could stay longer and asking if we could come here again.
It’s certainly not what Himself and I expected, we assumed that this small four day adventure would suit adults rather than kids but we were wrong, our kids are completely and utterly fascinated and captivated by Iceland.
As per the other mornings since our arrival, we brave the wind that is howling around the buildings that make up the Artic Comfort Hotel and navigate the short hop between the two buildings as quickly as we can.
As usual too the kids run ahead and Himself waits in the wind by the door of Reception for me to slowly catch up.
Both of us welcome the now customary wall of heat that greets us in Icelandic buildings and look forward to a good breakfast to start the day. The fare here is basic but totally sufficient, and since we got such a cut price deal on the booking, we are delighted that breakfast was even included in the price. The breakfast room is a kind of upside down capital “L” shape where the shorter part is a small square, the tables filled and emptied so fast that there was no real pause in the traffic for me to get photographs without intruding on people’s privacy so I photographed what I could.All of us start to share our thoughts on the trip, what we liked best, least etc. Top of the list has been the Eyjafjallajökull Vistor Centre, closly followed by joint runners up “everything else” and bottom of the list was the Blue Lagoon, not in a negative way becuase it was an “experience” and we didn’t regret doing it, just that we regretted not managing to fit in other hot pools as well.
The only thing that we have truly missed seeing is the Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights, but the kids are even using this to their advantage, asking if we could please plan another trip so that they might try again to see the Lights and even more strange, both avidly declaring that a winter trip would be just as much appreciated as a summer one. Himself and I are pleasantly surprised, having assumed that without weather for physical activities such as hiking, they would be bored.
Every evening after dinner we have driven far from the city of Reykjavik in the hope of catching a glimpse of the lights and each evening we have been met with a heavy blanket of low thick cloud and no gaps to show us the wonders of the aurora. It leaves us leaving Iceland wanting more… our pocket holiday has given us a taste and we have discovered that we very much liked every bit of what we tasted.
February 8, 2016
We decided on our February 2014 trip to Iceland that we would take things as easy as possible. This meant that we also wanted to make things easy for our kids and their fussy eating habits. Having been recommend Askur Restaurant on the first day of our stay, and found it to be an easy option for the kids, we have been back each evening except one (when we bought groceries and had a picnic dinner in our hotel room). The camera is acting up again, some on more days than others, so the compilation of photographs taken there over the last few days are again patchy but the food at Askur is consistent and they are delighted to see us back again and again.
February 7, 2016
Family Kiwidutch went on a whistle-stop four day trip to Iceland in February 2014, and whilst we really aren’t “winter” people and had big reservations about how we would handle a winter trip to a cold country, Iceland has by far exceeded our expectations.
We have not only heard about Iceland’s famous hot springs, but have also seen numerous signs during our travels advertising smaller hot pools as we travelled around in the car.
On our last day we headed out to one of the main tourist spots that we have both had recommended and have seen brochures for: The Blue Lagoon thermal hot pools.
Of course there will be comparisons for us with New Zealand’s Hanmer Hot Springs thermal pools, which is an hour and a half away from Christchurch in the South Island and which we have been to often as a family but we love hot pools so we are really looking forward to this visit.
The skies are grey and overcast as we make our way to the Blue Lagoon and the wind is almost gale force so it was rather a shock to find out when we got there that the large carpark is a real distance from the front entrance of the pools.
The man in charge of the little office by the car park is friendly enough and tells us that there are free wheelchairs available to get to me the entrance, but there is no way I can be dropped off there by car. Even with Himself pushing the wheelchair at a good clip and the kids racing ahead with the crutches, this has to be by far the coldest stretch of Icelandic outdoors we have experienced the whole trip. We arrive within a minute of the doors opening for the day and are beyond relieved to be inside. Since we have arrived in winter and so early in the day the queues are almost non existent and we are ushered to a separate disabled changing area that is not only big enough for the whole family but includes a big shower and a set of lockers.
We get to take a short-cut from there to an area that leads to the pools, there are two options: the most direct way is via doors and a few steps the other is via an indoor ramp into the water (inside) and through an area that leads outside (whilst still in the water).
It’s a brilliant way to keep warm getting in and out of the pool so it is of course the option that’s both easiest due to my lack of mobility and most luxurious.
We swim through the divide and arrive outside. There we are greeted by the same howling wind which gives us a situation where our bodies under the water are warm but our heads above it are really freezing.
As we get further out into the pool area we discover that the bottom of the pool follows the natural bottom of the springs and that most of it is really shallow.
We figure out that if we stood up the water would only be knee deep in many places and since the bottom of the pool us natural and undulating there are sharp dips and rises which for me and my foot are painful to negotiate.
The other problem is that such shallow water, and such strong winds mean that the freezing gale is cooling the surface centimetres of the water so that it’s actually cold water, and the “heat” underneath us is variable, meaning that we are basically in lukewarm water with a few hot spots that we discover that every other visitor is huddled in. There are a few extras like some overhead waterfalls that are so strong it’s both luxurious and buffeting to stay underneath, saunas (none of us are sauna lovers as it turns out) and other things further over that we are too cold to go and investigate.
I bought a “Go-pro” to use on this trip but neglected to learn how to retrieve the photos (technophobe as usual) so even though we made videos they are still on the chip (yes, blush, I know I’m really bad).
We end up spending far less time in the pools than we intended and after changing, headed to the Lava restaurant for a lunch. The camera, which I used on the entrance path in, has now seized up again due to the cold so most of my lunch photos are rather ghostly and strange.
The two fuzziest photos are the ones I really wanted to turn out the most… they are of the pool edge outside: the ferocious wind is blowing up gusts of spray off the warm surface which is then freezing solid as it hits the area around the edge of the pool and there is an ever thickening layer of ice in the walking area closest to our window.
Considering that the water in the pools is hot (or in today’s case – warm) it’s quite a feat of one side of Mother Nature over another side.
We brave the icy cold to get back to the car, and while we are pleased we came, we all agree that the depth of the water in New Zealand’s Hanmer Springs, and it’s far more sheltered location make for a much more enjoyable experience even when we have been there in winter and had snow settling on our shoulders, at no point were we cold.
The only thing that the Blue Lagoon does far better is the indoor entrance to the water and the more upmarket lunch. (There was a more café / cafeteria option available but we fancied something more substantial and a longer time to sit down and thaw out).
It’s at this point that we regret not visiting one of the more out of the way hot pool options round Iceland, so my advice on this would simply be: this is one part of the trip where we would recommend NOT following the crowds, even in downtown Reykjavik there are thermal heated public pools, we wish we had our time over and would have tried those instead.
The bridge goes to a small “island” area in the main pool, the area in front of it is all ice…
February 6, 2016
Cast your mind back a few years to the summer of 2011 when an until then unknown volcano erupted and created havoc for European and transatlantic flights.
If you remember this event, you will also probably remember that the name of the volcano in question was every News readers nightmare with pronunciation errors galore.
In fact many simply threw their hands in the air and said ” THAT” volcano…
Well it seems that this has now become a ” must learn” name for ever tourist to Iceland and to make it easier to master, T-shirts, postcards, spoons, coffee mugs and fridge magnets are amongst the things that now carry your first small lesson in mastering your most basic Icelandic.
The volcano’s name of course is “Eyjafjallajökull’ and Family Kiwidutch, having a fanatical linguist in shape of Himself, felt it very necessary to bring home few items with this lesson printed into it.
Himself rather literally “has the t-shirt” and we bought some coffee mugs and a fridge magnet as well.
This now means that you can arm yourself, stretch your linguistic knowledge…. and, should this volcano ever decide to ever get temperamental ever again, be one of the first to fall over laughing at your local and national newsreaders terrible efforts to pronounce this name. Of course if the volcano stays quiet but you run into a visitor in your location who just happens to hail from Iceland, you can also proudly parade your linguistic prowess by casually slipping in the name of Eyjafjallajökull into the conversation, and stand back to see their eyes widen in surprised approval, taking your rank as educated world citizen up a notch or two.
February 5, 2016
We leave the Eyjafjallajökull visitor centre and make our way back to Reykjavik.
It’s now late afternoon and the light is getting visibly less as we drive back to the capital city.
As with the journey out of the city, the weather is completely unpredictable, clear one moment but closer to the city we again strike white-out conditions, the snow swirling across the road and slowing traffic.
Then, about ten kilometres further we drop in elevation and are out of the snow in no time just going to prove that the landscape here is constantly full of surprises.
We hear back at the hotel that so far this year (February 2013 when we went) the winter has been “warm”, the snow “almost nothing” when compared to “normal” years and lot of lamentations about global warming.
Of course for us it’s all relative, and for family freezing is still means freezing we were very pleased indeed to get back out of the strong icily cold wind, even if we were only buffeted between the thirty metres between the car park and the hotel!
Yes, I think that officially confirms us as wimps! Just call me a lily livered Lettuce !
February 4, 2016
We leave Iceland’s Seljalandsfoss waterfall and head to the destination that we have been heading for as the last “item” in the travel loop we are taking today.
The staff at our hotel recomended a visitor center that has been set up since the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 that bought air travel to a standstill all over Europe.
We arrive to find a compact building, one half of which has been made into a small movie theatre for the screening of a film that documents the lead up to the eruption, the eruption and both the short and long term aftermath.
Much of the footage is from local Icelandic television, is very personal and clearly shows that people arrived swiftly from all over Iceland to help shovel ash of land and buildings, rescue stock and help with the rapid evacuation of farms in the area effected by the ash fall.
After the film showing it was especially surprising to find that the farmer’s wife who featured predominantly in the film, was the same lady serving us at the souvenir counter in the small room next door.
This visitor centre is a family run affair that came about due to the enormous volume of tourists who descended on the farm after the eruption, and the surreal experience of having tour bus loads of Japanese tourists delicately scooping ash into little plastic bags as the Icelandic family attempted to shovel thick layers of the stuff off their roof, garden, vehicles and every conceivable surface.
The lady is wonderfully friendly, delighted that we recognised her from the film (apparently many people just rush in, look and rush out, not making the connection as to who is serving them behind the counter), and very patient to all of the questions we have. There are information boards dotted around, and from them I learn:
Eyjafjallajökull (1,651m) is among the oldest active central volcano in Iceland. The mountain, about 800,000 years old, is built of lava flows from interglacial periods and hyaloclastites (tuff) from glacial periods.
Volcanic fissures line the flanks and ridges radiate west and east from the summit. A small caldera (2.5 km across) has formed in the summit region. The glacier cover (75 square kilometres) is 50-100 metres thick: in the caldera the depth reaches 250m. Recent eruption sites are indicated.
Lulls between eruption phases in Eyjafjallajökull typically lasted about 36 hours. In the early hours of 14 April 2010, a fissure 2 kilometres long opened up under te 200m thick ice in the summit crater, cutting through the southern rim.
Magma from two main vents melted it’s way through the ice and soon grey, fine-grained ash was carried high into the air. The ash fell mainly on the area to the east and south of the volcano and was carried by winds to mainland Europe.
The maximum initial eruption rate was about 1,000 cubic metres of tephra per second. The ash was formed partly by expansion of volcanic gas in the intermediate magma and partly on contact of magma with ice and water during the first week.
The magma that surfaced at the summit at Eyjafjallajokull was formed through the mixing of basalt rising from below and silica-rick magma that may have been in place under the volcano since the 19th Century eruption. The fine-grained ash became coarser as activity declined. Lava lumps and bombs were thrown out of the crater, accompanied by loud booms.
Lava started to flow and melted it’s way out of through the outlet glacier Gigjokull. The lava flow ceases, but explosive activity increased again in early May. After 18 May the eruption declined and continuous activity was over by 23 May. The total amount of tephra erupted came to 250-300 million cubic metres and the lava volume was 25-30 million cubic metres. As dense magma, the volume of eruptives is estimated at 0.17 cubic kilometres.
Although the Eyjafjallajökull eruption temporarily threatened those under Eyjafjallajökull, people never gave up. Farming continued and crops and animals were nurtured. Welcome to the Visitor Centre, where you can get a “taste” of life at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull, of the eruption and it’s influence, and see how Man and Nature coexist through the good times and the bad.
We are so impressed with this place that we decide to buy all of our souvenirs here, and although Himself and I feared that Kiwi Daughter and Little Mr might be bored here, they enjoyed it immensely, raving about it not only at the time but also telling everyone back at home in the Netherlands that is was without doubt the highlight of their trip. In fact they still talk about their visit to this place every time the word “Iceland” is mentioned, so we are delighted that a far longer than predicted car journey has paid off.
The Eyjafjallajökull volcano is located at the very back and under the cloud, behind the red roofed buildings…
February 3, 2016
Following yesterday’ post, what Kiwi Daughter saw from the side window as Himself and I were busy debating how far further our real destination was, turns out to be a well known landmark: Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
It’s a striking waterfall that tumbles off the steep edge of a mountain, withevery now and again a smoky like plume of water being blown across it’s face by stiff gusts of wind.
The rain has produced several other smaller waterfalls beside Seljalandsfoss, but a good deal of the time these smaller plumes spend their time as horizontal wafts of water as the wind defeats their fall.
After a short turn off the main road we reach a car park and Himself the kids tumble out of the car to go and take a closer look.
I need a rest so stay with the car. taking photographs from afar, but soon realise that I have drawn the short straw, the best view will most certainly be up close. This is confirmed as soon as the other three rush back, damp from the rain and spray and breathless in their excitement of telling me all about what it is like close up. I read on Wikipdia (link at bottom of the page) that:
“Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. Seljalandsfoss is situated between Selfoss and Skógafoss, where Route 1 (the Ring Road) meets the track going to Þórsmörk. This waterfall of the river Seljalandsá drops 60 metres (200 ft) over the cliffs of the former coastline. It is possible to walk behind the waterfall. It was a waypoint during the first leg of The Amazing Race 6.”
February 2, 2016
Our next step in our Icelandic travels takes is more or less south of Gullfoss and the Strukker geyser. At times the weather closed in quite a bit but by the time we got closer to the coast it was clear again and I took a few photos. The scenery is as beautiful as ever… we are searching for a destination that we have heard about from staff in our hotel but we haven’t reached yet. The kids are getting rather tired by now so we are hoping that when we finally find it, it’s worth the extra time in the car. All of a sudden Kiwi Daughter spots something and yells out from the back seat… judging by the looks of things, we are about to take an unexpected detour…
The green line is the journey so far today, the red line is the part of the journey that this post covers…
February 1, 2016
Family Kiwidutch are continuing their sightseeing journey around the southern tip of Iceland.
From Gullfoss we head southwards to another one of the “must see” scenic things in the so nicknamed ” Golden Triangle” in Iceland; the Strokkur geyser.
I find two webpages that give me further information, one is a Wikipedia page and the other, the other from a site called ” Extreme Iceland, About Iceland” (links to both sites, as usual at the bottom of this post).
“Strokkur” (Icelandic for “churn”) is a fountain geyser in the geothermal area beside the Hvítá River in Iceland in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavík.
It is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers, erupting about every 8-10 minutes 15 – 20 m high, sometimes up to 40 m high.
Strokkur is part of Haukadalur geothermal area, where are located various other geothermal features: mud pools, fumaroles, algal deposits, and other geysers beside and around it, such as “Geysir”.
Strokkur was first mentioned in 1789, after an earthquake unblocked the conduit of the geyser. Its activity fluctuated in the 19th century; in 1815 its height was estimated to be as much as 60 metres.”
My camera was struggling with the biting wind that threatened to blow me off my feet. I had to lean a lot on the crutches to make headway and stop frequently. The upside to my slow progress was that I was able to see the geyser erupt several times from different distances and angles. Whilst I walked I tried to keep the camera inside my jacket, but as soon as it was out and exposed to the cold and wind it started to faulter, the shutter taking longer and longer to close, even getting completely stuck several times. I am therefore rather pleased with these photos because I expected almost nothing to come out at all. The video was taken with my pocket point and shoot that spent as much time as possible in an inner jacket pocket to protect it from the cold. The information continues…
” It continued to erupt until the turn of the 20th century, when another earthquake blocked the conduit again.
In 1963, upon the advice of the Geysir Committee, locals cleaned out the blocked conduit through the bottom of the basin, and the geyser has been regularly erupting ever since.
Strokkur and its surrounding areas regularly attracts tourists to view the geyser, as it is one of very few natural geysers to erupt frequently and reliably.
The Geysir field is situated at the northern edge of the southern lowlands, at an altitude of 105-120 m above sea level. Until recently, the area was called Hverasandar. The hot springs are located to the east of a little mountain called Laugafell.
The geothermal field is believed to have a total surface area of approximately 3 km². Most of the springs are aligned along a 100 m wide strip of land running in the same direction as the tectonic lines in the area, from south to southwest.
The strip is 500 m long and culminates near what once was the seat of the lords of Haukadalur. Today we find a church there. Here and there, at a considerably shorter distance from the ancient seat than from the hot springs, we find a 20-150 cm thick layer of siliceous sinter, mostly covered by earth, or in some cases even out in the open as the mound at Hvitamelur.
Hvitamelur was once a spouting spring, but it is now absolutely dry. We can still discern the rims of the ancient basin, and the singer safeguards quite a few plant fossils.
In other words, hot spring water must have covered large areas from which the geothermal field seems virtually to have moved. The heart of the geothermal area is now 2 km to the south of the Haukadalur seat, but two little springs have been left behind, Marteinslaug and Gufubadshver. As for the centre of the field, the northernmost springs, such as “Geysir” itself, are believed to be the oldest.”