Monday, 28 July 2014

Day 84: Sandgerti to Pingvellir National Park - Mon 28 July

Day 84: Sandgerti to Pingvellir National Park - Mon 28 July
Raining, bitterly cold, gloomy morning, would have been easy to stay snuggled under doona. But off we went into the bleak landscape, past lighthouse to follow Reykjaynes Peninsula coast road. Novel fence posts - they can't drill into lava so use rocks to anchor.


Stopped at isolated Strandarkirkja church, built by grateful seafarers who during a savage storm along notoriously hidden reefs and rough coast, prayed vigorously for a safe return. The story goes an angel “seemingly made of light” appeared before their bow and guided them safely into this bay. 


Atlantic surf raging on other side of lava rock beach
Devout first settler


Behind this site we spotted Huldufolk – elf houses; stories from folklore were fascinating:

  •       Not the light and happy elves of Santa tradition, wear dark clothes and are often angry -  people believe they were responsible for an incident in BolungarvĂ­k where fist sized rocks rained down on residential streets for 2 days (a true event)

  •       Huldufolk live just below ground, and got there using picks and buckets. They hate churches, crosses and electricity. In fact, many gardens also have a tiny churches to convert elves to Christianity
  •       Some believe the elves were created in the early days of exploration and conquering of foreign lands – there were so few Icelanders they doubled their population with tales of elves and fairies to scare off any adventurers

  •       Most believe that in a landscape full of dramatic volcanic action, wind, water, cliffs and holes, a simple hole in a rock could not only be thousands of metres deep but also full of strange smells and sounds fostering wild imagination

  •       Major building projects in Iceland have been altered to prevent damaging rocks where elves are believed to live.

Extensive moss covered lava fields, both jagged and muddy slides - dismal views in poor weather. Stopped to peer into small entrance straight down into Raufarholshellir lava cave - no way were we abseiling or squeezing in to explore!


Found rift where tectonic plates are drifting apart, and stood on Leif the Lucky Bridge straddling Eurasian and North American continental plates. Bridge was named in honor of Icelandic explorer Leif Eriksson - traveled Europe to America 500 years before Columbus.

Ropy lava

On to Grindavik for late breakfast, steam escaping from rock fissures. Next was Blue Lagoon geothermal pool and power station, but we found it too commercial and overcrowded – expected to stand on lengthy queue, backed up outside in rain, just to get "visitors pass" to sit in cafĂ©! No thanks - instead walked around edge not blocked off for resort - amazing soft opaque blue colour and white calcification on rocks. 

Sulphur fumes too much, so glad to depart. Were amazed to see back view of woman putting note (on toilet paper!) under Ozzie’s windscreen: “Please give my love to Neil Petersen in Brisbane. His cousin Yvonne Bebb, Cape Town South Africa” before boarding her tourist bus and waving goodbye. Not shirked by the challenge, we took a photo on the iPhone and emailed to family in Australia. (Editor’s note: within 24hrs a sister in Sydney had googled the name on the web, found a likely candidate whose CV mentioned Sth Africa, and contacted him re the modern “message in a bottle”. He was indeed the right cousin and shared fond memories of his relative, and sent a thankyou message back!!)

Went looking for sub-glacial mound, saw it from a distance but road shown on map was blocked. Went on into Reykjavik city. Our first (quirky!) stop was at Phallological Museum, 200 actual specimens from 50 mammals including sperm whales, walruses, humans and horses, in enormous jars. Metal casts of penises from entire Icelandic Handball Team was a hilarious exhibit! Pictures, carvings, science facts – we resisted option to buy any souvenirs!

Hallgrimskirkja church very impressive with its basalt columns, clean simple lines continue inside. In a telling direction for modern churches, only half seats faced altar, rest faced the organ for concert recitals. The viking Leif Ericsson statue at front was a gift from USA.



Harpa concert hall was a massive building on harbour - coloured glass windows and walls really pretty but overall design didn’t impress. Loved the gorgeous modern statue of Viking ship on waterfront though! 


Putrified shark marinated in Icelandic schnapps???
Hmm, Minke whale with cranberry and malt-sauce??? or

Late in arvo turned towards Pingvellir National Park and Golden Triangle. Drove up side of Pingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake, and pulled into campsite near info centre - didn't linger outside when we were hit by barrage of insects though. Hit bed early to read. 

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