Saturday, 26 July 2014

Day 82: Svinafellsjokull to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve - Sat 26 July

Day 82: Svinafellsjokull to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve - Sat 26 July
Awoke to soft rain at 5.00am - long hours of light and different time zones are playing with GirlRob’s sleep patterns. So many different birds, bought Icelandic book to aid identification! Awed by vast black silty out-wash plains at Skeidararsandur, formed from relentless grinding down of material from glaciers and volcanic eruptions. Enormous surges of ice water and rock are thrown down glacial moraines, tearing apart roads and bridges. Twisted metal girders make a strange memorial at base of Hvannadalshnjukur, Iceland’s highest mountain. Rushing torrents of dirty glacial melt- road up to chapel closed.

Bridge over Skeidararsandur Outwash plains
Followed coastline characterised by lagoon bays. Awesome lava fields coated in lichens and moss, light frothy porous. Basalt columns inset high in cliff, waterfall shining over them.



Turned off to Lagagigar row of craters (globally unique phenomenon formed from continuous series of eruptions) and Mt Laki which last erupted 300 years ago, producing longest lava flow in world. This event actually led to Haze Famine, said to contribute to European world events including the French Revolution. We followed a 4WD "road of stones and streams", through hills of thick black ash, fistules, calderas, peaks made by erupting noxious gas vents, rocks - gabbro, rhyolite, basalt, plutonic rock. Lava valley enclosed by loop road – smooth mud-like lava interspersed with thousands of jagged outcrops, all slowly being consumed by a "green lava flow" of moss hummocks, lichens (we read stereocaulon lichens, light grey "bushes",  are first to colonise new lavas), wildflowers, fungi, mushrooms and grasses - a surreal landscape.


Mountains of black silt


Climbed picturesque Tjarnargigur Crater to see pretty crater lake, and vegetation close-up. 





Stopped to admire Fagrifoss waterfall, flows from plain into gorge (wouldn't even know it was there from road) Back on ring road, passed road accident and emergency vehicles. Could see Myrdalsjokull from afar, Katla Volcano sitting under icecap. Katla experienced shallow earthquakes last week, a seismic swarm, however the “uncertainty level” alert has now been cancelled….. 


Fagrifoss Falls
Our road has become a stream...


Back on Ring Road to Vestravegur - thin monolith rock on edge of coast. Stopped at Vik facing open Atlantic, for dinner (very fatty local lamb); drove out to beach at Reynisfjara saw magnificent Reynisdrangar sea stacks, and the amazing Vikurfjara black volcanic beach.


Heavily scoriated rock


No space for free camp, drove on to next headland, across causeway and up to viewpoint. Perfect - watched sun go down on our lofty headland near the lighthouse at Dyrholaey Nature Reserve - looking over long black basalt silt beach to west, over glacier to north, and over rock formations jutting into ocean to east. Staying in carpark tonight to take full advantage of early morning spotting of birds nesting in cliff faces before they go out to sea for the day.

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