I spent a full day with “Mountain Guides” of Iceland exploring the outback of this amazing country. As it was February we also enjoyed an unusual day after a fresh dumping of snow which only added to the adventure (as well as about 1.5 hour to the 9 hour tour). We had been told that Iceland had not received much snow again this winter. Many point the finger at global warming. But the day before we arrived (Feb 2nd) it started to snow and continued for the 4 days I spent on this memorable Northern island. It was my 3rd and final day and I was ready to go exploring.
We were picked up by our guide from our hotel at around 9am with a fresh 1 foot of snow on the ground. As we drove out on our circular route we quickly discovered that the fresh snow was going to make for an exciting day. The visibility in the morning was a bit limited until the skies opened up and then cleared in the afternoon.
Our first stop was at a site which is one of very few places on land where one can witness the shifting of the European and American continental plates. The shifting of these plates has exposed a small canyon between 20 to 40 foot rock faces. It was interesting to see the results of the earth’s continental plates as they shift apart by a centimetre each year.
We then headed out along a long road that wound around the barren snow-covered lava terrain. Not much other than shrubs and snow covered hills and mountains could be seen. We made a stop in the cold snow for a short lunch break before continuing on to see a blue cracks coming from a mountain in front of us that was revealing a glacier covered by a fresh dusting of snow.
One of the most interesting stops was in a parking area that looked like nothing but a flat plain that was 10 kilometres wide between two mountains. We were told that this flat plain was where lava had flowed a long time ago. We got out of our jeep and put on some hard hats outfitted with flashlights. Only a 5 minute walk away we were directed to a huge hold in the ground. This one section had caved in exposing a massive lava tube that is the largest in Europe. Fortunately a set of iron steps were mounted to the first wall cliff so that we could safely descend to a trail that led down to the tunnel below. As we continued on, another circle hole in the roof of the lava tube brought light into the smaller entrance of the cave. It was rather slippery with the drips of water that froze onto the rocks of our path. At first it wasn’t too bad as the fresh snow gave us some grip but where the snow had not reached, it was a bit icy. Soon enough however we were in the dry section of the cave that led to a smaller and smaller tunnel that had me crouching down to fit in. A gate had been placed in the tunnel however to ensure that only local experienced guides bring people in further. This has been done to protect the caves.
Our next stop was to see a waterfall that was gushing out from the side of a rock face. The springs in the ground were seeping through the porous volcanic rock and coming out from the middle of the rock and pouring down into a river. There were at least 20 waterfalls all coming out along a long stretch of rock making for a spectacular viewpoint.
Our final stop of the day was to visit some Hot Springs. These hot springs smelled like sulphur and were spread out in a long 50 foot crack in the ground. These hot-springs however are not the swimming kind, they are the boiling kind. At 200 degrees Celsius and pumping out 200 litres per second steam was rising into the air while a hot creek of water came from the bubbling springs. It was a great place to stop before the final hour long drive back to our Hotel.
Travelling by Super Jeep was quite an adventure but it was a long day. There were enough breaks to get out and stretch but it was tiring nonetheless.