Entry 4: June 27, 2011
June 20-22, 2011 I spent my independent travel making my way to, around and from Porsmork, Iceland. My companions in this adventure were Carolyn Danilowicz and Chelsea Cerca. We decided to stray away from the pack that is in Reykjavik and go hiking. I was so thrilled to find people that were up for it. My thought process was that I can easily go to Europe another time and get the city, downtown experience. It was Iceland, known for its natural wonders, I had to enjoy every possible moment of it. In Porsmork we stayed in an International hostel called Basar. In order to get to Basar we had to ride in a four-wheel drive vehicle. In the beginning of the trip we estimated the distance and time to be only two and half hours max to our destination and boy were we wrong. Our journey took just about four hours! The best part about the ride to Basar was that it didn’t faze us because the scenery was so incredible. Once we arrived in Basar, it was just breath taking! There were green shrubs all over the place, which is abnormal to Iceland. The mountains were massive and endless. Just as you think you are done with the mountains a cloud moves and reveals snowcapped mountains and glaciers.
After settling in on the first day, the girls and I went on a hike to introduce us to our environment. We started on the trail, Bolhofuth and crossed over to Stravkagil trail after crossing a bridge. Our first days hike was about 6.25km one way, so total it was 12.50km. This hike was only 3hours in all but I’m sure it would have been a lot shorter if we didn’t stop every fifteen feet because we thought the views was better and better as we got higher. J
The second day was the girls and I’s big hike. We thought it would be nice to go a different route than the day before. Unfortunately, our hiking route changed due to mother-nature covering the trail with runoff streams from the main river. We ended up taking the same trail as the first day but almost tripled the distance. We hiked the steep hills just as before and finally got to a plateau or so we thought. It was flat for maybe fifteen minutes then we reached an extremely steep and narrow pass as it started to rain. We did make it through after taking it one step at a time. At the top of this climb it was a phenomenal view over the entire area all the way to a very faint shore line. My other view tempted every adventurous bone in my body; it was a snow covered mountain with lava fields from Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption on the other side. While we knew it was dangerous, Carolyn and I went anyways. We were both very daring people even though I was afraid of heights and she was afraid of descending from high altitudes. Once we crossed the narrow snow covered spinal path we ran into a group from Holland. They were in casual clothes, not extreme winter or hiking clothes which made us feel better. We ended up talking to the group from Holland and they said it was not a difficult hike, which made a lot of nerves disappear. Just as we made it half way the weather changed drastically without a moment’s notice. We tried to continue but only made it three-quarters of the way up when the snow and hail started to come. We had to turn around due to the weather also, I began to lose my nerve and my fear of heights started to sit in. I hate to admit that, but we were at an extreme altitude with a pretty significant fall beneath us if anything were to happen. In the end it was worth it because it was a once in a lifetime experience. I do know that if I ever come back to Iceland I will make it over that mountain and see the lava fields.
Overall, it was an amazing experience and would have done it any other way. I did what most interested me while taking advantage of the natural wonders to our disposal there in Iceland. I feel that if I were to come back to Iceland I will probably pass up the city life again before I pass up some wonderful one on one time with nature.
On Thursday June 23, 2011 our tight knit group was split up into three groups for family visits. My group consisted of Carolyn Danilowicz and Betsy Graves. We went to the home of Gudmundur Gummi and Bergljot Badda, were we were greeted by many family members. Unfortunately we were faced by a language barrier but Badda’s niece Becky spoke English and translated for us. The first thing we did was of course introduced ourselves in Icelandic, “Ég heiti ….” Gudmunder Gummi was too funny because he instantly went to his computer and asked us to put in our addresses so he could see where we were from on Google map. It was such a good idea, we were all very impressed. Small talk was exchanged but as soon as Gummi and Badda’s youngest son of 23, Haraldur arrived, he and Becky took us on the grand tour of the farm. We learned so much about the farm. Its size is approximately 400 areas and it’s been in the family for 6 generations. There are three homes on the property for each of the families that tend to the farm live in. It was very interesting because even though not the entire family, which is nearly 100 people, lives on the farm, many of them come to stay and work on the farm in the summer months. The tour consisted of the horses, cows and sheep areas of the farm. The farm is evenly distributed amongst the three members of the family giving them each separate areas for each member’s animals. Haraldur’s parent’s horses were by far the most beautiful horses I had seen in Iceland so far. This is probably so due to the fact that their stallion was of prize winning blood.
The cows were a treat! I haven’t been around cows too much during my life nor have I ever dreamed of milking one. We were taken to the automatic robot cow milkier and wow was it cool! The cows knew exactly what to do. They lined up and waited their turns to get milked and have little cow treats while they we being milked. Becky and Haraldur thought we would really enjoy trying to milk a cow too. I am proud to say I did not hesitate and milked a cow. J It was pretty neat and we actually got to try the milk straight from the cow.
Finally the sheep, we had to ride in Haraldur’s car to the sheep ring that was just down the road, still on their property. This sheep ring was unlike anything I had ever seen! It was built in the eighteen hundreds by Haraldur and Becky’s great-great grandfather that built this ring that is still standing today minus a few rocks here and there. The ring has an interesting tradition about it though. It is not only where the sheep of Haraldur’s families’ sheep go, but it is the entire county’s sheep that comes to the ring be separated. This happens usually the second weekend in September. Once the sheep from all over the county have spent the summer months in the mountains, about ten horses are taken up to the mountains to round up the sheep and make the journey back to their farms. It’s become a spectacled for family, friends and sometimes tourists. Becky and Haraldur cracked a smile when they said vendors for ice-cream and hotdogs would come. When describing this tradition for their family farm, you could just see the wonderful memories coming to light in their faces.
By the time we arrived in the sheep circle it was already getting close to time to go. I was having too much fun and did not want to leave. The one thing left that we were all looking forward to, was dinner. We have had such delicious food while in Skalholt I was curious to see how a ‘home cooked meal’ was for the average farmer in Iceland. Let’s just say I did not pass up seconds. Towards the end of our visit, Becky, Haraldur, the girls and I just sat around the table and talked about all types of things. It was the first time I didn’t really feel like a foreigner asking the typical questions. I felt like I was home talking with good friends as strange as that may seem, since we had just met them a few hours earlier. It was a wonderful time and I wish we could have stayed longer at Gummi and Badda’s farm.
Monday June 13-15, 2011
We made our way to the Heimaey Island, which is a part of Vestmannaeyjar (island chain off the coast of Island). Heimaey Island is the largest island and is inhabited by humans. While this number isn’t massive (approximately 4,500) it is significant to the population in the past, especially after being raided by Algerian pirates in 1627. The pirates came and killed 36, kidnapped and enslaved 242 in northern Africa (almost ¾ the population) and the rest hid in the caves or cliffs edges. The population had to rebuild itself. Another historical tragedy was when Eldfell, one of the two volcanoes (2nd is Helgafell) on the island exploded in 1973. This explosion almost closed the harbor, which would have devastated their direct and Iceland’s economy. Heimaey is a very important fishing town; they make up 10% of the fishing profits for Iceland. The community amazingly came together, got everyone safely out and helped the harbor from closing completely. The determination by all the able fishing vessels and firefighter was outstanding! However, at times it was out of their hands; nature had to take its course and god was the only thing that could help. There is a very infamous church service the senior pastor at Landskirkja church told us that took my breath away. The service was held while the volcano was erupting with all the fishermen and firefighters in the church praying for god to help this community. Whether nature or god was listening, we will never know but the harbor did not close and only 40 homes lay under volcanic molten lava.
All of the very interesting history was told to us via cinema at the local volcanic film show on Heimaey. This film also featured puffins. The adorable creatures are natives to Iceland and the similar arctic colder climates. While on the island we took a long walk along the cliffs were we were delighted with the sight of many puffins. This was very much unexpected due to the lower population in recent years. Another walk we took while on the island featured posts with names of homes lying under the lava field. We walked along the path from where the lava stopped all the way to where it started (the volcanic cone). Wow, this was an exhausting yet SO AMAZING hike! The peak of Eldfell’s cone is 221m – high and I can’t even describe the gorgeous view of this beautiful town from that high up. After finding and physically seeing the history of this place once I got on the fairy ( Herjolfur ) to go back to the main land I knew I would be coming back sometime in my life to Heimaey. J
Saturday, June 4, 2011, Our group went into Reykjavík which is the capital of Iceland. Reykjavík is also the largest city in Iceland with a population of around 120,000. Iceland’s total population is 320,000 people therefore; you can see what a significant amount of the population lives in the capital. The city itself was a magnificent site to see! The port docks were full of fishing boats which we were lucky enough to see many of, since we happened to visit the city on Fisherman’s Day. We were also very lucky to spend the morning at the 871 +/-2 Museum. This museum is an actual archeological find turned into a museum. When walking up to the museum it was Amazing! They have it set up so you can see a glimpse of the dig site from a glass window on the sidewalk outside the museum. Starting with a little history, the city is said to be the first permanent settlement of Iceland by Ingólfur Arnarson in approximately 870. This historical home in the middle of Reykjavík didn’t seem out of place considering its significance. Once in the museum, there were many artifacts displayed in the boxes surrounding the actual ruins found. These artifacts consisted of: tools, weapons, objects for scales and other items of daily life. These ruins and the objects found in and around it, gave the opportunity for archeologists to work their magic. Archeologists are able to reconstruct somewhat accurate structures just from the history and artifacts found. It simply amazes me how this reconstruction was possible. In all honesty I could have stayed there all day; I had a blast!
On Monday, June 6, 2011, a spur of the moment day-trip was taken to an astonishing cave with a history. There were many instances where families would resort to living in caves in earlier centuries due to lack of funds to build or maintain a home. In 1910 there was a couple that lived in Laugarvantnshellar for 11 months. Another couple in 1918, Jon Thorvardsson and Vigdis Helgadotter lived in Laugarvantnshellar and had three children. Ragnheidur and Hrafnhildi Asta were their first two children that were born in the cave starting with the first in 1919. Magnus was the third child that was born elsewhere.
Entry 2: May 30, 2011
Strokkur was the name of the geyser that we stopped at on the way back from Gulfoss, which is the largest waterfall in Iceland. Entering the field of geysers was great, but with an overwhelming smell of rotten eggs. The geysers were inevitably right at a hot spot, meaning with temperatures of 80-100 degrees Celsius (very hot). After learning to breathe through my mouth I was captivated by the ground that looked like it was covered in ice but in reality it was calcium deposits from the boiling water. Finally Strokkur explodes! It shocked me every time, even when I knew it was coming.
Entry 1: May 29, 2011
Departure & Arrival
This was a very interesting departure! Friday May 27, 2011 was our planned departure date but it was not when we left. The weather would not couperte with us. It stayed sunny all the way up till my mother had walked back into the house after saying goodbye, then it stormed. The thunder and lightning stopped all flights from RDU. We were at the mercy of the weather gods. Air traffic started back up but our flight had been cancelled therefore postponing our departure till the next day. There was much chaos with our tickets and the Delta airlines but we ended up with a compensated stay at the Comfort suites in Durham. We awoke to a long yet excited day starting in RDU then to Atlanta followed by Boston and finally To Iceland!