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Translated Jeff Matthews

… I left you yesterday at three in the morning in the glimmer of an unreal twilight, waiting for someone to open the door so I could finally make up two or three hours of much needed sleep. I was awaiting the proprietor, whom I fully expected to be a blond and bearded Icelander, so I was a bit surprised when a young Romanian gentleman and his Spanish wife showed up. They had invested their savings in this land at the edge of the world and purchased three houses to open as B&B's; it seems to have worked out for them since they had only one free room—the one I was about to occupy. Getting to sleep? In spite of the heavy curtains, the light still managed to sneak in through the large windows and dispelled any notion I had of drifting off to dreamland. Thus, my first day in Iceland started with my head in a fog of its own.

I was out early to keep the plan I had set for myself. I picked up the rental car and was off to the northern wilds, away from the “golden circle” so close to the hearts of the traditional tourist. My own program was much more ambitious—to lose myself amidst the immense deserted tundra right at the edge of the ancient polar circle—where land gives way to ice.

The changes started. I got my first taste of what lay ahead beyond the mountains. My education began in earnest: endless waterfalls cascaded and spilled down over ancient volcanic lava flows (photos 1, 2 & 3) and countless torrents flowed from Languökull (one of the four perennial glaciers of the high plateaus—photos 5 & 6). There were enormous fractures in the rock faces leading back into the mountains (photos 7,8 & 9), and I saw how this incredible stage was now set for my adventure over the next few days. This landscape, so new, so impossible, went on and on without let-up, putting my eyes as well as my mind into a kind of contemplative trance. I crossed endless glacial valleys (photo 10), kilometer after kilometer of immense volcanic rock bastions (photo 4) and lava fields covered with soft mosses and multicolored lichens. Like some knight errant of old I was being drawn north by an ancient call, perhaps the ancient memory of a great migration. The terrain, so different, had an irresistible hold over me. Perhaps I was retracing a path that would take me back to origins, treading the path of ancient forebears.

Some hours later I was at that arm of the sea that separated Iceland from Greenland, the bay of Breidafjördur, with its micoscopic islands and straits and deep, deep fjords, once crossed by swift Viking boats. The high cliffs stood out above the intense dark color of an unreal and flat sea while on the far shore mountains with perennial snow drove their roots into the icy waters...and this was high summer.

During this part of the journey, the road ran along and crossed numerous fjords, forcing me to run kilometers along the coast. Precisely to avoid another twisting path, this one along the Hvalfjörður fjord (that led over 30 km inland), and to bridge the mere 5 km to the far shore, they dug the Hvalfjarðargöng, a tunnel beneath the rocky bottom of the inlet, to let you pass straight across beneath the waters. This very practical solution can be used even in the icy winter when the roads are covered in snow and ice. Let's just say that it holds your attention to realize that you are driving under water.

Before I got to my destination, I saw along the roadside a mysterious narrow and deep fissure that split a high lava bastion in two. That was too loud a call for this old caver—I had to have a look. All I had was small flashlight with me so I had to be content with just the first part of this enigmatic cave.

So I was now at the warm and welcoming Edda Hotel, my base of operations for the next three days. Next up will be: The Snæfellsjökull National Park on the crest above the Edda Hotel, and the small town of Hellnar and surrounding cliffs.

To be continued...

Click on images to enlarge

1. The many cascades of Iceland.

2. The many cascades of Iceland.

3. The many cascades of Iceland.

4. Ancient volcanoes

5. Rivers and torrents

6. Rivers and torrents

7. Deep fracture splitting a majestic volcanic lava bastion

8. Moving towards the interior of the mountain

9. From within the mountain

10. Glacial valleys

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News from Abroad

21 August 2019

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