Sun, Lava, Waterfalls and Geyser.

The sun does shine in Iceland. We have seen it! Indeed we saw a spectacular sunrise at 02:20 at Bakki (rather confusingly Tuesday's sunset is on Wednesday at 00:06, and it remains light enough to read 24 hours a day). Where is Bakki you ask? Bakki is a tiny town on the south coast of Iceland west of Vik with an "airport" (I use the term loosely) for flights to the island of Heimaey. The airline operates an exemplary commercial policy, you only pay for your six minute flight when you arrive, "if we don't get you there you don't have to pay".

Heimaey from the air.Heimaey is now a peaceful fishing port but has a lively history, including being "colonized" by English privateers, then Danish traders and then in 1627 the island was raided by Algerian pirates and most of the population taken away as slaves.

But Heimaey hit the news in more recent times when in 1973 a volcano erupted on the island and the entire population of 5000 had be evacuated. Over the next five months lava engulfed a third of town. Heroic efforts were made to divert the lava by pumping millions of tonnes of sea water onto the leading edge of the flow. Miraculously the harbor and most of the town was saved, or to put it another way, the volcano stopped erupting. I suspect property insurance rates remain high. Heimaey is well worth visiting for a day by air ($60USA per person return to Bakki), but not worth taking a vehicle and there is good wild camping at Bakki airport.)

Pat did not eat puffin on Heimaey.

Gullfoss.South Central Iceland is known to the tourist industry as the "golden triangle". The three big attractions are Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir. In spite of their popularity all three are impressive, but get there before the tour buses.

Gullfoss is a spectacular two stage waterfall that only survives because of heroic efforts to save it from being converted into a hydro-electric plant by perfidious foreigners.

Strokkur.Geysir is the name of a specific spouting hot spring that alas no longer spouts regularly (since an earthquake in June 2000). Luckily Geysir's neighbor Strokkur preforms on cue every two to four minutes. Until recently Geysir has been encouraged to perform by pouring detergent into it but this is no longer considered ecologically sound.

As with Gullfoss there is an adjoining "visitor centre" but this is far enough away and low enough key not to detract from the spectacle. Also like Gullfoss there are plenty of places to wild camp within a few hundred metres.

Whilst Gullfoss and Geysir are easy to describe Þingvellir is more complicated. In geological terms "Þingvellir" is the area around the spectacular rift between the European and North American tectonic plates. In cultural and historical terms Þingvellir is the most important site in Iceland, the place where the worlds first parliament (Alþing) was held in 930AD, were the entire Icelandic law was recited each year by the lögsögumaður and where the formal establishment of the Republic of Iceland took place in June 1944.

Mog stuck deep in the mud!The Þingvellir national park includes the countries largest lake, Þingvallavatn, around which are a number of beautiful (and free) camping areas.

As you can see from the photograph Mog was able to rescue a local farmer when his tractor become became hopelessly stuck in the mud by the edge of the lake.

Stephen Stewart.

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