Monday, 9 August 2010

Laid back, spectacular and startling

After a night in a lovely hotel near Gatwick, Sandy and I began our adventure in Iceland. We flew into Keflavick and were transferred by mini-bus to the small domestic airport in Reykjavik. On that short journey we met a couple who where on the same tour as us, but with a slightly altered itinerary - it was reassuring to find they also found it impossible to pronounce place names and where as excited and apprehensive as we are!

We arrived at the small airport two and a half hours early and were able to catch an earlier plane, which was brilliant - no extra charge, no bureaucracy - just a shrug and a 'why not?'. The flight was exhilarating, over a volcanic and glacial landscape that made sense of all those geography lessons that Mr Rocket tried to teach me long ago. Meandering rivers running through gorges and valleys, surrounded by ice-topped hills or mountains with sharp, razor like ridges, or flat topped because of millennia of glacial erosion.

We picked our car up and set off from Akureyri along the N1 - the only major road, which runs all around the island. Mountain roads, glacial lakes and perfect blue skies made for a wonderful and stunning journey. We had been told to look out for Godafoss - a spectacular waterfall. As we approached the area where it was meant to be I was increasingly sceptical, as the land had flattened out and I could not see any cliffs or hills big enough to support a large fall. Sandy pointed out some spray in the distance and we followed the tourist sign to the car park. As we turned in I was gobsmacked (technical Northern term meaning 'flabbergasted'). The waterfall was below us, thousands of years of water action had carved a horseshoe shaped basin, into which flows thousands of tonnes of water a second.

Godafoss means 'fall of the Gods' and marks the place where, in 1000ad, Porgeir Porkellson, Law Speaker in the Alpingi (world's oldest parliament), having decided that Iceland would become Christian, threw all the carvings of his family's pagan gods.

In the flow from this powerful waterfall a rock sits, stubbornly unmoving and on the rock are tiny pink flowers, clinging on against the odds. They seemed to me like the vestiges of the pagan beliefs - some rem
ain in superstition and belief in elves - others remain in more positive ways in a passionate love for creation and the environment. It would be easy to claim some sort of victory when the Speaker made his choice but it was political and to do with the security of the people. The human yearning for God was there before that decision was made, bubbling up in spiritualities that still seem attractive to some today.

We continued to our hotel, Sel at Lake Myvatn - 'Midge Lake' is sadly in no way ironic! But the lake is beautiful, our room is good and we have eaten well. It is almost 11pm and there is little sign of nightfall - in fact until 10pm there was a deep and warm golden glow across the surrounding hills.

Tomorrow - whale watching, puffins and more waterfalls. I can't wait!

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