All guides promise you, rain, wind, large spaces, the horizon of sight, nature in the raw and the evil spirits … all combine to make the ‘ Iceland a unique island between fire and ice .
All guides will tell you, there are no words strong enough to speak of the light of Iceland which sometimes floods glaciers, valleys and lava fields evoking the beginning of the world.
For my part, I discovered the south of the island on foot, trekking , with tent, backpack, rain cape and sunscreen! I would not wear out in personal and futile anecdotes (… though!) But would try to present Iceland with an admiring look, a head full of memories and a heart wide open.
Travel diary – Day 1: Landmannalaugar
The first thing to know when you put your foot in Iceland is that it will be necessary to cross rivers or, to make local, to cross fords!
On foot, by bike, on horseback or in 4 × 4, you will not escape these trickles of water that can become bubbling torrents in 24 hours and it will cross to reach your evening refuge.
Brrrrr …! You suspect that it may be a little cool. The water comes from the glaciers and apart from some smoking sources, it is not heated by the underground lava. But when, for the first time, you dip your hand in the water to get an idea of the temperature, you quickly understand that it will be difficult.
For the small ford, you have the pants up to the knees and water up to the ankles. In contact with the water, your toes are clenched instantly, your muscles retract, your whole body protests!
With a deep fording, we move on to serious things! The shoes and the pants slung, the proper combat dress, it’s underpants and sandals! The water comes to mid-thigh, you do not see the bottom, you do not feel your calves … not even serious. Concentrated, you go 2 by 2, arm in arm. Do not be surprised by the force of the current, the upheavals that jostle you or unstable pebbles that you do not see.
The real comfort is the other side! The ultimate goal, the only goal to achieve. On the other side, your feet will be hot and after some jokes around a cup of steaming tea, you will not think about it … until the next.
Travel diary – Days 2 and 3: Faxasund and Langisjor
Rift, geysers and volcanoes.
We can not appreciate Iceland, without understanding the reliefs. So get out your pencils and take notes …
Iceland is a young land (barely 20 million years old) born of tectonic love between the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. These 2 plates deviate at the vertiginous speed of 2 centimeters per year. This phenomenon is called continental drift. The line of contact forms an immense fracture of the earth’s crust and Iceland is on it.
This particular geographical situation explains the strong volcanic and seismic activity of the island. So, a huge magma is boiling under Icelandic soil.
Geysers, fumaroles, natural springs of hot water are only the geothermal excesses of this burning passion.
A volca n is the chimney through which the molten lava flows out and explodes.
When this lava boils the water of a deep well, huge bubbles of vapor rise and spurt out on the surface, it is a geyser.
And when it heats a spring, it creates a natural bath of hot water .
At dawn, you will bask in the quiet when nature awakens. After an intense day of hiking, you will relax before a hearty dinner.
the fumarolesthey are formed from the sulphide-laden water vapor of subterranean rivers, hence the well-known smell of rotten eggs.
Travel Notebook – Day 4: Skafta
Innovation and tradition
When one takes a look at the history of Iceland, it is a summary of life, wars in epidemics, enslavements in rebellion, traditions in innovations. A very rich literary production tracing these historical facts explains moreover that the Icelanders have a very clear vision of their origins and their identity.
Precursors, therefore, by establishing the first democratic regime of history in the year 930.
The heads of newly arrived clans of Norway choose at the time to meet in parliament to manage together the lives of the island’s inhabitants. An economic and productive organization when it is already necessary to fight against the natural elements: harsh winters, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, … which are at the origin of many famines.
A few hundred years later, Icelanders still surprise by electing for the first time a woman, President of the Republic, in 1980. Women have also had their political party, The Alliance of Women, which sat on parliament with 6 deputies.
Astonishing also, the privileged relationship between politicians and citizens since the phone number of ministers is in the directory.
Their main pride, the Icelandic horses.
And there you will tell me, nothing creative! Well, if. Icelandic is very sensitive on this subject so do not risk asking him the name of his “pony”. The Icelandic horses are t rapus , it is certain but they are also very resistant, alive and enduring s. They are at the heart of Icelanders’ lives, integrated into the culture and known for their unique trotting approach to the world .
Their main claim, traditions.
Indeed, they can surprise by their very conservative character.
Starting with their language that has changed very little. The geographical isolation of Iceland and its important culture of the written word allowed an exceptional conservation of the original language. So much so that Icelandic today is spoken for 500 years .
Try to speak French like François 1st and you will understand the feat!
Travel Notebook – Days 5 and 6: Eldgja and Skartafell Fault
Chimeras and other spiritualities …
But what is totally irresistible in the Icelandic culture are the sagas.
Elves, trolls and other elves populate these epic stories between fumaroles and green hills that take you beyond time.
In fact, in a country where nature is so unpredictable, it is difficult to stick to rational facts. When the bed of a river moves several tens of meters in 1 night, when the 4 seasons succeed in 1 day, you can never be sure of anything.
No wonder then that the supernatural is involved.
The elf is a beneficial being intimately related to Nature . Its physiognomy is based on its habitat, so the elf of the rocks will be small and vigorous while the river elf will be slender and refined. He makes himself invisible to the man to protect himself, although in certain circumstances, some Icelanders claim to have seen them.
Even today, they believe in the existence of elves and can change the course of a road if the very official Elven Affairs Officer recommends it.
The troll , stocky and hairy, is often malicious towards the man . Sometimes alone, sometimes with family, he hates being disturbed. He lives in nature with a predilection for holes: lava hole, moss hole, … near a river or in a valley.
And as all means are good to harm the Men, he mop every night in search of quarrel. But beware, if he is not at home before dawn, the sun’s rays will turn him into stone.
So do not be surprised to see the appearance of dark, shapeless masses in the landscape, it is nothing but a troll who has returned late!
And the most beautiful tribute to these creatures of legends, we owe it undoubtedly to JRR Tolkien with the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings . From La Conté to Mordor, his whole world is found in Iceland.
Travelogue – Day 7: Emstrur
Other inhabitants populating Iceland, Icelanders.
Strong and resistant, as hard as the climate, they are cut in the rock .
Shy and reserved, they may seem distant. But if you find the magic words, their kindnessand humor will keep you warm all winter long!
With wisdom and philosophy, they accepted their living conditions and adapted themselves to the land of little fertility and the rigor of a country where 24 hours of day follow 24 hours of darkness.
With fervor, they respect the Nature and defend the green cause convinced, a little more every day, that our survival depends on the safeguarding of the environment.
But beyond the traditional values , the young generation is more and more attracted by the standards made in the USA. Since the installation of a US military base in Keflavik, the influence of the Atlantic has developed everywhere, from the choice of 4 × 4 to the TV series and food. Thus, you find fast food restaurants on every street corner opening the door to sedentary obesity.
At the same time, you do not come to Iceland to satisfy your gourmet desires. Smoked fish, braised lamb and “kaviar” in tube will be your only taste follies.
Travelogue – Day 8: Thorsmork
Reykjavik , return to civilization.
To go on a trek is to leave behind the city, its comfort and its traps .
So when the paved roads, the roofs of the houses and the neon lights reappear, you feel it’s the end.
Funny sensations, all in contradiction, as the country as modern as it can be wild and unpredictable.
But Reykjavik fortunately has nothing to do with the major European capitals. At most, you find the greenery and simplicity of a nice provincial town . Extensive in terms of area if you count the large suburbs, the city center is divided into 2 perpendicular shopping streets.
Close to there, the district of “nice restaurants” where you find mainly smoked fish, in sauce, raw, grilled, in foil … and some rare signs which propose you puffin.
In the evening, the streets come alive, the city stamps. And despite the slightly cool temperatures (even in the heart of summer), we see groups of young people settle outside on a public bench or a corner of grass to drink a pint in any conviviality.
It goes without saying that a trip to Iceland is unforgettable . Every day Nature brings you back to the essential values and reminds you that without it, we are nothing. You come back different, humble and persuaded to have reached the origins of the world.
Go and live your Icelandic saga!
- Region of Landmannalaugar
- Beautiful hiking area, natural source of hot water and unreal landscapes.
- Icelandic Sagas by Régis Boyer
- Icelandic Troll s by Brian Pilkington