"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call - Exploring Iceland

Friday, June 01, 2012

Port of Call - Exploring Iceland

Our afternoon in the port of Reykjavik promised to be every bit as beautiful as the morning. Originally we thought we would go to the famous Blue Lagoon but the tour was expensive and only got us to the Lagoon and back and the rest of the time would be spent soaking in the steaming waters. We wanted to see more of the countryside so when the opportunity arose to join Vacation Vignettes for an afternoon tour, we snatched it up quickly.

On several other cruises, we have participated in a special tour sponsored by Vacation Vignettes, a part of Vacation.com, a network of over 6,000 travel agents. If your travel agent is a part of the organization and there is a host on board your ship, there will be an organized tour available at one of your ports and you will be invited to join. Our tour began shortly after lunch and once aboard our small bus, we headed out into the countryside.

Our drive took us through a small fishing village and up to the peaceful Kleifarvtn Lake. The view of the volcanic landscape was spectacular. Below our lookout point, we could see a smooth black sand beach much like the beaches in Hawaii. But I doubt there is a lot of swimming from this beach. My guess is the water, not being from a steam vent, was very cold.

In 2001, geologists found a crevice created by an earthquake in the summer of that year. It literally became a drain and about 1/3 of an inch of water drained each day from the lake. Eventually the crevice filled in again and the lake returned to its pre-earthquake levels. It was only one of many changes in the landscape that Icelanders have learned to live with. The volcanoes on this island nation are constantly creating changes in the landscape.

The next stop was the famed Krysuvik geothermal area with its amazing solfataras (volcanic vents emitting sulfur fumes), boiling mud pits, blowing steam vents and amazing colored mineral deposits. Once you got past the rotten egg smell, it was a fascinating area to explore. We followed the board walk and wound our way past the mud pits that spit every so often and past the steam pits that belched the rotten egg smell. Higher up was a much larger steam vent that we opted not to climb up to see.

The terrain was covered in Icelandic moss where it had the opportunity to grow undisturbed. There are few trees in Iceland. Most of them are in the populated areas and planted as landscaping. The moss reminded me of the tundra area of Alaska. It was that same carpeting but not as thick.

Our lungs full of whatever healing qualities the sulfur springs may have given, we left for our last stop in the fishing village of Eyrarbakki. We arrived at a large restaurant, Rauda Husid, that was obviously a favorite stop of tour buses. Our afternoon snack consisted of a wonderful lobster soup--almost like a bisque but not creamy white. To our delight, those around us didn't want to sample it. Their loss. It was delicious and had lots of chunks of lobster in the bottom. Great home baked bread and some olive and hummus spreads completed our snack. It would tide us over until we could get back to the ship.

The room that we ate in had a ledge built around it up by the ceiling and was full of stuffed birds found in the area. The puffin stood out among all of the others. We were anxious to see one but were no where near their nests on this tour.

 During our drive to Eyrarbakki, we had seen glimpses of Eyjafjallajokull (try saying that--just once). It was snow capped and beautiful and not looking at all like the problem child of the European airways as it was in 2010 when it erupted. I really wanted a good shot of it and asked the guide if there was a chance we could stop along the way back. No deal. He had a schedule to keep and besides, he told me, we would be on the archipelago the next day and have good views from there. Yes, but would the weather be as clear and sunny and perfect? I hoped so.

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