"" Writer's Wanderings: Iceland - Spelunking and Trolls

Monday, October 24, 2016

Iceland - Spelunking and Trolls

The problem with a bananas and peanut butter lunch at a picnic bench by the shore has nothing to do with the gorgeous scenery, the fresh air, or the company. The problem was there was no rest room and we had a ways to go before reaching our next stop.

We were nearing another glacial area of Iceland, Snaefellsjokull, and rounding the point of land that it sits on which is all a part of the park area. No little towns in sight. No public rest rooms that we could see. Eventually we arrived at Vatnshellir, the cave that is actually a lava tube that was on our list to see. The last tour was just finishing and the next wasn't to start for another twenty minutes. I looked around the little shed that housed the equipment for the tours and to my dismay saw nothing of comfort.

I gave in and asked the attendant if there was a rest room. Oh sure, she said, just down the road a bit. We had plenty of time. She promised they wouldn't leave without us.

Down the road was a huge (by Iceland standards) information and nature center and comfortable facilities around the side of the building. Whew! Refreshed we hurried back up the road to the cave and bought our tickets.

All decked out in fashionable helmets and equipped with a flashlight, we waited for the rest of the people who were arriving just in time and being outfitted. As I looked at the cylindrical entrance and thought about descending 120 feet down into an 8.000 year old lava tube I began to wonder if I'd somehow had changed internally with this trip. Maybe I was still suffering the effects of the Mount Fuji climb but I was stretching my comfort zone so far I was afraid it was going to snap and send me flying. I'd been in a hot spring and a nature bath, I'd walked behind waterfalls, stood next to hot pots and steaming fissures, gone through one lane tunnels and now I was going to descend into who knows what. Before I could freak, the tour guide began.

Over the door she opened to the stairway we would take down there was a sign. She translated, "Underworld." Okaaay.

We walked down some steps and found ourselves in the upper section of the cave. Our guide told us that this was the inspiration for the 1864 science fiction story by Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth. The German professor has a theory that the lava tubes in the Snaefellsjokull volcano will go down to the center of the earth and eventually he not only reaches center but comes out of the Stromboli volcano in Italy. Appropriately just before descending the second set of stairs, there is a wooden arrow pointing down and labeled "Stromboli."

Unlike the other lava tubes we've been to in other places, these were entirely underground with no daylight. You could see the way the molten lava flowed through in the formations in the rocks. Of course what is a trip down to the center of the earth without turning out the lights. I've done this before I thought only the last time Bob was driving 60 MPH down a road in the middle of Australia in a pitch black moonless night. Shucks. This is nothing lady.

No one freaked in the dark and eventually we all turned our lights back on and started our way back up to fresh air and sunshine. Maybe I could make it on one of those survivor shows. Um--nope!

We turned in our spelunking tools and made our way back to the information center where we walked to a landmark of two pillars of rock that were standing all alone on the shore, Londrangar. There was no getting really close to them from our position since you had to ford a water inlet to do so. That was fine. Close up they just would have been a wall of rock. They had a lot more character from a distance. And I was sure there would be no puffins here.

Talking about character, how about these characters in the story we found as we stopped to explore the troll canyon, Raudfeldar. Here's how the story goes:

Bardur Snaefellsas was said to be half man, half troll. He lived with his voluptuous and handsome daughters near Laugabrekka at the end of the 9th century. His brother Porkell, lived in Arnarstopi with his two sons. One day when the cousins were playing, one of the boys pushed one of the girls into an iceberg and she floated off to Greenland. She was unharmed but Bardur was so angry that he killed his two nephews. He pushed the one named Raudfeldar into the canyon and the other off a nearby cliff. After this is was said that Bardur went into the glacier and was never seen again. If you are lucky they say, you might see Bardur who is still watching over the area.

We climbed the hill to the narrow hidden entry into the fissure of the rock wall. The only way you could tell there was a way into the fissure was that there was a small creek running out of it. Once up near the entry you edge your way around a rock hoping you won't meet someone coming the other way since there's only room for one of you and then you find yourself in a small grotto. You can try to climb your way up the creek but the fissure gets even smaller and though I thought I would try, I was afraid I was going to end up soaking wet if I slipped. I turned around only to find that Bob was taking pictures of his crazy wife.

Our adventure over, no trolls encountered, we continued on to Guesthouse Hof where we hoped the night would bring another glimpse of the Northern Lights. We checked into the smallest quarters we'd had the whole trip. The rooms were in cabins that had one double room and a single room. Ours was a single with a king bed. Perhaps the beds were smaller when it was first built because we just about had enough room to squeeze between the wall and the bed. The cleanliness of the bathroom was questionable as well but it was only for one night.

Down the road a ways we found a restaurant at another hotel that supposedly wasn't rated as high as our guesthouse. I wondered. We had a nice dinner sitting at a window that looked out at the sun that was getting low in the sky. I thought with the spattering of clouds there just might be a nice sunset. On the way back to our guesthouse, we pulled off onto a gravel road and stopped. We had a great view of a glorious sunset. I could only hope it meant the lights would be on in the sky after dark.

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