Friday, November 02, 2007
DAY 1: Rainbow in Iceland
Lucky and I arrived at Keflavik Airport at 6 AM GMT. We were met by our tour guide, Helga who drove us to a hotel to have breakfast and adapt to the time change before we got on a boat and see some whales.
Unfortunately, it was pouring on and off... and no one else was as adventurous. So no whale trip :(
Instead, Helga drove us around the Keflavik area on an impromptu tour. The Reykjanes Peninsula covered with lava fields. Low brush, moss and lichen sticking to the sooty rocks, with patches of green grasses. Mud pots (hot water gurgling to the top of the earth and mixing with the dirt) threatened to take over the gravel road.
We first visited the site of a future Viking village museum... see photo! It will have replicas of Viking buildings in the style of when Iceland was first colonized. Already some log and stone furniture has been created, and the outline of where a future longhouse will be built was laid out in stone. They are building the "museum" on the property of a 20th century turf house filled with old farm equipment (apparently sued to be rented out to tourists but now will be used for educational purposes. The boat in the photo sailed to Greenland, Newfoundland, and New York City back in 2000. The "Icelander" is an exact replica of an old Viking-ship called the "Gaukstad-ship" which was excavated from an ancient burial mound in Norway in 1882. The preserved ship was dated back to 870 AD, the time of the settlement of Iceland. It was brought back last year to be a part of the "museum" and will be moored in the river nearby (cranes in the distance). A whole rainbow appeared (with a duller one underneath) and we all raced around the area trying to capture it in its entirity (without falling down through the boggy moss).
Helga then hustled us in her little red compact to the abandoned Keflavik United States Naval Air Station. I remembered when I had last been to Iceland (TWO decades ago!) how the base had all these vehicles coming and going. Now, it was completely empty. Well, not completely... some of the buildings were being turned into housing for college students. The US/NATO closed the base with almost no warning back in 2006, leaving Iceland with no military protection but with a great place to show indoor "drive in movies" (the largest hanger was going to show "American Graffiti").
The "Leif the Lucky" Bridge spans the Alfagja rift valley (60 feet wide and 20 feet deep) near Grindavik that marks the boundary of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. It was built in 2002 as something to show the tourists, and was next on our "tour." My own Lucky and I kissed by where the two continents met, delighting in the science-kitsch. The continents are slowly separating but Iceland isn't splitting in two, because as soon as the split is deep enough, lava fills in, creating new land.
It was by this bridge, that we saw the most cairns (pyramids of rocks balanced on top of each other). Partly because people (like us) wanted to leave their mark. But also because many hiking trails were nearby. Since there aren't many trees in that area of Iceland, they use cairns to keep hikers on track.
END OF DAY 1, Part 1 of 2