It’s not that there are no trees in Iceland. It’s just that you get the sense that every tree is individually named and has a pedigree. Basically the highest plant you generally see is about six inches from the ground; most don’t get anywhere near that dizzying height. One of the great things about this is that there are no trees to block the enormous views. And there’s also some amazing low-lying flora to be seen.
We drove over the Lakagiga lava fields this morning. The fields were caused by an eruption in 1783 and stretch for over 500 square kilometres. Before the eruption this was rich farming land; after, it was an enormous, jagged sea of black rock. The eruption was a disaster for Iceland, decimating the population and causing long-term damage. It also meant most Icelanders spent the best part of a year unable to go outside without a bucket on their head – and you can imagine what that does for your self-image. Now the lava is covered by a thick layer of moss, creating a beautiful other-worldy landscape of light-green rounded mounds as far as the eye can see.
Not surprisingly most of Iceland’s history is one of being ravaged by volcanic action and other natural excesses. Thanks to a long literary tradition, the Icelanders have surprisingly detailed knowledge of what occurred and when. We stopped at a site where a farm stood prior to an eruption over 800 years ago and they even knew how many doors the destroyed house had. The site is now a field of cairns thanks to innumerable travellers bringing and depositing a rock for luck.
Fjadragljufur is a impressive canyon on the river Fjadra. Formed by volcanic action and glacial flood it stretches in a straight line up-stream. Again there is moss and grass everywhere. Nearby we saw further evidence of the power of a glacial flood withHighway 1 diverting over a temporary bridge – the normal bridge lying destroyed to one side. Driving on a bit further and then down an awful side-road we came to the Myrdalsjokull glacier which sits over a volcano responsible for glacial floods.
Finally, we arrived at our hostel for the night. Framed in mist it sits at the bottom of the 65m-high Skogafoss: a lovely sweeping waterfall with a legend of gold hidden behind the water.
Skogafoss is also amazing fun because the bottom of the falls is not hidden in a gorge, it simply pours into a basin and the forms a river meandering on a flat plain. That means you can get to within a couple of meters of the bottom of the falls. We did and we got very, very wet.
The little dots on the bottom left of the photograph are us.