No Ants in Iceland, April 2014
|Category: Wendy's Wanderings||23 April 2014|
We visited Iceland in March for our first Icelandic photography workshop. Until then I did not realise just how diverse a country this Island was. My first impressions of Iceland after arriving on a bitterly cold day in gale force winds, wet rain and big Turner skies was a country of gale force winds, rain and big threatening skies!! However once we got all our layers on including our merino wool thermals we began to get under the volcanic lava surface.
Due to its situation at the junction of two large submarine plates, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Greenland-Iceland-Faeroes Ridge. the landscape has been constantly changing over millennia due to volcanic activity. There is beauty here even around the sulphur smelling geysirs. Travel around outside of Reykjavik where the traffic is no more and you will find hot water lakes, lagoons with icebergs, glaciers, snow peaked mountains, dramatic coastline with huge waves and basalt cliffs that leaves Ireland in the shade. It has literally everything, well actually I am lying everything that is apart from ANTS yes ants…why should this be of interest? Well they have been referred to as one of the most successful organisms having colonised virtually EVERY landmass on earth comprising around 25% of the total terrestrial animal biomass….but they were not keen on Iceland. Maybe they found it too cold or perhaps there is something about living around sulphur smelling geysirs and erupting volcanoes that does not entice!
It also does not have any palm trees or forests, that is if you don’t count a group of 20 firs as a forest. It cannot boast the age of fossils we have on our Jurassic coast at 65-250 million years old. The plant and insect remains found on Iceland lived around 15million years ago. Iceland is a teenager in comparison to the rest of Europe.
It is not a place for city shoppers either unless you need a jumper for the winter cold. The locals have lots of them here, it’s the only place in the world where hand knitting is ‘cool’! En masse they look so attractive (albeit expensive) forcing the visitor to search out their knitting needles once home with fantasies of Kaffe Fasset type creations being knocked up in a week. So far I have found a pattern and I have done 10 rows……and I have been home 2 weeks…..maybe this time next year….!
We discovered jewels of such raw beauty that I could not work out why I had never flown the 3hour flight before. David had been to cover a ‘Lonely Planet’ article but had only a few days to complete his agenda, so this time we were given extra time to get under Iceland’s crust.
There is something almost awakening although frightening about how quickly the weather changes there. A wind starts up from nowhere and the snow can catch you out. It’s a first, that we were driving in fair visibility which then turned to 50cm, with the wind causing drifting snow and nil visibility. We went out to explore the beach at Dyrholaey where black sand was covered with fresh snow. But the snow became so bad we had to return and promptly got the car stuck driving back up the off- road drive to the hotel. Luckily the owner was there with his digger and literally dug us out whilst the blizzard raged on.
The next day we tried again. We had to walk the last 2 miles because the car was not happy with the snow drifts. Still, having been hotel bound for 48hrs whilst David nursed a streaming cold. Too much time resulted in my amazing invention of long johns tied to David’s camera bag used to stop the window blowing wide open in the blizzard, providing a hint of air. We were desperate for some exercise!
A couple from Asia were exploring the beach dodging the waves in a romantic yin/yang kind of way with the sea getting ever closer. I was having kittens, having spent 2 hours there already we had seen the shoreline change when every 57th wave came up shore 25meters higher than all those before it. This is the picture of the lady before she got wet up to her chest and almost got taken out to sea before her boyfriend grabbed her by her hood and dragged her over the sand back to a warm car.
With glacial crevasse’s, rough seas, threatening volcanoes, boiling geysers and strong winds this is Iceland, beautiful but always threatening with claws if you don’t show her respect. But so often there is something thrilling when courting danger….I will tell you more next month fulmars, kittiwakes, minks and minke whales are only the half of it.