Green is good! A short hike in Borrowdale to enjoy the green colours of summer and savour the contrast of the textures of the round rocks with the straight trees in this glacier-shaped valley in the Lake District National Park. Could this exceptional greenness be because Seathwaite in Borrowdale is the wettest place in England where there is a rain gauge?
Weather looked clear out the window at 0530 AM in Ólafsvik, good news after yesterday’s deluges and mist. Checked seismic forecast, all quiet. So off for a pre-breakfast hike on the sunny side of the local stratovolcano, Snæfellsjökull (1446 m.), which inspired Jules Verne’s “Journey to the centre of the earth”.
Getting out of the car on to volcanic gravel where the blacktop road ended reminded me more of the moon or maybe Mars. Crunchy volcano debris underfoot and all around, minor cones and fissures in various stages of erosion. Both compasses useless... lots of magnetic rock about. At least we have GPS. Only me around... plus the birds, midges and eventually a trio of sheep.
Not so far away at Hellissandur the vertical monopole antenna of Iceland’s long wave transmitter, 189 kHz broadcasting RÚV Rás 1 service. At 412 m height it’s visually unmissable, one of Europe's tallest structures: The Shard in London is just 306 m. high.
So this is Iceland... 64 degrees North. Sunset not until 2337 and then sunrise 0253. The land of volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls and fissures. Not quite the land of the midnight sun but nearly so. To the geologists - and this is their paradise - Þingvallavegur (say Thingvellir) is the rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates so the ground is particularly unstable but also spectacular. Iceland Met Office publishes an earthquake forecast, in addition to the usual rain and wind forecasts. Good to see no earthquakes exceeding 2.0 (Richter) expected....
Þingvallavegur is important in the history the Icelandic nation state. The national assembly was held here from about 1000 AD onwards and the tombs of some of the national heroes are in the peaceful area amongst the small lakes. It’s a major tourist attraction, a must-see for all of us tourists.
Photographically this topography is a challenge. Huge horizontal landscapes, think Wyoming with 30km or more between settlements (“towns”); I passed a sign saying the no fuel for the next 205km... Lots of black basalt yesterday but here I am in the land of lakes. Weather showery yesterday and grey today. That’ll do but some sunshine always helps the photographer.
The biggest waterfall I have seen for many years, the Hvítá river thunders over the twin falls of Gullfoss before scuttling through a narrow gorge. Plenty of spray but no rainbows on my visit. It was worth hiking a little way from the tourist paths to get a wider view.
A few kilometres further down the river's course is the settlement around Geysir, which gave its name to geysers everywhere. Geysir is the biggest geyser here but Strokkur is the tourists’ friend, erupting or less reliably every ten minutes or so to a height of tens of metres.
Gullfoss and Geysir are highlights on the Golden Circle tour out from Reykavik. However, I’ve been based in Laugarvatn which has been very peaceful indeed. There’s a lake with a hydrothermal spa. The birds all sound exotic, like an omnibus edition of “Tweet of the Day”, as the countryside is green with lots of trees. Food good. A small party of Danish hikers in this hotel and a German PhD student with his Icelandic supervisor, I think they’re botanists. And a solo biker from Germany on a muddy GS1200 with knobbly tyres and full metal baggage.
Hike up from Thrushwood round Latrigg and Lonscale Crags for a picnic at the bridge over the Glendatarra Beck, that runs between the Skiddaw and Blencathra massifs. A stiff breeze whisking the sunny intervals through the view over Threlkeld Common and Bleaberry Fell, with Keswick and Derwent Water in the distance: the main thing about this path is the spectacular view. It’s not a particularly high route (max 450m. altitude), also this path is shared with mountain bikers on the Glendaterra & Lonscale Crags Mountain Bike Route. Events this Sunday included a run up Skiddaw, being passed at Latrigg Saddle by packs of runners evoked memories of my own running days, cross-country and a few fell and moorland runs.