Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mývatn Waterfalls and more

Selfoss

Photos: August 10-11, 2014

Our day started with a visit to waterfalls. The weather was bleak, foggy with off and on rain. Selfoss is a picturesque waterfall, curving from bank to bank.

Detifoss

Detifoss, a little further along the river, thunders down. Its bottom can't be seen but its force can be heard. Great plumes of water droplets leap up. It was hard to know if it was raining or if the droplets were showering us.

Birds and Pseudocrater

Lake Mývatn is teeming with water fowl. No sailing is allowed on the lake during breeding season. And the lake and its shores are dotted with pseudocraters. These small islands and hills by the water have indentations like craters, but they were formed by steam explosions when lava met water.

Duck

A great variety of ducks can be seen.

Near Lake Mývatn

Around parts of the lake are interesting lava formations.

More photos: Iceland and Faroe Island album

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Walking on Another Planet

Otherworldly

Photos: August 9, 2014

A stop at Hveraröndor Hverir is like arriving on another planet. Nothing seems familiar. Much of the area is too hot to walk on. Visitors have to stick to the paths.

Fumarole

Steam gushes out of fumaroles. The wind sends its plume over the area.

Námaskarð

The mountain, Námaskarð, steam coming out of its fissures, is a backdrop to this otherworldly terrain.

Burbling Up

Mudpots burble up.

On Another Planet

Minerals leave traces of unusual colours on the ground. The smell of sulphur hovers.

And in the distance - snow

Amidst all this boiling it is odd to look up and see snow on a mountain in the distance.

More pictures at : Iceland and Faroe Islands

Friday, August 29, 2014

Northern Iceland

Outside our Guesthouse

Photos: August 9, 2014

The northern part of Iceland is more mountainous than the southern coast. Mountains seemed to go on forever, many with snow tops.

Geitafoss

Iceland has magnificent waterfalls - this is just one of the small ones: Geitafoss.

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn has arms reaching in all directions. The views everywhere are extraordinary, with glaciers in the distance, volcanic mountains (dormant at the moment) and a profusion of water fowl.

Lava Formations

We went to Dimmuborgir where the lava formations are fascinating. In Iceland at Christmas there are 12 Santas. They come to Dimmuborgir one day at a time.  http://www.iceland.is/the-big-picture/news/celebrating-christmas-with-13-trolls/7916/ And after Christmas they each leave - one day each. Some say that Dimmuborgir was formed by lava hitting a lake bed, cooling and then the trapped surface water was forced through steam vents creating these odd shapes. Others say that the trolls were playing and didn't notice that the sun was about to rise and they were all turned into stone.

The Church

This formation is known as The Church. You can walk right into the "chapel" under the arch.
Climbing Hverfell

We climbed Hverfell, a dormant volcano. From a North Iceland site: "Hverfell has a large, circular explosion crater, about 140 metres deep and with a diameter of 1,000 metres. Hverfell is one of Iceland’s most beautiful and symmetrical explosion craters, besides being one of the largest of its kind in the world. It is considered certain that the crater was created during a volcanic explosion, and its age is estimated to be around 2800 - 2900 years."
Looking into the crater

The whole mountain feels like walking on pebbles. Nothing grows here.

More photos at: Iceland and Faroe Islands album

Thursday, August 28, 2014

North Streymoy - Faroe Islands

Sheep on the Slope

Photos: August 7, 2014

Everywhere we looked in the Faroe Islands there were steep hills, cascades of water and sheep on the slopes - not big flocks, but a few here and there. They seem to be able to climb the steepest slopes.

Five Swans a-swimming

We went on a tour of the northern part of Streymoy, stopping here and there to admire the views. We stopped near a lake and one of the travellers went down to the shore. Suddenly, as if an announcement went out, the swans swam towards him; the sheep nearby headed his way; then the sheep on the hillsides came dashing down the slopes.

Chance Meeting

I guess they were hoping for a handout, but it was just a photo op. Sheep (as in Iceland) come in a variety of colours. They graze on the hills all summer and are rounded up in October. We were told that people collect their slaughtered lambs and hang them to dry in a shed. They are eaten at Christmas (the smell is supposedly quite strong). You can read about it here.

Looking Down

Like Iceland, most of the Faroe Islands is treeless which allows for long vistas.

Out of the Bay

We took a boat trip along the bird cliffs near Vestmanna. The cliffs towered over us. As much of the rock is basalt, a fairly soft rock, it has been carved by the sea, leaving caves, arches and other interesting rock formations.

Rock Formations

Our boat went through arches, around sea stacks. Many birds nest on the cliffs.

Through an Arch

Through an arch (you can see the poles at the back of the boat).

In and Around the Cliffs

It was impossible to photograph to the top of the cliffs - they rose over 800 metres.

Vestmanna

Back to Vestmanna. The village perches on a hill. Nearby there are pipes coming down from the top of the mountains. Water is diverted through them turning turbines inside to generate power. More and more the Faroe Islands are using natural sources of power: hydro-electric power and windmills. With only about 50,000 people, the power demands are not that substantial.

More photos: Iceland and Faroe Islands album

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Torshávn in the Faroe Islands

At the Harbour

Photos August 5 - 6, 2014

We spent a delightful few days in the Faroe Islands, mainly in Torshávn on the island of Streymoy. The population is less than 20,000.

Boats in the Harbour

It is possible that the first settlers were Irish hermits (and I presume other people or they would have died out). The Vikings were next and they established a parliament "Thing" as early as 850CE. The sod roofed houses you see at the end of the Tinganes peninsula is about where it was located.

Sod Roofs

There are a number of sod-roofed houses in the Faroe Islands - both historical and modern. The dark wood houses above were for the working class people.

Tinganes

The red coloured houses were owned by the merchants and shipping magnates. This area, while no longer the place where parliament actually sits, is still home to many offices of members of the parliament.

Cloud Shrouded Island

The islands are close to each other and are connected by bridges and tunnels. To get from the airport (on Vágar) we went through a 7km tunnel under the ocean to Streymoy.

Faroe Islands Horses

These horses were in a field around the corner from the house where we stayed  (I love the eyelashes). In another field were sheep. Sheep seem to be everywhere on the hills - small groups not large flocks.

Falling

And once again I was impressed with the amount of public art.

More photos at: Iceland and Faroe Islands album

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja3

Photos: August 3, 2014

I think people either love or hate this church. Outside (just shows how one brings oneself to interpreting things) reminds me of organs pipes. I read somewhere that it is supposed to represent basalt columns such as we saw near Vik. Leif Eriksson stands outside the church - that famous Icelander who first set foot on North American soil.
Lief Eriksson

We kept running into the Leif Eriksson story - first in Eyrarbakki Bjarni Herjólfsson was from. He sold his boat to Leif who then sailed to North America in it and briefly established a settlement there. Later in our trip we went to the farm of Erik the Red, the father of Leif and saw the area where he was born.

Inside Hallgrímskirkja

There is something very uplifting, being in a building with high ceilings and tall windows. The eyes are drawn upward.  And I like the simplicity of Lutheran churches. You can find out more about the church here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to Reykjavik

On Laugavegur

Photos: August 4, 2014

Parts of Laugervegur are pedestrian only. These colourful bikes block off the car traffic.

We walked a lot - through many areas of Reykjavik. There is a pond with lots of waterfowl - and lots of reflections

On Tjörnin Pond

The Icelandic people are mainly Lutheran - churches tend to be simple inside.

Public Art

I always appreciate a city with lots of public art. I was impressed by the number of sculptures I passed. Some look a little depressed.

The Unknown Bureaucrat

And this one, the unknown bureaucrat gives a whole new meaning to blockhead.

Near City Hall

Architecture is simple - clean lines, not a lot of embellishment.

Colourful Houses

And sometimes it is very colourful.

For more photographs: Iceland album

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tectonic Plates

End of the North American Plate

Photos: August 3, 2014

This wall of rock is the end of the North American Plate. We were in Þingvellir, a place that is important both for the geology and the history.  It was here that the first "parliament" met and continued to meet until the late 1700s: the Alþing. The valley sits between the North American and Eurasian plates.

Small River

You can find out much more about the history at this site. I´ve been reading Nyall´s saga and the yearly trek to the Alþing features prominently.

Iceland flag

It is possible that legal decisions were pronounced where this flagpole stands.

Lake Þinvellir

The lake, Þingvallavatn,  has a wide variety of vegetation and invertebrates.

Looking out at the mountains

When you look out, there are mountains in every direction. They are dormant volcanoes. Who knows when they will once again become active. You can follow Iceland's many daily earthquakes and volcanic activity at http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes

Geese

In addition to fish in the lake, there are geese on its shores.

More Iceland photos at: Iceland album



Friday, August 22, 2014

Puffins Rocks and More

Puffin

Photos: August 2, 2014

My original notion was not more than five photos from each day. But each day brought such beauty, such surprises, that I have not been able to stick to that. We spent part of the morning at Dyrhóleay where it is easy to watch the puffins. They nest on the cliffs, including on the sea stacks.

Sea Stack

They are constantly taking off to find food and landing with their bright orange feet reaching out as if putting on the brakes.

Black Sand at Dyrhóleay

The sand in the area is black. Water has carved out caves in the basalt. You can walk along the beach, in and out of caves.

Basalt Columns

A little farther along we stopped at Reynisfjara where the basalt columns look like a giant pipe organ. The textures in the nearby rock are fascinating.

Rock Formations

And farther up the cliffs - more puffins.

Reynesdrangar

Reynesdrangar - a sea stack out in the water. Incredible beauty everywhere we looked.

More photos can be found at: Iceland Album on flickr