Saturday, 26 October 2019 – Day 7 of Tour   – South Shore, Reykjavik & Blue Lagoon AND Sunday 27 October to Tuesday 29 October 2019 – Iceland to Home.

After breakfast, we headed south across the Eldhraun moss and lava fields. Situated along Iceland’s south coast, Eldhraun is the largest lava flow in the world. It is also the place where the Apollo 11 crew trained for their impending moonwalk in 1969 for its similarity to the surface of the moon.

Moss and Lava Mounds

The Eldraun Lava Field was created in one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases that contaminated the soil, killing half of Iceland’s cattle and horses, and more than three-quarter of sheep. That year, nothing grew on the fields and no more fish could be found in the sea. The resulting famine killed approximately 9,000 people by the direct effects of the eruption, like lava and poisonous gases and is now considered the most poisonous eruption to date.

The eruption was felt in Europe as well and other parts of the world. In Great Britain, that summer was known as the Sand-Summer due to the fallout of ash. Many historians have also speculated that the haze created by the eruption blocked sunlight in Europe and may have contributed to the French Revolution.

Moss is a common plant in Iceland. It grows abundantly in the mountainous region and is a special characteristic of Iceland’s lava fields. It is marvellous that some fauna manages to grow between the moss covered rocks

Plants growing between the moss and lava mounds – unbelievable

As time passed, the lava cooled down and eventually became solid rocks. The lava field remained barren and dark for a long time, until the wind brought in some moss spores from elsewhere. Eldhraun lava field and the craters are covered with Woolly Fringe Moss and the landscape looks alien and unearthly.

We left the fascinating Eldhraun lava fields and drove approximately 50+ south to VIK where we had a group photograph taken.

Coach passengers having group photo taken at Vik

After a short stop in Vik we continued onto REIJNISFJARA.

Reynisfjara is a popular black sand beach on the south coast of Iceland near the small town of Vík.  This sand originated from the basalt lava that covers much of the area. The black sand isn’t routinely replenished like most beach sand when storms and tides wash the sand away.

When we arrived at Reijnisfjara, there is this amazing black sand beach with basalt stacks in the ocean. Those stacks are called Reynisdrangar, The mountain – Reynisfjall – has at its foot the popular Hálsanefshellir cave, the sea stacks and the magnificent basalt columns.

Hálsanefshellir Cave

While being famous for beautiful rock formations and basalt columns, the beach is also well known for dangerously large sneaker waves.  A sneaker wave, sleeper wave, or (in Australia) a king wave is a disproportionately large coastal wave that can sometimes appear in a wave train without warning. Because they are much larger than preceding waves, sneaker waves can catch unwary swimmers and even people on the beaches and ocean jetties and wash them into the sea. Sneaker waves are common here in Reynisfjara.

A sneaker wave

Reynisfjara has been picked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – but it’s also one of the most dangerous tourist destinations in Iceland. Three people have drowned at the beach after powerful sneaker waves knocked them down, sweeping them out to sea.  The waves at Reynisfjara are especially strong and extremely unpredictable. They can seem very smooth barely touching the surface of the sand one minute but then a sneaker wave can come smashing onto the sand catching many unsuspecting people who don’t seem to take notice of the warnings.   Extreme caution is to be exercised at all times while visiting Reynisfjara . Stay far back from the water’s edge and heed all signs and warnings. Though the beach is stunning, care needs to be taken as sneaker waves are common and the current is very strong. The reason for these monster waves and strong current? The only land south of Vík and Reynisfjara is Antarctica. That’s a lot of unobstructed space for the Atlantic currents to travel before crashing into Iceland!

There are signs up at the beach warning of sneaker waves and guides warn their clients of the danger but the beach may look “safe” to tourists who don’t realise that a seemingly calm ocean could send a sneaker wave high up on the beach without warning and suck people out to sea where they are helpless to fight against the strong undertow. Many people have been fortunate enough to escape death. 

 In May 2007 an American woman was swept into the ocean by a large wave and lost her life. This was her 5th visit to Iceland so you would have thought that she would have been aware of the danger.

A man died in February 2016 in Reynisfjara. He was a Chinese citizen, born in 1976 and was travelling in Iceland with his wife. The man was standing on a free-standing basalt pillar, around 50 cm high when a wave broke and pulled him out to sea, with the result that he drowned.

One had to feel so very sorry for these people as you would have thought they were far enough from the water’s edge. Just goes to show one how unpredictable the sea is.

On 9th of January 2017, when a German woman travelling with her family, was snatched by a sneaker wave and was knocked over by the waves.  Her family got knocked over as well but were able to save themselves in the nick of time from the undertow but sadly the woman was swept out to sea and drowned.

I was surprised that our tour guide and the majority of the group decided to walk along the sand. I decided that I would stay well away – heeding the warning signs.

Our guide, Erik mentioned that Russell Crowe made a film here and ended up with hyperthermia.  This was back in 2014. Crowe reached biblical heights as “Noah” in playing the role of ‘Noah’. Crowe endured nearly 40 days and 40 nights of rain while shooting at various locations in south Iceland, describing the filming conditions as “Chinese water torture” but he still went for a swim. Crowe tweeted that in one scene shot on this beach, he went for a dip in the ocean. “I can’t describe the shock of cold,” he wrote. (The water was just 4.2°C.) The post went on to say he later learned that it was “the most dangerous beach in Iceland.” The rip currents have been called “devious,” and swimming is strongly discouraged. Maybe he was depressed as it was the time he received news that his wife was leaving him.

It seems that there must have been many risks taken by the film crew in this dangerous area.  This is why actors are paid so much. Makes you think that Russell Crowe was very fortunate that he didn’t get swept out to sea by a sneaker wave.

In an interview with the Daily Mail Russell Crowe, says he had to endure some gruelling days while shooting and finally got overwhelmed.

“We were doing a scene in Iceland where I had to fall into the sea. “It was less than 39 degrees [Fahrenheit/4 degrees Celsius]. I’d been in and out of the sea, half-naked, filming all day… physically it was very demanding. There were these rain towers in the sky that could flood eight football fields in 30 seconds, and it was constant rain. We had 36 days of it. 

“It gets to the point where it’s like Chinese water torture. You can’t take it anymore. 

“I went into hypothermia. When we wrapped, I was lying on these stones and I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t stop crying.

“Seven or eight people put blankets on me and sat on me until I stopped. It was crazy – they were hugging me, trying to get me to stop shaking.”  So even “big men” cry!!“Noah” also starrred Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson.

It seems that Iceland is a favourable country for many films are made here. Too many to mention.

After we left Reynisfjara we travelled for about an hour on Route 1 to HVOLSSVOLLUR where we had a stop for lunch. I made a purchase of a book “This is the Golden Circle” that Erik recommended.

We then continued on Route 1 for about 80+ kms east to Reykjavik. We booked into our first hotel – Hotel Klettur and had about 2 hours leisure time. At about 5.45 we boarded the coach heading to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa in southwestern Iceland. The spa is located in a lava field near Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in a location favourable for geothermal power, and is supplied by water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station.

We had a short walk to the huge complex and then shown to the change rooms as we were required to shower before entering the spa. 

Main building of Blue Lagoon

After we showered and changed into our swimmers we entered the geothermal spa.  The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averaged 37-39 degrees C (99-102 degrees F) and it was just heaven. We were given a complimentary drink and then for about 2 hours we just walked around in this terrific spa .

The beautiful Blue Lagoon

The water’s milky blue shade is due to its high silica content. The silica forms soft white mud on the bottom of the lake which bathers can rub on themselves. We looked like clowns and when you think you have cleaned your face, the white mud seemed to come back. Took ages to get off.  The water is also rich in salts and algae.

The biggest surprise we got – The Northern Lights decided to put on a wonderful show. I don’t think any of us in the spa wanted to get out.  After we again showered and got dressed we took the short walk back to the coach but very slowly as the Lights were still performing. Was just a breathtaking experience. It is so hard to describe – one has to experience seeing the Lights for oneself. To think we had to wait until our last night.

Aurora borealis
Aurora borealis p 2
Aurora borealis p3

When we left the Blue Lagoon, we went to the Salthusid Restaurant a very upmarket restaurant in Grindavik just near the Blue Lagoon for our farewell dinner. I had a delicious lamb meal and a mud pudding. Yummy.

After our meal, we drove back to the Hotel Klettur at about midnight.  What a wonderful day until I had a huge scare. I was given a room that was quite a long walk so I was given a more suitable room.  I collected my baggage that I had left before and after some time I went to get my handbag.  Where was it?  I must admit I went into panic mode as thought I may have left it on the bus.  After checking the baggage room I thought I would have to ring Erik but then I said to the man at reception, “perhaps I left it in the previous room”. What a relief – there it was. The man realised I had got myself quite stressed, so he kindly sat me down and went and got me a camomile tea to calm me down. He was wonderful.

Sunday, 27 October 2019 – ICELAND TO HOME

I didn’t go to bed as by the time I sorted out my luggage and showered, it was time for my Shuttle at 5.00 am to the Terminus where I had to get on the Flybus to Keflavik Airport, Reykjavik. I booked my luggage through and went through Security to board Scandinavian Airline SK596 to Copenhagen that left at 9.30 am. It was a smooth flight and and arrived in Copenhagen at 13.35 pm. Approximate duration time was 3 hours. It was a very long time at the airport for me. Not sure why I had to leave so early as others from the group arrived much later and were on the same flight. I wandered around, ate, drank, read, ate, drank, sat and watched people, bought last minute souvenirs and was entertained by a little girl who liked having her photograph taken on the kids’ equipment.

. Copenhagen Airport

I was finally collected by the Special Assistance and taken through security and onto the Qatar Airways QR164 (seat 22K) that left at 21.40 for Doha. After a 6 hours 10 minutes flight I arrived at 5.50 am on Monday 28th October 2019. I had quite a quick transfer for my next flight – Qatar Airways QR906 (seat 24A) that left at 7.50 am for Sydney. After 14 hours and 20 minutes I landed at Sydney on Tuesday, 29th October 2019.  I collected my luggage and went through Customs and caught the transfer bus from the International terminal to the Domestic terminal to catch my flight on Virgin Airways VR632 (seat 17A) leaving at 8.05 am and after an hour’s flight arrived in Canberra at 9.05 am. 

Robert came to collect me and bring me home after a wonderful and fascinating trip.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed with Iceland. I got to see all that I prefaced in the beginning of my trip with the exception of going into any caves. I want to especially thank Erik for his arm and faithful walking stick when required,

Marion and Darlene for being caring and making sure I had a seat when it came to meal time ordering – a big thankyou ladies.

and to the others in the group

Helpful group

who assisted in different ways and to Guomundur (sorry didn’t get a photo of Mr G) for his excellent and safe driving. My only complaint was where the coach pulled up from the venues during very windy and scary conditions. I guess “when in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do”. I thought I had enough warm clothing on, but I have never felt so cold, but even though the winds hardly settled, I was free of my hayfever. Was a clean wind situation as hardly any pollution.

Reason I enjoyed Iceland as much as I did, was that you never knew what was around the next corner when driving – the landscape was forever changing and so many varied and unusual sights. A super country and very hospitable people.


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