Saturday, July 2, 2011

Back to Reykjavik

This morning, I left the town of Vik and headed about 140 km east to the town of Stokkseyri.  Imagine driving for 2 hours in the pouring rain with heavy winds blowing the car all over the road with the ocean on one side and large fjords/glaciers on the other side.  Now you have my driving experience today. 

View into sea from Vik with an iconic rock structure.
An interesting stop happened along the way today.  It was not fully planned, but I knew I wanted at least a glimpse of the "famous" Eyjafjallajokull that erupted from last year.  This eruption was the fuse that lit my Fund for Teachers proposal idea to go to Iceland.  The eruption happened at a time that I was first teaching plate tectonics to high school students, so I was more aware of the eruption and I incorporated it into a couple of my lessons.  In addition, the ash cloud affected European travel in April and I was paying attention to it for the Boston Marathon.  I was running Boston last year and I had been following the news that some of the European runners were having a very difficult time getting over to the US for the race.  There were many stories and issues that were caused by the ash cloud that poured out of Eyjafjallajokull. 

Farm at the base of Eyjafjallajokull (snow covered in the background).

Today, I got to meet a member of one of the families directly affected by this eruption.  This farm family erected a visitor center complete with pictures and a movie starring their family around the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull.  The daughter of the family told me that her father's friend came as soon as the first eruption struck and asked if he could film from their farm (which was on the south slope of Eyjafjallajokull - the eruption took place on the north slope).  During the course of the couple of months that Eyjafjallajokull was going off, the family needed to evacuate a couple of times.  Their biggest concern was the animals that were being left behind.  These animals needed enough food to survive several days without care in addition to making sure the ash did not come into the barns.

Side of the visitor center for Eyjafjallajokull.

The video that was created was originally supposed to be a private home movie.  After the eruption quieted down, there was still a lot of media attention, so they made the visitor center and included the 20 min video to be shown to the public.  She said to date (just over a year later), they have had over 6 thousand visitors which they keep track of in a log book at the cash register.  Their farm and family are doing fine (probably more than fine with the extra revenue from the visitor center - which was pretty full when I was there.

After that stop, it was straight to Stokkseyri on the shores of Iceland for a sea kayak trip.  It was one of those trips that was billed one way and turned out good, but not as advertised.  We did not end up in the fjords, but instead a sheltered bay along the flats & marshes.  It was fine since I got a chance to find out more about the area because I was the only one on the trip.  Sanni (pronounced like sunny) was my guide and her family have been running these kayak trips since 1995.  They lead trips in the ocean and a nearby lake throughout the summer and then spend most of the winter somewhere other than Iceland.  
Sanni & I dressed and ready for kayaking.
We donned rubberized splash suits, rubber boots, hat and gloves and then walked across town to the boat ramp.  The bay ran about a mile along the shore with a protective barrier of rocks about 400 meters off shore that cut the waves down.  The lava rocks in the bay (souvenirs as Sanni called them) were the result of an eruption from Hekla 35-40 years ago.  We saw an abundance of birds from swans to ducks to terns and then we came across a very curious seal.  This seal would watch us then duck under the water and reappear in another location nearby.  A couple of times, it got too close to us for its comfort and hastily splashed back underwater.  This family runs the kayak trip out of the local swimming pool, so after the kayak I was invited in to use the hot tubs to warm back up.  That was needed after a 40 degree day in the drizzle on the water.

Once I dried off, I headed back to Reykjavik to complete the circle around Iceland!  Tomorrow morning, I head out to Buri Lava Caves for some caving and then I hope to make it over to the geothermal plant for a tour in the afternoon.

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