Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reykjavík rolls off the tongue

Melissa: "Are you going to try the fermented shark?"

Jenjinha: "Uh, no. Anthony Bourdain, a man with significant experience in these things, said that fermented shark was the single worst thing he had ever put in his mouth. And I've seen him eat some things way beyond my adventure-seeking limits."

Nope. Tonight I shall have lamb (she says, again)! But first, my descent into Þríhnúkagígur volcano.

Say what? 


(press play)  "Þríhnúkagígur"

Normally, I attempt to learn--at a bare minimum--greetings and pleasantries, some numbers and basic directional language when traveling. Iceland is the first place that this felt utterly futile. 

I mean, honestly Iceland: is all that really necessary?

I departed central Reykjavík on a bus with a driver, a guide, and about 15 other visitors from several different nations in the morning. After half an hour, we arrived atop a peak, at the departure station for the hike. 

You must walk over the bulbous lavarock terrain for about an hour to arrive at Base Camp, at the volcano's crater. 

It's not an overly difficult hike, but maintaining balance on an uneven surface works a different set of muscles than I'm accustomed to. Hiking boots would have helped, but I hadn't done my due diligence before this trip. I was wearing Keens, which have decent grip but no ankle support--and my abused ankles were hurting the next day. 

The view from the top of the crater

Arriving at the crater, we harness up and listen to a brief safety presentation.  Then we make our descent in groups of 5 (plus the guide, and the "lift" operator). There's a good video here, though neither it, nor my photos can fully capture the depth or the vibrancy of the colors inside. Check out some professional photos here

The colors vary based on what minerals are being scorched by the magma, I was told. For perspective, this image captures approximately a 75 vertical feet (23m). 

That small circle of light on the upper right side of the photo is the opening of the crater--where we started the descent in the lift. 

Thfreekgnoukerkeegir (or something like that): absolutely worth a spot on your Bucket List.

What the Huldufólk?

The BBC came out with this piece just a few weeks before my visit. One of my tour guides distilled the situation thusly: "10% of us don't believe in elves at all, 10% firmly do, and 80% are undecided--but err on the side of caution." 

Mind you: she brought it up. A guidebook had warned me not to do so because any perceived incredulity on the part of foreigners can be quite offensive.  I have certain beliefs that others may mock, so who am I to judge? 

I'd rather contemplate all of these mystical mysteries over a beer. So I find myself at The Lebowski Bar. 

Great signs, fun decor, nice happy hour specials. 

An all-around good place for day-drinkin' -- that is to say, all the time.