Friday, September 2, 2011

Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

The lunar landscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula (The Steamy Peninsula) could be the setting for the movie Armageddon. The entire peninsula is a geothermal area and lighthouses outnumber the villages.

First, we visited the picturesque Hólmsbergsviti lighthouse, which was built in1956 and stands 9.3 meters tall overlooking the surf-pounded coast.

Next, we were off to Miðlína, or Lief the Lucky Bridge. It is the bridge that spans the Álfagjá rift valley. According to the continental drift theory, the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates shift and drift apart in an endless clash of forces under the gaping rifts. As the plates diverge, linear fractures, known as fissures form due to stresses created by the tension that builds up as the plates move away from each other.

Then we went off-roading through the beach of Sandvík, a black sand beach where scenes in the Clint Eastwood films "Flags of our fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" were filmed in 2007.

The area below the Reykjanesta cliffs is a basalt lava flow being eroded by North Atlantic waves. A people-sized puffin called the Geirfugl á Reykjanesi looks out at Eldey, a tall rock platform rising straight out of the sea. It is easy to climb up the grassy back of the cliffs to be awarded with spectacular views of the sea and surf.

Reykjanesviti is Iceland's oldest lighthouse is also nearby. The original structure was built in 1878 but just eight years later the building was destroyed by an earthquake. In 1929 the current Reykjanesviti lighthouse, which stands 31 meters tall, was illuminated. The lighthouse even has a resident keeper!

The Gunnuhver Hot Springs are mud pools and steam vents with temperatures reaching over 300° C. The hot springs are named after a woman called Guðrún, a female ghost who was laid there about 400 years ago. She had caused great disturbance until a pastor, a known sorcerer, set a trap for her and she fell into the spring. You can hear the vigorous noises, see the boiling water and mud, and feel the steam on your face.

Finally, I got to pet my first Iceland Viking ponies at a nearby farm! I had been anticipating this moment and a cream colored pony was right near the road. Just as described - small, gentle, and friendly - another black pony had to come over to say hello as soon as I gave the other a bit of attention. Can they follow me home?