What can I say about seeing a volcano? I knew before I saw it that it would be lifechanging, but I had my doubts. Frequently my depression doesn’t let me enjoy things. I understand that I’m supposed to be experiencing a positive emotion on a cognitive level, but it just doesn’t register. I went in prepared to be disappointed.
The day started early. One of my housemates at Gullkistan Center for Creativity is almost pathologically energetic and had already taken me on one adventure so she was raring to go by 6am. We dragged along our newly arrived housemate who had just arrived from NY. I think I had spoken 3 words to him at this point. But we got on the road, and it was largely an uneventful drive.
However, it had been raining all week, so there were questions as to whether the site would be open. I thought this was ridiculous of course. What’s the problem with a little rain? We set out on the road not knowing if we’d be let in, and when we got to the traffic stop just outside of it, we reported to the police that we were going to stop in Grindavik for coffee until official word came from Rekyavik.
“Good, because we now have to move all these people,” she said, pointing to the line of cars parked along the road that all of the online guides specifically said NOT to park on.
So we sat and we waited and we had some coffee, which it turns out is the national drink of Iceland. Rick Steve tells me they drink it all damn day, which is fine by me. I would do that too if I could sleep. I chatted a bit with the barista, a man in his 70s.
“You are very busy? Because of the volcano?” This is the way I talk in Iceland to strangers. Everyone speaks English to some degree, but it definitely varies. Apparently he loved an audience because he gave a splendid, mostly wordless imitation of tourists coming down from the volcano wet and injured. I laughed because I like to tempt fate I guess. That won’t be us! We’re being safe and taking it easy. Anyway, by the time we saw the alert on our phones, it was after 9am and the entry line looked like this.
When we got the the front of the queue, the same police officer checked our car for children under 12. Not a great sign, but we pressed onward. A small number of cars turned left, and we assumed they were families that were turned away. We followed the majority. It turns out the majority are masochists because the path we choose is path A, 6-8 hours. We thought it was four, so let’s just say, we suffered. The first part of the path was a path. The second part of the path was… something. These guys were working on it! (See below) L was cheered on by some other Russians, D was sustained by dried fish jerky and I kept telling myself that this the volcano was just around the corner. And then, after about 3 hours, we saw smoke.
Pictures can’t really do it justice, but I know that’s what you want, so here are a few more. The vibe was really something else. It was like Woodstock, if the audience was global and the band playing was God.
My videos are all too big for WordPress to deal with and presumably the livestreams will go dead eventually when the volcano stops erupting in a few months, but here’s a reporter that gets up close and personal with the magma.
It was literally downhill from there. We’d taken a picture of every piece of lava on teh way up, so we had no interest in taking more pictures on the way down. It started to rain. I was tired and stumbly and at one point 2K from the end caught my foot under a mossy rock and fell forward, bashing my knee to into aforementioned rock. I was cheered by the fellow tourists who stopped to make sure I could walk (it was a scrape and a big ole’ bruise) but dang that was enough hiking, especially after it started to rain. Icelanders, you are correct. Don’t hike to the volcano when it’s wet. I will never doubt you again (more on that later when I tell my tale of the F-Roads).