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Cycling Around Iceland!

Icelandic Alps, fires & floods!


Icelandic Alps, fires & floods!

Skaftafell National Park is located in the south of Iceland. Dominating the skyline and a huge amount of tourist interest. The national park lies in between Kirkjubæjarklaustu and Höfn, which makes it easily accessible for day trips or a passing stop on route 1. Personally I would recommend staying for a few days and really seeing this beauty. If your into your hiking there are some great walking trails around here. If your like me, and you like to just gaze across the beautiful landscape then this is one attraction you shouldn't miss. On June the 7Th 2008, the Skaftafell National Park became part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park, which dominates Iceland. The Skaftafell National Park was founded on the 15Th of September 1967 and now measures 4807 km2, making it Iceland's second largest national park.
One of the main attractions and tourist "must See's" is a waterfall which has similar rock formations to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was formed by a lava flow, cooling extremely slowly forming crystallisation. Which waterfall am I?! Svartifoss (The black waterfall)! Apparently the hexagonal basalt columns have influenced some of Iceland's architects, and most notably Guðjón Samúelsson, whom himself designed, among many others the 'Hallgrímskirkja' (Reykjavik's most noticeable building) and Akureyrarkirkja (the church of Akureyri). The resemblance is amazing! The national park also contains some of the most beautiful natural and rugged land in Iceland.
Skaftafell apparently housed the site of a manor farm in the middle ages. The church acquired land here and later the estate belonged to the Danish king. Fire and Ice or glacial flooding has had a profound effect on the area. History tells us that farms were destroyed by lava flows in 14Th century and the area was then known as Öræfi (wasteland). More recently the area has been effected by glacial flows. Volcanic activity beneath the glacier caused the dramatic release of ice and water and is known as jökulhlaup. The devastating flow cut a ridge into the ice margin 1km long, 250m wide and 40m deep.
There is so much to do in Skaftafell. You can go hiking until your boots wear thin. You can go mountain biking to mystical forests, yes forests, apparently guarded by trolls, or at least used to be. There is a great visitors center here giving much needed information and history, and Svartifoss, where the main congestion heads is well worth a viewing. Svartifoss is approximately 45 mins hike from the visitor center. We were lucky to get a few days of sun, and slight bit of colour to our faces. The unlucky thing for me, was that my batteries for my camera ran dead, and I couldn't charge them. I'm absolutely gutted about this. After spending a few crazy and stunning days in Skaftafell we decided to move on head towards Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
The trail from Skaftafell to Kirkjubæjarklaustur was just short of 70km. We decided that due to the lack of hills in the area we could probably finish this distance in one day of cycling. We had after all met other 'serious' cyclists that were completing 100km or more everyday. Route 1 running towards Kirkjubæjarklaustur ran past Skeiðarárjökull which was the sight of the 1996 jökulhlaup. The weather we has along here was mixed, as it usually is in Iceland. After a few previous nice days we were back to usual Icelandic variation. The rest of the cycle to Kirkjubæjarklaustur was spent mostly in 'the zone'. I would find that on this ground I could cover a lot of ground pretty quickly. I would then turn around to check on my friends and not see them on the horizon behind me. Stopping and waiting was something I was used to by now, but landscape around here wasn't much to shout about.
In the late evening we eventually arrived Kirkjubæjarklaustur (Church farm cloister) and set up camp. This town or village is pretty small, but well known for a number of interesting reasons. we decided to spend a day. Firstly and mainly there is another natural hexagonal basalt feature here, which once again reminds the viewer of the famous Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. It is worth a look. Kirkjugólf or also know as church floor is made of basalt columns stuck in the earth, giving a pavement appearance or a church floor.

The settlement was apparently used before the settling of the Norse men. The Irish monks were apparently here. In 1186 Benedictine nuns set up a well known convent on the site, which lasted until the reformation of 1550. Not far above the town are the quaint but dramatic 'waterfall of the sisters' (Systrafoss) and the 'lake of the sisters' (Systravatn). Both worth a visit. Iceland is all about these little towns. Adventuring and finding out tails and stories steeped in fascination. Here apparently was the home of good and sinful nuns. The sisters rock (Systrastapi) is supposed to be a burial site of two nuns from the convent, after they had been burnt at the stake. One of the nuns was accused of selling her soul to the Devil, carrying communion bread outside of the church and also having sexual intercourse with men. The second sister was apparently to have spoken ill of the Pope, but this was eventually retracted, and folk law says that flowers now grow at her grave. Systravatn also has a rather unusual tale of its own. Apparently it was a lake frequently bathed in by the nuns. Apparently one day two nuns saw a hand rise up from the lake with a gold ring upon it. Both of the nuns apparently showed a greedy nature, and tried to seize the golden ring from the hand. While acting in such an un-nun-like fashion they were pulled under by the hand, and both nuns drowned.
The amazing church related stories don't end there. Apparently during 1783, pastor of the local church Jón Steingrímsson, delivered what became known as the "Fire Sermon" (eldmessa). Legend says that his sermon stopped a lava flow from destroying the town during 1783 Laki eruptions. Like the more recent explosion of Eyjafjallajökull, in 1783 not only was Iceland affected by the volcanic eruption. Many countries throughout Europe were effected. From Bergen to Belin and the old Kingdom of Bohiemia, and Great Britain reported a number of deaths due to poisoning. In Britain alone apparently 23,000 people died from poisoning due to the release of 8 million tons of hydrogen fluoride and an estimated 120 tons of Sulphur dioxide giving place to what was known as 'Laki haze' across Europe. One report from the time says that 'the fog was so thick that boats stayed in port, unable to navigate, and the sun was described as "blood coloured". The eruption is also linked to famines world wide in 1784. Crazy, crazy stuff. And just think how much people were complaining when Eyjafjallajökull, made its stamp on the world. Evidently, I don't think it would even compare to the Laki eruptions of 1783. We were the lucky ones! If anything this should teach us to respect nature more and awe in its beauty. We are not in control of nature, and should learn to respect that much more.

Icelandic lesson.......... Countries of the world

England = England
Ireland = Írland
Scotland = Skotland
Wales = Wales
Untied Kingdom = Bretland
Holland = Holland
France = Frakkland
Germany = Þýskaland
Sweden = Svíþjóð
Denmark = Danmörk
Norway = Noregur
Iceland = Ísland
Finland = Finnland
Fareo Islands = Færeyjar
Spain = Spánn
Italy = Ítalía

India = Indland
China = Kína
Japan = Japan
Russia = Rússland
Australia = Ástralía
New Zealand = Nýja-Sjáland
America = Ameríka
United States = Bandaríkin
Kenya = Kenýa
Brazil = Brasilía
Argentina = Argentína

Posted by tchgate 09:53 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism

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