My second run in Iceland
I promised the boys at home that I will continue to run even while I was in Iceland.
Gerard said: "Don't be crazy lah. Just enjoy your holiday lah!"
But Wai Kit joked: "Come on lah, go mark your run on the map of Iceland in Strava."
With the event one week right after my return from Iceland, I couldn't waste any time. Thus at 6am on this third tour day, I enjoyed the lovely cool air and suphur fumes around Lake Laugarvatn.
My 5km run at Lake Laugarvatn (a clickable link to my Strava)
"Oi! Get out of my frame!" shouted a ghostly figure who sounded like Carol from the balcony of a room on the second floor as I ran. And on my return leg, the ghostly voice came at me again: "Oi! Run faster! I am taking a long exposure!". On my third leg past the room, this first figure was joined by another silhouette who looked very much like Yan Yan. Hmmm.. I must had been hearing and seeing things. Maybe it was the sulphur fumes...
|Laugarvatn just waking up to a sleepy morning...|
Ok, back to the travellogue proper...
|Acrux checking out of the apartment.|
Adrian planned this trip really well. He knew it often took photographers some time before they managed to attain their lingams (灵感, inspiration). Thus on this tour of Iceland, he gradually built up the tempo and the level of excitement. Today was Day 3. And it started pretty mildly.
|Serene & I outside the apartments.|
Shot taken by Acrux.
Checking out of Golden Circle Apartments at Lake Laugarvatn
We checked out of this most unforgettable apartment at 9am. Again a luxury by any SgTrekker standards. The morning view at the lake attracted so many of us that we ran up the meadow to catch a sight of it, and to take some shots for memory's sake. Another nice and clear morning this was. And I quietly thanked Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) for blessing us with such beautiful weather thus far. Of course in Serene's own words, she would cry 'Kam Sia Zhu Ya-Sor! (Thank you Lord Jesus)'. But of course, everyone knew I would always chant an Om Mani Padme Hum following her declaration of her thanks. Being in Iceland had shown me again how tiny we human beings were in comparison to Nature. And thus it came as no surprise that mankind needed the protection and spiritual support of Higher Beings. I liked to believe Whoever was up there was secretly doing His job upon this group of travellers.
|Joining the fun...|
|"Take a nice picture of me please!"|
requested Acrux of my M9P.
The boys and girls just wanted to enjoy a quiet moment on this morning with a beautiful scene like this.
|All raring to take a peek at Eddy's magic.|
|Our actual GPS track for Day 3, from Laugarvatn to Jokulsarlon.|
|A zoom in of our route.|
Our final destination would be in Skogar, at a lovely hotel called Hotel Lambafell.
"We will be passing by to view that famous volcano Eyjafjallajokull this morning, and after this we will be going to a couple of waterfalls," announced Adrian as we started our journey. Talking about this Eyjafyallajokull, it was that volcano that erupted in April 2010, generated such a huge volume of ash that it covered a great part of northern Europe, resulting in the closure of many air spaces and disruption of flights. That was probably what brought Iceland to the headlines to the far east once again after the news of its bank collapse.
In my memory, that news of the volcanic eruption was epitomised by an unforgettable picture I saw in one of the website showing a huge expanse of dark volcanic ash spewing from the volcano and spreading over a plain of snowy white land. That picture stayed in my mind for a long time. Perhaps it was with that in mind that I come.
Geography of Iceland
A discussion of volcanoes of Iceland will need to be preceded by a brief account of her Geography. I am not an expert. All I knew were from internet and from what the driver shared with us.
Iceland is a relatively young island formed by volcanic action 20 million years ago. Being just below the latitude of the arctic circle, it was covered extensively by glaciers over the past ice ages. Currently, it has several glaciers , big and small (Courtesy of Wikipedia):
- Vatnajökull (We will be visiting this one over the next few days)
- Eyjafjallajökull (We will pass by this one)
- Snæfellsjökull (We will be visiting this one at the western part of Iceland the last couple of days)
Ok, that's all I knew about the Geography of Iceland.
I hadn't come into close contact with a glacier since I was a teenager. And the notion of physically touching and setting foot in her belly stirred up endless nights of adrenaline for me.
En route to Eyjafyallajokull
Our driver Isaksen was very humorous. Many international newsreaders stumbled on the word 'Eyjafjallajokull' during those days of the volcano's eruption. And even until today, the mere sight of this tongue-twisting word brought frowns to many brows.
"Eyjafjallajokull means Island-Mountain-Glacier," explained Isaksen. "Do you all know how to pronounce it?" We all shook our heads.
"Eyjafjallajokull is pronounced as Ei-Ya-Fiatt-La-Yo-ku-L-D." rolled his tongue, with a emphasis on the 'D' at the end. "Now everyone who comes up this bus will need to pronounce this word. You will get to pass if you say it correctly."This fellow was really a joker. A good part of the fun of this trip was the daily interaction with this driver. He was quite an old man already. And I reckoned he had seen his share of all kinds of customers.
|The low morning sun|
It was 10:30am. We drove past a small little barn.
Adrian called for all to de-bus for an ad-hoc photo shoot at the side. The cool morning and the low sun in the horizon despite being so late in the morning, reminded me that we were at a location of a very northern latitude.
|The Icelandic horses.|
Icelandic horses on the plains
Some of the members spotted some horses in the distance and made their way there. And Serene was one of them. She managed to take a shot of the Icelandic horses before they started galloping away. I liked this shot a lot because she captured the mountains in layers and the dried grass/hay in the foreground, and the horses very much in their elements.
The Icelandic horses were of a very sturdy stock. Short and muscular, able to withstand the harsh cold of the land. And yet, docile enough to be handled.
The colours of winter
Again, when there was no lingam, I ended up shooting the members at work.
From a distance away I saw Eddy hard at work. And I couldn't help but notice how well matched his colour coordination was with the surrounding dried grass and hay (if they were indeed hay). So I just took one shot of that Leng zhai. I was surprised by the way the colours turned out here. Totally fresh from the camera with no tweaking. I believed I hadn't gotten any colours like these before.
Orange sunrise & blue ice
|The icy path.|
I was trying to include the returning members as silhouettes in the shot, but couldn't manage to get that angle. So it had to end up as the ice of Iceland.
|Drinking orange juice was an expensive|
past-time in Iceland.
We took a couple of technical breaks along the way. What on earth were technical breaks?
I found it strange the way our driver kept calling these 'technical breaks'. I must had been really suaku, because I had never known 'toilet breaks' as 'technical breaks'. At least I couldn't figure out what was so technical about peeing. The only thing technical was the way the driver had to press the button to open the bus door. Haha... incidentally Isaksen did teach me how to open and close his bus door.
Along the way... Serene got her favourite orange juices from the
|Eating ice cream might be slightly cheaper.|
Of mountains and of plains...
We travelled for miles and miles, with mountains on our distant left and acres after acres of black boulders-littered plains. Far away the mist shrouded the mountains in darkness, only to be revealed as we neared.
I kept wondering in my mind as I sat. Iceland was such an expansive piece of land with a population of only about 300,000. It was a little wonder that we could be travelling for miles without seeing a human being.
I appreciated the fact that the mountains weren't really high. But the one single characteristic was many were covered and interspersed by still-existing glaciers. Derek said to me: "Actually Iceland doesn't have so many glaciers. Greenland is the one that has more glaciers. And one more place in Canada.. wooah that one was covered in glaciers."
I listened to him in awe as he spoke, a well-travelled person as he, with 55 countries under his belt, and I told myself, one day when I grew up, I would like to be like him.
Suddenly the bus stopped.
Adrian took a look out and announced: "Ok guys, we are at Eyjafjallajokull. Let's get down."
We all got down.
|Been here, done this. At the viewpoint towards Eyjafjallajokull.|
I was half expecting a magnificent looming volcanic peak. But what met my eyes was a small little pimple somewhere on the right side of a series of ranges.
"Where ah? Where ah?" I asked.
And someone pointed to somewhere up there.
It was much later that I asked the driver to show me again where Eyjafjallajokull was that I roughly made it out. But still, from that plain with the houses, Mount E was certainly not a commanding figure staring down at me.
"Ok, let's take a group photo!"
|Carren always stylish.|
|In his distinct blue, the globe-trotting|
Derek took aim away from Mt E.
And again, when the lingam didn't come, I went shooting individuals.
I was simply shooting with my rangefinder. I didn't care if the boys back at home would laugh at the background in bokeh and joked that I took these shots at Universal Studio. I just love the dreamy effects of my little camera.
|A pleasant surprise, meeting our patient here!|
"Hey, Dr Lim!" someone shouted from my left.
Serene and I turned and found to our pleasant surprise, Fabian L., one of our patients. Imagine, coming thousands of miles here, to meet each other at some ulu ulu part of Iceland. Man, life was full of surprises. I wondered what more other surprises life was going to send coming my way.
Ok lah. For record purpose. Since I couldn't make out which one was Eyjafjallajokull, it made little difference even if I were to throw the volcano into a bokeh-blur.
Serene and Eyjafjallajokull.
|Ok lah. Serene and Eyjafjallajokull. Been there done that.|
This was the second waterfall for this trip. And it was seen under a much milder condition as compared with Gullfoss the day before.
|Skogafoss's location was the first little blip near the centre of the picture along our route.|
The right most Y-shaped blip was the Seljalandsfoss.
|Walking towards Skogafoss, tripod readied & all extended.|
"Hey, look! There is a big round rainbow in front of the waterfall!" said Alex.
Indeed! Almost a full rainbow.
Serene and I had a great time shooting the waterfall. The weather was nice and cool, and sunlight was ample. And it was the ideal condition for shooting waterfall with rainbows.
Of course, it turned out that Teck Siang had the best shot of the scene with an expressive tourist smack right in the middle of the waterfall coupled with a real full rainbow and a couple of birds. But heck, what Serene had was good enough for me. Just pretend that Hannah and Adrian weren't there in the picture.
|Serene's rendition of the Skogafoss waterfall... with the full splendour of Hannah's white coat, Derek's blue down |
and Adrian's kaki green outer shell all thrown in...
Again, before long, the rangefinder went into full action, ND6 slapped on the 50mm f/1.2. I just found that throwing the Skogafoss into the bokeh kind of gave it a feeling of being shot with a painting as a backdrop. So I just walked around and grabbed whoever I could find to pose for me, and sniped whoever I could snipe.
|The latest Korean pose in fashion.|
|The classic XMM pose.|
|Mr & Mrs Portrait Master ~|
Alex & Lai Peng.
|The Yam-gong one ~ Adrian.|
|The silent one- Hannah.|
Ok lah, so the rangefinder had all the fun. But it was time to move on to our next destination. This Skogafoss was really the first fall that we could properly set our tripods and deploy our filters under the best conditions.
Here was the shot of me shooting Serene, captured by our good Alex Kaan! Thank you, Alex!
|Photo: Alex Kaan|
Skogar Folk Museum
Next stop, the must-go folk museum.
I alighted the bus with little enthusiasm initially, thinking that this was going to be just another museum, seeing that it comprised of such small houses. But I stood correctly and humbled by the enormous collection of folks artifacts and by the excellent narration by the young lady and the elderly gentleman.
By the time I detoured for a 'technical break' of my own and found the group, the young blonde had already started her story.
|I will never forget this plain-looking blonde Icelandic lady. In her Celtic-accented way she explained the history of her|
people. How did I know she was Icelander? I asked her.
".. times were bad, and weather was harsh, and the Icelanders of those times were really poor. And the men stayed on land for agriculture when the weather was good during spring and summer, but in autumn and winter, when nothing could be done on land, they would take to the sea for fishing. But in those months, the conditions at sea were bad."
|The small boat.|
"In those days, the folks would squeeze into tight spaces in tiny turf houses, many of which were half-buried in the soil, to keep the house warm, and spend most of their nights spinning yarns and making clothes...." she continued, sending my imagination into a dark, musty-smelling house, with the family seated around the fireplace, stomach growling from constant hunger.
She led us from chamber to chamber, showing us the ingenious
ways the Icelanders of old made full use of the land to fabricate their tools, and to pound butter.
"The word for a butter pounder in Iceland is called Strokkur," she added. "And that is why the Geysir is named Strokkur Geysir because it was like a butter pounder, going up and down." Very interesting information.
|Spinning the yarn.|
Out from the side appeared this stately old gentleman who nonchalantly demonstrated how the Icelanders would spin yarn. "Spinning the yarn, spinning the yarn". I lived all my life hearing this phrase but never had I the opportunity to see how it was actually being done. And little did I expect myself to be shown how it was carried out in thus stylish a fashion here in this small little Icelandic museum.
I didn't think we would have had been able to finish appreciating all the artifacts even if we were given the whole day here. This was really an eye opening experience.
After being here in the Skogar Folk Museum, finally I felt that I had achieved so much more understanding of the Icelanders. Historically this was so much more meaningful to me personally. I loved this place.
Outside the museum
|Icelandic houses insulated with bricks and turf.|
Stepping out of the houses and into the open again, I looked around and felt a sudden pang. It was a feeling of being helpless, all out in this remote country, with only oneself and his small family against the elements, and little else more. I imagined myself as an Icelander of the 10th or 11th century, eking out a life of meagreness, growing what little barley I could, and shivering out in the cold waters of the Norwegian sea fighting for my life to catch fish during those wintry months. Life must had been hard.
Embedded house in the mountainside
|An embedded house.|
maximal insulation from the cold.
"Ok. Let's stop the bus here." instructed Adrian. And we all went down for another of those impromptu shoots.
Sadly, in my excitement I blew my highlights. But still, for record purpose I posted the shot.
|Teck Siang, Acrux and the seagull.|
And again, Adrian directed the whole group for a group shot. And I trained my camera on these two handsome gentlemen above me and waited for just that moment when a seagull flew over them.
Onwards to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall!
We didn't know what to expect with the next destination, another magnificent waterfall called Seljalandsfoss (Sey-Ya-Lands-Foss). We knew we saw the pre-departure briefing notes Adrian provided and the view was spectacular.
It was a little bit of walk to the waterfall.
|A frontal shot of the Seljalandsfoss by Serene.|
"So, this is the one where Adrian was saying we could shoot from behind," I thought.
"Be careful, Dar!" warned Serene. "Adrian, Carol, Yilin, Teck Siang, Derek and Acrux have gone up this right side. But it is very slippery and Acrux has fallen twice!"
|The clever ones.|
I walked slowly to the edge of the frozen path on the right. Wah lau eh.. it was really slippery. Some of the Ang Mohs who were attempting to walk here also slipped. We decided to go back to the bus to grab our shoe-studs.
As we came back again, we saw Eddy and Michelle walking down from the extreme left side of the waterfall. They also attempted to go up by that side, but turned back because it was very slippery. I couldn't see Norman. Maybe he had gone behind the fall also.
Cleverly, Alex, Kai Sing, Lai Peng and Yan Yan stood fast on the bridge just right at the mouth of the cul-de-sac and decided not to enter from either side.
I saw Hannah. She had no shoe-stud. Serene passed Hannah hers as she wasn't going to go in.
"Hannah, let's put on our shoe studs and walk up from the left side," I decided for her.
And we slowly and carefully walked up ice-covered wooden stairs until we came to a platform. It was about the furthest I dared go because the paths further from here were all rocky and had no proper pavements, and what was more, they were all frozen completely. One wrong step I would end up at the bottom of the waterfall a few tens of metres below.
|My first shot of Seljalandsfoss from the left side platform.|
And I read out the settings to her. She continued to look intently at me.
And then I connected my cable release and took a shot. It was cold up here, not because of anything, but because the water from the fall was flying in sheets towards us.
I showed her my first shot.
She stared intently and said nothing. Apparently she wasn't impressed. Ok, I better show her some more Kungfu, I thought to myself. So I struggled on, wiping the filters with my cloth and covering it with my hand until I was ready to take a shot.
|My second shot. This was the deciding shot that sent Hannah downwards.|
"HUH!?! Like that!?!" she exclaimed. "Cannot lah!! I am going to go down to behind the waterfall." She insisted.She pointed to where Carol, Yilin and Teck Siang were, far far below, appearing only as tiny black dots to me. How I wished I could convince her otherwise. But my shots really couldn't make it. And I had no rights what-so-ever with such a picture to turn her decision round.
|The brave girl walking down the slippery path.|
"Ok." And she quietly started down that extremely slippery path. As I watched her my heart was in my mouth. This young girl had galls.
"Hey, get down on your buttocks and hold on to the rocks at the side!" I shouted from on top.
She gingerly made her way down, a couple of times she had to look around for a place to anchor her foot. Very slowly she made it closer and closer to Carol. And only then did I heave a sigh of relief enough for me to realise I should have taken shots of her bravery.
|And finally arriving.|
With my utter failure up here, I had no more business with Seljalandsfoss. Embarrassingly I carried all my equipment down. By then Derek had came back to the bridge.
|Our 55-countries-under-the-belt Derek happily|
smiling away because he defeated the Seljalandsfoss
not once but TWICE!
"Oh I went in twice," he declared, much to my further embarrassment.
"Dar, you want to go in again?" asked Serene.
Shaking my head, I declined.
I had lost every bit of drive in me by then. This waterfall had beaten me. It was so funny. I didn't even felt like shooting any more of this scene.
Acrux came walking out from the right-sided path.
"Wah I slipped and fell twice, and I banged my left knee so hard," he complained. I took a look at his left knee. Yeah, it was really bruised. But it wasn't too bad.
Interesting again, how life dished us surprises like these. The two falls by Acrux on the Seljalandsfoss had given him the right to name this waterfall, the Acruxfoss Waterfall.
A dinner of Lamb soup without reservations
The evening drew nearer, and our bus took us to Hotel Lambafell in Skogar where we would spend the night. This was another delightful little cottage-style hotel. Almost everything was wooden - the beams, the pillars, the walls and even parts of the floors. I remembered asking Kai Sing if the Birch wood needed to be treated here in this kind of climate, and his answer was it most likely didn't have to. The rooms were smaller, but equally warm with heater and very modern toilet and shower facilities.
We set off from Hotel Lambafell at 7:30pm in search of dinner. And Adrian found us a quaint little local Icelandic restaurant. "You DON'T have a reservation?!" said the old lady at the counter. "Wait! I have to ask my cook if he has enough food for you." And later she emerged smiling. "Well we have only soup for all of you. You can have a choice of tomato soup or lamb soup. Refillable. 1500 ISK (S$17.26) per person."
|A visibly relieved Adrian, after securing our dinner seats.|
One particular good thing about having soup in Iceland was, most of the restaurants would charge S$17-$20+ for a shallow plate of soup, but most would also offer unlimited refill. Same went for the sesame bread and butter. Well, something we would find really life-saving, for we got hungrier and hungrier as the days went by.
Aurora at Lambafells? Don't be kidding me lah!
It was way past 9pm already. And everyone was changed or about to change and was getting ready for bed. Serene was snoring under the blanket already. Suddenly I hear shouting outside our door.
"Northern Lights!! Northern Lights!!"
Wah lau eh... I slipped on my baselayer and opened the door to see Teck Siang skipping down the stairs. "Teck Siang, really ah? Northern Lights?"
"Yah, it seems so. They say one." replied our good Doctor.
Well, ok lor... I took my time to put on layer by layer all my clothing again.
I tried shaking up Serene. But she was too far gone in slumberland to be awaken. She was like that one. When she was really tired, she wouldn't get up if the world cam crumbling.
I made my way to the back of the hotel, and was heartened to see a whole row of tripods and everyone was there.
"Kai Sing, where are you?" I called out.
"Here here," replied our Astro-photographer. I plonked my tripod in between Kai Sing and Yan Yan.
"How, where is the Northern Lights?"
"Neh, here! Look up, right in front of you."
|My first attempt at the Aurora. Ok lah. Not the best but came do lah.|
And the next one hour plus saw us braving the cold and cable-releasing our cameras away. This was my first, official, full-fledge encounter with the Aurora. And it certainly wasn't disappointing.
|Kai Sing & the Aurora.|
Every change of pattern would induce exclamation of amazement from our members. It was really a magical night.
"Kai Sing! Don't move. I'm going to shoot you with the Northern Lights!" I said.
I was really feeling tired.
"Hey we should be trying to shoot the Aurora with the hotel as a foreground." I suggested.
"Ok, let's try." agreed Kai Sing.
And we walked towards the front of the hotel.
I must had been quite seh by then.. and I could only vaguely remember Kai Sing and I trying to use our palms as black cards to block the lights from the building to prevent them from being burned.
It was still, quite a valiant attempt at the end of the day.
Here it was, just for laughs, that shot I took half asleep...
|Hotel Lambafell as foreground.|
I couldn't remember anything after that already. It was later Kai Sing told me I literally stumbled back into the hotel with shuffling steps. I must had fallen asleep with my cable release around my head...
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Iceland Day 4 ~ Bumping along the Southern Bumps:- Capes, Lava.. and finally Glaciers!