Volcanic Pools And Elusive Surtsey Island.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Iceland  , Westmann Islands,
Thursday, July 14, 2011

A busy last two days in Iceland saw us, first, take a 12 hour bus trip to into Landmannalaugar where we passed close to the Volcano Hekla, bathed in warm thermal pools, when the outside temperature and wind chill were way too low for us, and saw amazing volcanic scenery. Second we took an island trip to the Vestmannaeyjar Island group and tried our best to get to Surtsey Island which is UNESCO Heritage listed, failed at that, but enjoyed doing an around the island tour of Heimaey.

Tour bus trips just sometimes need to be done to get to places and get information along the way. We certainly find some of the company on day tour trips, frustrating. They seem to often be the sort of people who shouldn't really be travelling! There are "late back to the bus" people who hold the tour up, "jump in front of you when you want to take photos" people, and just not in the backpacker mode of genuine consideration for your fellow travellers.  

The journey into Landmannalaugar was via a 4-wheel drive track and as we only had a small standard car we joined a day long bus trip. Just as we got close to the entrance to the national park area, we stopped for a lunch break and were really annoyed to find a 4 wheel drive car hire desk, where it was possible to rent a 4 wheel drive for just the 1/2 day needed to go into the park. None of our literature we had collected from the tourist agencies or any of the people we talked to mentioned this and it would have been the option we would have liked to take, rather than travel with 30 others. Anyway we managed to see the Volcano Hekla up close and the beautiful varying colours of the mountains in this lava strewn area. In a freezing wind we braved the waters of the hot springs and pool. Getting in and out was ghastly, but the waters lovely and warm whilst in. 

The next day we set of in our little car for the small ferry departure area some 2 hours south of Reykjavik on a quest to find Surtsey Island. We had, had varying information as to whether this was a possibility but a phone call 2 days before to a tour company had confirmed that we could join a around the island tour of Surtsey, but could not land and this tour would commence once the 10 o'clock ferry had landed on Westmann Island

We raced off the ferry, after gorgeous views on the way to the main island in the group and found the tour office. "No" the lady said "There are no tours to Surtsey. You were given the wrong information". We checked the phone number we had rung and it was this office. "Nobody should have given you that information" she said. She gave us another business to contact, but on ringing him he said it would be around $1,000! and needed three weeks notice. Later the first lady said "We do do tours if we have 12 people or so". Worse, there were numerous posters in ticket offices etc and even on the main ferry, advertising a third company who took tours around Surtsey, but when the ferry office rang him they were advised he had ceased business. All very frustrating!

Why did we want to go to Surtsey Island?

It is UNESCO World Heritage for starters. However the really interesting thing about Surtsey is that it is the World's newest Island. It was formed between 1963 and 1967 in the longest continuous volcanic eruption in Iceland's history. It sort of just shot up from the sea. Scientists are studying the way an island that is newly formed is colonized by plants, animals and marine life.

Well, we were on the main island of the Westmann Group anyway, now, so we decided to take an hour long "around the island" trip in a boat, where we saw amazing bird life and volcanic caves and cliffs. In 1973 this island had to be evacuated due to massive volcanic eruptions which covered a third of the island in lava and ash and increased the size of the island by 2.3 square kilometers!

After the trip we changed our ferry ticket to go back to the mainland earlier and just as we were about to get on the ferry we noticed a brochure, and on reading it found out that there was an actual Surtsey Visitors centre, just a little further into the town on the island we were on, that we could have gone to and this would at least have given us information on the eruptions! Too late now, we boarded the ferry and a bit despondently took ourselves home. It was one of those times when misinformation and lack of information makes our travels difficult. 

It is time for us now to leave Iceland and fly to Scotland. 
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