an exploration of Iceland and Greenland 

Planning:

iceland-map

Who could ever have predicted that a worldwide pandemic would so disrupt life on planet Earth? That worldwide pandemic disease, Covid 19, literally altered many aspects of everyone’s life including our freedom to travel both near and far. 

After 2 years of remaining static and putting off any travel plans, 2022 dawned with the real possibility that everyone could, if they chose, resume their shelved travel plans. This was certainly true for me as my last adventure was in August 2019 when I drove to Vancouver Island, Canada for sea kayaking, exploring on the Island and then down the Pacific coast and points between on my return to Phoenix, AZ. 

By January 2022, my yearning to resume my intended travel plans were firmly planted and on which I began planning. Bucket list trips were waiting for me to choose one(s) that strongly spoke to me and Iceland topped that list. That small island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean had also been getting a great deal of newsworthy attention with the eruption of a volcano and the effects of climate change on the flora and fauna. This intrigues me as I consider myself an environmentalist with real fears for the future of our planet and all of mankind. As I investigated via the internet small group travel to Iceland, I choose Nordic Visitor, a tour company that offered a variety of trips including the one I choose, a 14 day complete circle around the island.

For several years I had been taking the whole month of August off for my adventures to escape the brutal  summer heat of Phoenix, Arizona and at least two weeks in a much cooler climate was very appealing. But I still allowed the other two weeks for travel and with more news of the rapidly melting icecap on nearby Greenland, this drew me to explore adventures there. The deteriorating conditions of the melting icecaps on earth’s poles is a contributing factor on why we are experiencing unprecedented heat and changing weather patterns. A Greenland trip would hopefully allow me to further see, first hand, the effects of those changes also. And so, after much searching on various types of Greenland trips, including voyages and on land explorations, I found another tour operator that offered some interesting active expeditions, one that was with hiking, biking and kayaking and another a South Greenland Expedition of 8 days.

But a trip of this magnitude was one I really wanted to be able to share with a like minded traveler. That person, my friend Tom Spear, and I had explored together in Peru in 2017, so I reached out to him to see if I could entice him to join me this year. With little hesitation, he was onboard but preferred a bit milder Greenland trip than the much more intense hiking, biking, kayaking trip. We researched other possibilities together, but returned to the South Greenland Expedition that I had considered earlier. With that agreement, we proceeded with plans to make these two trips, Iceland and Greenland, happen.

          One of the many waterfalls that are prolific throughout Iceland

Communication with both the Iceland and Greenland tour personnel did not always go swiftly, but eventually we were relieved when we received final confirmation of our trip to both places. 

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Anticipating the colder weather of these far northern locales we tried to follow packing suggestions for both places and prepared for these great dual adventures. Iceland was bound to be an easier trip where English is fluently spoken and a culture and lifestyles very similar to our own. Greenland, on the other hand, would be more of an unknown, other than what was described in the travel information. This South Greenland Expedition, in their promotional material billed it as “Easy/Moderate”. I hoped it would require some effort as I am not averse to physical exertion and on these adventures, my desire is to put in extra effort to get the full experience of where I am traveling. However it played out, I was ready to see and experience it as it was presented.

The National Flag of Iceland

An Introduction to Iceland:

Iceland ("the land of fire and ice") lies in the far northern Atlantic Ocean and is considered part of the European continent but with it's own currency, constitution and goverment. For hundreds of years it was a Danish colony, which ended in 1944 when it declared its independence from Denmark (while Denmark was occupied by the Germans in World War ll).

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool temperate maritime climate and is not entirely covered in snow and ice, as its name implies. Winters do blanket the higher elevations and the North with snow but in the southern areas snow quickly melts. However, the weather can be unpredictable and Icelanders say "there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing".  A fact that we experienced first hand. So, even though we traveled there in August, we tried to be prepared for whatever weather happened upon us. It was quite windy and chilly at times - actually a pleasant respite from the excessive summer heat of Phoenix, Arizona. Glaciers do cover a significant area but Iceland is largely an artic desert punctuated by mountains, glaciers, geysers, hot springs, volcanoes and waterfalls with most population centers along or near the edges of the island.

Striding tectonic plates, the Mid-Atlanic Ridge, is the reason for this island's existence. That ridge is comprised of the two tectonic plates upon which Iceland staddles. On the West is the North American plate and to the East the Eurasian plate. We crossed over that rift (not a gaping crevice in the land as the name implies), but in certain locations a "crack" over which I jumped during our trip. 

As I mentioned about geysers, hot springs and volcanoes,  etc., we were able to see some magnificent waterfalls and hot springs that allowed us to slip into some of the hot pools for warming, soothing and revitalizing soaks. Neary 70% of all Iceland homes and businesses are geothermally heated, a very efficient and thrifty way to stay warm. Hydroelectic provided by many of the waterfalls is another major source of their energy. When originally settled the island was extensively covered in forests, but continued settlements in need of firewood and building timber depleted the natural plant life. More recently efforts are underway to re-forest including some introduced species, not native to Iceland. Fishing is still a major livelihood.

Iceland was first settled in 874 AD by Norwegians and the Icelandic tongue is closely related to the ancient Norse language.Thus Vikings are most frequently associated with the island and most inhabitants are decendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Traditions also relate back to the Vikings including sagas, myths and stories related to trolls, sorcery and magic.

Although there are active volcanoes, we did not get to see them. The volcano that erupted just days before our trip began was not spewing lava out of a cone, but rather along fissures in the earth, creating hot streams of red hot flowing lava. It was a distance from Reykjavic and then a long hike, which, with limited time, did not allow us to see it. But, oh how much more we did get to see and experience on our tour around the whole island.

This is the first chapter of the stories I will convey of this exceptional adventure in Iceland and Greenland

Stay tuned.


kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012