Guest post by Alison Bailey
Three days is not nearly enough time to explore Iceland, but this is all the time we had to grab a slice of what the island has to offer. There is plenty to see, and experience, so much that I’m planning a personal trip to explore at leisure. Quite simply I’m hooked.
Flying from nighttime Birmingham, into Reykjavík and arriving at past 1am it was slightly confusing being greeted with daylight, it’s high latitude ensuring long, long summer days. The island of Grimsey is just inside the Arctic Circle, and even by a 3am bedtime, it was tempting to skip sleep to go for a walk around Reykjavík in the light of the night.
A few short hours sleep later we were out in monster trucks.
These are typical vehicles in Iceland, as they are the only transportation equipped for driving on the, rough, and sharp lava that forms the off-road parts of the island. A road encircles Iceland but if you want to venture into the interior or visit a glacier, then they are the required mode of transport. We went off-road to pay a visit to Langjokull glacier, which is almost 1000 sq/km in size. It is shrinking though, the effects of global warming are impossible to ignore when visiting Langjokull; walking where there’s supposed to be solid ice, there is often 6 inches of slush. The glacier is retreating, between 1958 and 2000 it shrunk by 72 sq/km.
The landscape of Iceland is fairly barren, there aren’t many trees, and the lava fields are often carpeted with moss. This gives it a slightly alien feel, especially to those used to a deciduous woodlands, and cultivated fields.
The weather can also be interesting. There’s little shelter, and when it rains, it can seem incessant, add an accompanying wind, and the conditions are unforgiving. Good quality outdoor clothing is essential, regardless of the time of year.
The Icelandic people are experts at surviving in these inclement conditions, taking their advice on clothing, and equipment is recommended. They’re also among the happiest nations in the world. I’m not joking, several surveys have returned the verdict that despite their harsh environment, the Icelandic people are genuinely content. I don’t doubt it for a minute, they have the knack of overcoming adversity, and look upon setbacks as just that, minor challenges, which require meeting.
Fairly regular volcano eruptions, often destroy homes, not to worry, the only priority is survival. The house will be rebuilt, as the Icelandic community will fund, and build the replacement! This seems a unique arrangement, and demonstrates a sense of community in the face of natural disaster.
Unsurprisingly, with all that volcanic activity, Iceland is leading the world in the use of geothermal energy. The capital, Reykjavík is powered entirely by sustainable energy, and the island has a target of being totally sustainable by 2050.
The Icelandic energy model is the envy of the world, and it’s engineers are now advising over 40 countries worldwide on geothermal energy. Having having visited a glacier, seen the effects of global warming first hand, the day we cease our reliance on fossil fuels cannot come soon enough.
Icelandic cuisine is also reliant on geothermal activity. Fruit and vegetables are grown in specially heated greenhouses. The crops are grown indoors, so there isn’t any need for pesticides, therefore all grown produce is essentially organic. This is a recent innovation though, and the traditional dishes of the island tend not to use fruit or vegetables. Icelandic cuisine consists mainly of fish, or lamb dishes, both of which are utterly delicious.
The other activity you simply must try when on Iceland is the Blue Lagoon …… Bobbing about in the deliciously warm water, even in driving rain, is an absolute treat. The natural algae mask is highly recommended.
This was a brief trip, but Iceland delivered in spades, and I adored the place. It is a photographer’s paradise, with stunning landscapes, and the arctic light is generally superb. If the weather is favourable, time is sufficient , and reliable transport is available, it’s perfect for landscape enthusiasts.
About Alison Bailey
I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, specialising in wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.
* All photography by Alison Bailey, © Copyright of BaileyPhotography 2014