A U G U S T 2 0 0 3
by Yvonne Taylor
Since my first visit to Iceland in 1999 I had a burning desire to go back and see more; my dream finally came true in June 2003. This time I joined a German group whose leader works with the earths energy lines. They were a wonderfully warm group, the energies were comfortable and we all shared the same spiritual outlook.
Iceland was as magical as before, still pristine, beautiful, unspoilt;as it was mid-summer they have 24-hr. daylight, so it was a bit strange at first trying to adapt to 3 or 4 hrs. sleep a night in comparative daylight, and of course it means that in summer they see no stars at all. We were lucky to have sunshine most of the two weeks I was there, instead of the usual rain. Last winter was very mild for Iceland, not as much snow fell as usual, with the result that many mountains had no snow at all, or just small patches, many rivers are dry or have little water and it is a very worrying scenario for the locals. Global warming seems to have reached the Arctic too.
I noticed the profusion of lupines and buttercups in the fields, as well as hundreds of eider ducks, swans, geese, terns and other sea-birds. There are over a million sheep too, with their lambs, as well as those magnificent Icelandic horses and foals, roaming free; I loved watching them interact with each other and gallop across the fields with manes and tails flying in the breezethey personified "freedom".
Our home base was a guesthouse at the foot of the Snaefells glacier, with magnificent views of the sea and lava fields; the glacier has a certain mystique and very powerful energies and inspired Jules Verne to write Journey to the Center of the Earth. Leylines from the Giza plateau enter the land here creating a very spiritual area. We spent a week exploring the sacred sites of the Snaefells peninsula, conducting meditations and ceremonies wherever the mood took usin lava caves, up mountains, on top of the glacier, on the beach. Orca and minke whales visited the bay on several occasions.
One of the local treasures is the Singing Cave, a natural hollow in the lava with a small opening, a domed roof and perfect acoustics; the group sang a lovely piece in Latin from the Catholic Mass; one of the ladies is a music teacher and her exquisite singing voice, accompanied by the bass of the only man in the group, transformed the cave into a cathedral and I just thought "a choir of angels." They were to repeat this moving and uplifting singing many times during the weekin a canyon near a waterfall, on top of a sacred mountain, at the medicine wheeland always it was sheer magic.
Our meditations mostly centered around world peace and being of one heart. It was more than coincidental that each of us "saw" pyramids, hearts or the Sun (Leo, the heart) during our meditations.
On the summit of sacred Mt. Helgafell, Gudrun sang a Lakota Indian chant to bring in the spirits of East, South, West and North. Her voice was so incredibly clear and strong, the sound went out into the quiet air and seemed so appropriate to that moment. It was absolutely beautiful to be up there and be part of this unusual experience.
Also memorable was the wonderful fjord cruise among thousands of islands where the puffins, eagles and other seabirds conduct their lives quite unperturbed by us humans. Lunch was at a cozy harbor café, like a fishermans cottage, and Portuguese music about the sea rounded off a delightful day which one wishes would never end.
One of the highlights for me was travelling to the top of the Snaefells glacier by snowploughit is actually an ice-capped active volcano. Cloud was drifting across the lower slopes when we set out, dressed in special snow suits which kept us warm, except for our faces which were frozen stiff! We rode through the dense cloud for about 20 min. Visibility was nil and it was bitterly cold. Eventually we rose above the cloud into brilliant sunshine and reached the top which is about 4500 ft above sea level. It was incredible up there, with the clouds swirling below us, the views stretched forever; there were exquisite ice formations, it was so quiet and still and yet you could feel "power." We did a peace ceremony, honoring the glacier spirits, a special crystal was the focal point of our "circle," together with a feather-shaped iciclethe stillness and silence up there was magic; eventually we threw this crystal into the crater below with our message and hopes for peace.
Another peace ceremony was held at a medicine wheel in the guesthouse grounds, the night was still and windless, it was a very moving and intense occasion with the sea on one side, the glacier on the other and our fire in between. A second set of leylines in this area meets the "Giza" set at a point known as the Heart Center by the locals; the medicine wheel lies between the two sets of leylines.
The ceremony had many special moments such as when Gudrun sang the Lakota song, also when the group sang their piece from the Catholic mass; Gudrun and her husband Gullie sang a beautiful peace song in Icelandic. It was a very special night which well all remember for a long time to come. Two swans flew past towards the end of our evening there. The main theme of course was peace and "being of the one heart" and it was amazing how often hearts had featured in our weeks activitiesa heart-shaped stone picked up, a heart face on a rock, a flower or tuft of grass in the shape of a heart.
No tour of Iceland is complete without visiting Thingvellir where the worlds first parliament was formed in 934 AD. Huge canyons have resulted from the separation of American and European tectonic plates, at a rate of almost an inch annually. We had several meditations in the canyons, on the lava cliffs, always accompanied by waterfalls; this is a very special area and the energies are extremely powerful. It was at this hotel that I had my first taste of reindeer pate... not too bad!
After the first week the German group went on their own private tour of the south; my friend then took me to the fjord where in WW2 the Royal Navy had stopped for supplies and refueling during the Arctic convoys. This was a very special occasion for me as my father had been involved in the convoys from 1941 till 1943 when the American forces took over; hed told me many stories of his time in Iceland and I had long desired to see exactly where hed been stationed. I now had the opportunity to hear the Icelandic side of the story.
The naval site had the strangest atmosphere Ive ever felt, so quiet and yet full of thousands of whispering voices from the past. It wasnt depressing, but rather a feeling of overwhelming sadness and resignation. Nothing remains now except for two ruined buildings, a broken pier and a blockhouse filled with rainwater; one can see the outlines of where barracks once stood. Typical of the British, they brought their own lampposts in 41 and three of them are still standing! The site seemed very much alive, with thousands of spirits present, and yet the area was emptyit was really weird. On the opposite side of the fjord are rusty fuel tanks and the original wartime barracks for troops and the canteen.
The following week I was taken on a tour of the northern parts by Gudrun and Gullie. She is an accredited tour guide so was able to give me all the inside information wherever we went. Memorable places were a Viking museum which was a re-creation of the houses once used by these pioneers. The outside is completely covered with grass sods, the inside is made of roughly-hewn wood, and on display were the clothing, weapons and other items necessary for "a day in the life of a Viking." I had the opportunity to toast flat bread over the central fire and this was accompanied by raw smoked lambvery tasty too!
From there our route took us to the far north, within a few miles of the Arctic circle. This entire area is full of legends and folklorea beautiful canyon where Odins horse left a huge hoof print; "Echo Rocks" which deflect the sound of the raging glacial river so you dont know which direction its inthe magnetic power here was astounding.
In Husavik we toured the whale museum; it was most heartening to find that almost the whole of the museum had been created from recycled materials from the original whaling station. And, even more surprising was a map of the world showing our own Hermanus (South Africa) as one of the worlds whale-conservation centers; the museum director plans to visit SA one day to see what our whaling centers have achieved. He has received many international awards for his conservation efforts and its comforting to know that now the only whale hunting conducted in Iceland is by tourists with cameras. Husavik was the most northerly place I would reach, we could see across the bay to where the Arctic Circle just touched the headland.
The northern parts of Iceland are astoundingarid deserts, waterfalls, pretty fishing towns, towering volcanoes, lava mountains covered in snowthis is really a land of bizarre contrasts.
In Akureyri we wandered around their exquisite botanical gardens, full of lush trees and an amazing selections of plants and flowers; the biggest surprise for me was to see growing there a tropical flower of South Africa which only opens in sunlight, just a short distance south of the Arctic circle!
We visited the Mt. Krafla area"earthquake valley"which is the most volcanic part of Iceland and the most northerly point of the North Atlantic Ridge. Here the ground is split into deep canyons from earthquakes, the valley floor is covered in new lava and active volcanoes, most of them with steam escaping from their sides as theyre still so hot. The rivers are yellow from all the sulfur, mud-pots bubble with boiling mud, hot steam bursts from the ground all over the valley, geo-thermal activity is rife and the smell of sulfur very strong. I found this area rather threateningit brought to mind the devils workshop! The volcanoes here are liable to erupt anytime and have caused major damage in the past; yet I felt no fear, just enormous respect for Nature and the unbridled fury underground!
Also in this area is a huge waterfall, Dettifoss. To reach it we had a long walk through what must be the most desolate scenery on earth, not even a blade of grass to be seen. The landscape was pitch black volcanic ash underfoot and rocks or mountains of grotesque black lava, as though a huge inferno had just been extinguished. I dont think Ive ever seen anything as barren and dead as this place, it was awesome. This is Icelands "desert," just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle and believe it or not, we actually got a tan while walking in this area.
Suddenly as you reach the top of lava cliffs, there is Dettifoss. It has to be seen and heard to really be appreciated; thousands of tons of glacial water, from the distant south, thunder over the high cliffs racing towards the Arctic Ocean. Spray drenched us as we wound our way down a narrow muddy path from the top of the cliffs to a point about half-way down; then another slog up another muddy path to reach the top again. The noise was deafening and very impressive, and we were blessed with five rainbows while we were there.
From there we descended into the beautiful Myvatn valley. Very conspicuous was Mt. Hverfjall, a huge black volcano, the biggest and most active in Europe, 2,500 years old and with a diameter of about 3900 ft.another very impressive sight, not to be taken lightly. It seemed like a massive brooding destruction machine, just waiting to wreak havoc.
Myvatns extensive lakes teem with hundreds of swans and a myriad other breeds of bird life, the surrounding land providing fertile farmland for the cows, sheep and horses. The peace and tranquility here are even more amazing because of the close proximity to "earthquake valley."
Our homeward journey took us through the main horse-breeding areas of Iceland, they roamed in their hundreds over the lush emerald-green fields. We followed the coastline to Hofsos, a fishing town I absolutely loved.
I spent a few more days at "home base," then lived with friends in Reykjavik for a short while before returning home. I find Iceland to be a magical country, full of energies we dont feel in South Africa. The land is still very much as it used to be, unpolluted, natural, and so very peaceful and clean. My physical body may be back in SA, but heart and soul are still "up north" and probably will be for a long time to come.