In the first instalment we covered the rock show – time for the part I missed first time around.

We got back in the car, and instead of going back we drove further into Heiðmörk, and discovered one of Iceland’s famous forests…

(My apologies. I will totally do this again.)

The Icelandic Forest Service manages 53 forests, and boasts about the fact some of them are open for public access! This is only funny to people who are used to forests being everywhere. But until really not that long ago (separate post coming) Iceland had no forests, and driftwood was prized possession. (Generally awarded to pastors and bishops.) The foresting is a relatively new thing for the country. Same as public transport outside the cities. (Separate post coming…)

Anyway, because I got completely off-topic… Heiðmörk is one of the places that have forests all of their own.

The interesting thing is that when you walk past the trees and take a closer look, the ones that took guard in the front row are damaged in interesting ways. The branches only grow in one direction. Obviously the winds have either broken the other branches, or just bent them until the tree became completely asymmetrical. Further rows have been protected by the forerunners (“shield wall!”) and look like, well, trees. I haven’t taken any good photos of this phenomenon, and now I’m rather upset with myself. Oh well. I have to go again. See? Perfect reason. My blog readers deserve a good photo of asymmetrical tree! *buys tickets*

As we continued our hike, we saw the Esja mountains. One of the things that blow me away the most about this country is the mix of modern and ancient. You have a lovely view of Esja from Reykjavik’s coast. Specifically, from a quite busy road which also houses, ahem, not very pretty buildings, and the Sun Voyager sculpture. This is what it looks like from a natural reserve most people don’t know exists… but somehow on this particular photo you can see my future house really well:

I’ve been posting a few photos on my brand new 500px page, and I tagged the pictures from the rocky part of Heiðmörk as “another planet”, “alien”, and “magic”. I’m aware that the scale of my obsession with Iceland terrifies half of my friends and makes the other half screen their calls in case I ring, but how can I resist this?

To finish the Heiðmörk section, although I could go on, a photo proving that not only have I visited a forest, but also sat on a bit of it.

Please note that I cleaned and waxed these boots before leaving the house.

*

I mentioned that calendars, photo books, etc. are coming. They are – the book is currently being printed. More about it soon, and in the meantime feel free to take a look at the 500px page with selected photos and galleries. More are coming. I’m not sure if this is a promise or a threat. All this, again, is going to be a subject of a separate post…

I found out about Heiðmörk’s existence from Bart (as an aside, I found out a lot of things from him, many of them NSFW and not suitable for this blog). He said it’s going to be a nature reserve, people-free, and look awesome. Heiðmörk delivered on each count.

The comment I read about God using Iceland to make a beta version of a whole different planet, then sort of getting over the idea and leaving it there to attend to more important matters… Heiðmörk is the only proof you need to know it’s true. It looks like I imagine Mars to be. Except more interesting, and with that magically clean air. My book takes place between 1885-1920, and I can’t imagine people who were often losing toes and fingers to frostbite, or found hardly any fodder for their horses got super excited about the quality of air, or beauty of places as Heiðmörk. In 2018, it feels like magic.

Let me try and give you an idea of the scale. A small idea, because we didn’t have fisheye lens.

And here is what I was looking at:

Iceland in late spring and summer (although technically, of course, April 18 was the first day of Icelandic summer…) is covered by lupines. Billions and billions of relentless lupines. Seeing the same place without them made it almost scarily different. That feeling you get when you bump into a friend, and he’s lost his long hair, replaced the leather jacket with a suit, got botox, sold the motorbike and bought a Mercedes, and his girlfriend is no longer Natasha with the dreads, but Amal with the suitcase. You know it’s still your friend George, but you keep on being tempted to ask if he is sure it’s him.

Here, for comparison, is a random photo of Heiðmörk in June 2017.

The entirety of Heiðmörk is 3,200 hectares, and apart from all the Mars landscapes it now is the home to a pretty impressive forest, more about which in part two. But I can’t resist telling the anecdote anymore. Helga Maureen’s father, when faced with the perspective of being forced to live in a country with trees in it, said grumpily “I don’t know why they have to put dem forests everywhere! Now with all those trees you can’t see the landscape at all!”

In general Iceland is a place where I want to go simply so that I can hide from people and not see any of them. In Heiðmörk there quite a few people, but I didn’t mind too much…

We went horseriding at a completely different spot, but this would have been perfect. Imagine being on a horse, peacefully (if painfully) trotting through Mars. My list for next visit is already filling up, and we won’t be able to afford another visit until someone finally buys all my internal organs from eBay.

Before finishing part 1, here’s a look at something. The colours and shades of lava are incredible. You can see them on those pictures. Not much Photoshop had been used, other than bumping the exposure and fixing some of the burn-in of the sky. And I am posting this photo without a single bit of Photoshop below. All those lava colours exist in the nature. Some create gradients. Purple, orange, red, brown, black, grey, yellow… This alone is sufficient proof for me that nature felt extremely generous, and perhaps a tad tipsy, when creating Iceland.

“Yeah, I’ve got all those colours… how do I pick just one or two… oh what the hell, I’ll just give them EVERYTHING”.

“But what about other countries, mom? They like colours too!”

“I told you not to call me mom. It’s MOTHER Nature. Also, bugger ’em. They can do with grey and brown. I like this spot particularly.”

In part two, coming soon, I will introduce you to a proper Icelandic forest… and the photo books… and the calendars… but let’s not get carried away. Yet.

The first waterfall we encountered was accidental. We went to Guðrúnarlaug, and as we were bathing in the hot tub, Husby pointed something out.

We had no idea if this six-year-old sized beauty had a name, but it was just a bonus to being able to be completely alone, bathing in a hot tub surrounded by snow. It gave us something to listen to.

The second one you have already seen – it was a little bonus that came with our trip to Snæfellsnes. Because why not? Iceland is generous like that. This one has a name: Bjarnarfoss.

But why settle for two when you can have four and are greedy AF?

I am all scientific and shit, researchy and hermity (and authorsy and writersy). But there were touristic places even I had to visit. When we came here last year, we’ve walked through a large chunk of Þingvellir, but didn’t quite get to the end of one of the paths. This year I found what was at the end of that path, and it just so happened to be a waterfall: Öxarárfoss.

In order to get there, we had to walk through a path made largely of snow, ice, and black ice. Very little sunshine and warmth gets that deep between the rock walls. (As you might know, Þingvellir served to film The Wall for Game of Thrones series. It really is that size.) By the way, the green water really was green, and I didn’t know why, but all I wanted was to sit there and be. And I got my wish. We got there early, ehmm… for our standards, and were lucky enough to avoid most tourists.

This is the end part of the path, and I mostly took this photo to prove we survived.

On our way back to the car we found out how lucky we were to go early, because we bumped into the content (i.e. tourists) of two buses. I helped an old lady not to fall on one of the icy rocks, and she smiled, and so did I. But then we had to stop, because we encountered two girls…

“Ermagerd Kareeeeen it’s slipperyyyy!!!”
“Noooo Janet I can’t, I am staying here!!!”

(I barely resisted the urge to say “that’s fine, humans die quite fast without food and water”.)

“But Kareeeeen!! Help meeeee!!!”
“I caaaaan’t!!! OMG!!!”

If they could speak in emojis, they would. But finally they managed to balance themselves a meter further, thus allowing everyone else to move at least a bit. And this was when I realised I was a bloody hypocrite. Because Karen and Janet were tourists, but so were we. We paid to be in Iceland, but so did Karen and Janet (and when you know the prices of those tourist trips, I bet you they paid much, much more). It is not illegal to act like a twatwaffle just because you are surrounded by a place that is holy to many people. It is not illegal to squee and be drunk, offensive, obnoxious in front of statues, waterfalls, or mountains. But I didn’t want Karen, Janet, and all other people to be there. I wanted to be able to sit in front of Öxarárfoss and listen to nothing but its roar. This is not how tourism works. (I have a certain idea what I’m going to do next time, though. It’s based on the fact that in the summer it never gets dark in Iceland.)

Iceland is currently so popular, their unemployment rate is 2.2%. Anything below 4% is generally considered people who don’t want to work for various reasons (not: can’t, but don’t want). In other words, Iceland has practically minus unemployment. This is caused by the amounts of tourists. The repairs of the roads, the attempts to create public transport more refined than a bus network in Reykjavik – all for the tourists. But the tourists also damage the country. They yell “Kareeeeen!!!” in it. And the fact that I am judging them like the Harry Potter hat doesn’t change the fact that they kept the economy not just afloat, but booming in the recent years.

When we went to Gullfoss I expected the worst, people-wise. But most of the people, even kids, kept quiet. Although there was a chance they were yelling. I was busy. Because Gullfoss is enormous, and it sounds the way it looks.

This is probably the most touristic place we’ve seen. This photo might not look so impressive. But look on the left. That’s the road. Then look at the blue dot. That’s a full-sized human person.

Gullfoss has an official site, which states:

The water plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon which walls reach up to 70 meters in height.

I can absolutely believe that. Although at some point I lost the ability to say how tall the canyon was. It was just…gigantic.

One of the things that draw me to Iceland so much is that the nature doesn’t give a shit about you. You’re just a bit of it. In so many places (I live in Amsterdam, enough said) the nature seems to have been conquered, at least until a hurricane starts tearing trees out of the ground, throwing them at cars, killing people. Not so in Iceland. This waterfall’s safety measures again extended to miserable rope hanging a few inches over the ground. If you want to die, the waterfall seemed to say, suit yourself. Just don’t expect me to care.

Can you believe in 1907 there was serious danger that this incredible, terrible beauty would have been turned into a power plant by an English businessman? Read more here, but I would like to thank Sigriður for almost single-handedly ensuring that this wouldn’t happen. A sculpture of her likeness can be seen at the entrance, and Sigriður fits the place.

I left with enormous respect. For Sigriður, for force of nature, for the fact that all those places just…exist. And when we dispose of mankind by pressing Larger Red Buttons That Actually Work, or just drown in emojis, Gullfoss will still be there, roaring, impatient, angry, and not interested in any of us, whether it’s Karen, Janet, Chad, Husby, or me.