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Caving in Iceland

June 6, 2017



Scene: Iceland, the morning after a rain, October, the roads are relatively empty and we’re greeted by a dark gray road, black rocks of mountain sides, gray skies; the gray is only interrupted by the fluorescent swaths of green moss blanketing the ground.


When we were in Iceland we rented a car for a couple days to drive along the southern coast. Our itinerary was simple, follow the 1 highway (both literally named the 1, and the one and only) from Reykjavik to Vik, then Vik back through the national parks up north to Reykjavik again.



Our first stop was appropriately the most adventury and unknown to us. We’d heard vaguely that there was an area with open caves in the ground near Reykjavik on the side of the highway. We didn’t know how accessible they were, whether you needed gear, or how we would manage either way, but decided to keep our eyes open for signage. There was none. We noticed an apparent parking lot on the lava rock and decided to check it out. Behold, the caves


Reinvigorated by our new liberty with the car and this amazing find, we practically ran into the open pit that was the entrance.



Emy quickly figured out that the best way to approach this was to walk a little sideways and pick her way between and over the rocks. A make-shift staircase made out of stones made the going a little easier, and we quickly were well into the tunnel system. Over us, exposed igneous rock extended, broken by skylights framed in the tufted, frazzled grass that I’ve only ever seen in Iceland. It was gorgeous. Swirls of copper and pink swam over the rock faces. Pieces were chipped away to make great rooms in the rock, naturalistic chairs and monuments. A silence came over us as the excitement was replaced by awe. Groups that moved past us experienced the same phenomenon, but a wordless communion was shared. You could imagine exactly what it looked like when this island was born, in there.


Eventually, the stairs let off into more jagged rocks and impassible mounds of raw boulders. I climbed along looking for a path for Emy, but finding none, resolved to render the walk in perfect detail to her. Two backpackers with headlamps followed just behind me. We slowly rounded a corner, were faced with a great pileup of rock. We started scaling it, hopping from boulder to boulder. At the top, we all grew still. I haven’t seen dark like that before. One of the men turned on their headlamp, shining a pathetic beam that fizzled out when it touched the blackness. From the mound of rock, the cave system continued, was walkable, but pitch black. Inside, a few voices seemed muffled by blindness instead of distance.


Needless to say I didn’t venture further. I let that dark stay a mystery for me. Maybe we’ll go back.



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