Reykjavik, Iceland 2009

10 years anniversary trip with our company RoQC DataManagement

Fast facts on Iceland

Size: 103.000 sq km
Capital: Reyjavik
Population: 320.000
Currency: Icelandic Kroner
Time: GMT
Language: Icelandic

Our company, RoQC DataMangement, employs geologists and data managers working in the oil business. Their work is mainly concentrated around maintenance and quality control of upstream well data, eg. maintaining the information about one of Earths biggest energy reserves. RoQC's customers are the main oil companies situated both in Stavanger, Norway and around the globe.

Combining these facts, and that the company celebrates its 10 years anniversary this year, it was easy to pick a travel destination which was of interest to everybody. Iceland is and island located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge no more that 2,5 hours by plane from Stavanger. It is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale, so this should indeed be an interesting trip!

I had the company IceTour helping me out with the prebookings of both transport and activities, and I must say - they are highly recommendable! Having vouchers for everything prebooked made the stay relaxing even for me who organized the whole trip. Everything went more than smooth, so a big thanks to Hans Jonny Lunde at IceTour :-) Hotel and plane tickets I fixed myself.

 

Friday May 29 .. Stavanger, Norway - Reykjavik, Iceland

With one exception, we all meet at Sola Airport, Stavanger in the morning eager to start our trip to Iceland. Just two of us have visited the island before, so this will be a totally new experience for almost everybody. We are 15 people and one infant in our group leaving. Our programmer Jeff has already landed in Iceland, coming overnight from Portland, Maine (USA). Our plane trip goes via Oslo to Reykjavik. IcelandAir starts by the way with their direct flights two times weekly Stavanger-Reykjavik June 2, the day after we get home. You can't win them all :-)

It is a pleasant flight, and the stopover in Oslo gives us time for some lunch. 2,5 hours later we land at Keflavik International Airport which is situated 45 minutes west of Reykjavik. We get picked up by our own bus and brought to the 4th Floor Hotel. The 4th Floor Hotel is located on a quiet street corner 15 metres from the main shopping street of central Reykjavik. It is a modern, contemporary styled hotel in very close vicinity to art galleries, museums, cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs and most of Reykjavik's cultural life. Good value for money and very nice and helpful staff!

In the evening we have dinner at the Perlan Restaurant. Perlan is situated on a hill in Reykjavik and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in town. There has for many years been water tanks placed here, but in 1991 the mayor of Reykjavik got built a new building which now holds room for a restaurant and a kafeteria. The building on top is covered by a glass dome, and this gives the most fantastic view over the city and the surrounding areas. Perlan is a rotating restaurant which completes a 360 degrees rotation every second hour.

Our first earthquake..

We get served a delicious dinner accompanied by a very competent piano player and marvelling the view when suddenly we hear a rumbling sound and the building starts to shake!! Water jumps out of our glasses and the people around us look a bit worried. The noise and shakes stops as suddenly as it starts, and we learn that there has been an earthquake over 4.0 Richters scale with its epicenter just 50 kms from where we are. Geologically active area indeed...!!! This is the second earthquake in as many days! We were told that the first earthquake occured the day before, it was over 6.0 Richters scale and destroyed a lot of buildings in Selfoss where the epicenter was.. Hmm.. Interesting..!!(?) Paul and Alice in our group were standing in the restaurants lift and didn't feel the earthquake at all. Looks like the movement of the lift concealed the movement of the building.

After a long journey and a delicious dinner most of us go back to the hotel to get some sleep before the next days adventures. The rest visits a couple of the bars and pubs along Laugavegur before they return to home base even more tired :-)

 

Saturday May 30 .. Shopping, Diving and The Blue Lagoon

Today we have half a day to explore Reykjavik center with its shopping opportunities, museums and surrounding areas! The main shoppingstreet is Laugavegur which more or less starts outside our hotel and ends in the harbour area about 15 minutes walk down the street. There are a lot of shops, smaller arts&crafts stores and bars and restaurants along the main street. Reykjavik is a grey city, with mainly concreet buildings and seems a bit dull, but Laugavegur is a nice one-way street with lots to explore. We even find a Moods-of-Norway shop ;-) Just a 15 minutes walk outside the city center Ian and I find a birdwatching spot and a nice view of the Reykjavik skyline. There is more to the city than first meets the eye!

While most of our party goes on a shopping spree Kolbjørn spends this part of the day at a more interesting location. He has gone diving the world class dive site The Silfra Rift in the Thingvellir Lake. The National Park Thingvellir has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, both for its cultural & historical significance as well as natural & geological uniqueness.

The Silfra Rift is an absolute world class dive site due to two main reasons. First of all you will be diving in a crack between the American and Eurasian continents. It's the place where the continental plates meet and drift apart about 2cm per year. Secondly the visibility that you will experience will rarely be surpassed, if ever. What about 100m+!!! The reasons for this clarity are twofold: the water is cold (2°C - 4°C all year) since it's the melting water from a glacier about 50km away and the water has traveled through the lava fields for many years before coming out at the north end of Thingvellir lake through underground wells. Not necessary to mention, Kolbjørn has a fantastic dive!!!

We all meet outside our hotel at 2PM where we get picked up by our bus which is going to take us to The Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is founded on a unique source of geothermal seawater that originates in Iceland's extreme environment. The seawater originates 2000 meter beneath the ground where it is heated by earth’s natural forces. At this depth the temperature is 240°C (464°F) and the pressure is 36 times the pressure on the earth’s surface. The geothermal seawater comes into contact with cooling magmatic intrusions and captures the earth’s minerals, resulting in this unique natural source known for its healing power and actives. The composition of minerals in the water is very distinctive and has a high level of silica. Its environment is characterized by high temperature and salinity level of 2.5% which is 1/3 of the ocean’s salinity level.

Over the years The Blue Lagoon has transformed from a natural source of geothermal seawater where the locals went to relax and get a natural treatment for their skin and mucles to "The Place to Visit" for all tourists. It is completely commercialized, and in addition to its natural lagoon you now find a spa, a clinic and a shop selling skin care products based on the unique water in the lagoon. With that said, it is a fantastic experience not to be left out! We thoroughly enjoy the lagoon, the bar in the middle selling ice cold refreshments (beer, wine and smoothies) and of course we have to test the rejuvinating face mask which is free of use. Some lovely and happy faces amongst our group... :-)

We stay in the lagoon for over 2 hours just enjoying the warm water (about 40°C), the lovely and SUNNY weather! and our own company. We have a photo session in the lagoon, with Ian as the main photographer. Check out the link to our photo galleries at the end of this travel report for more pictures of happy faces :-) Fortunately there is not many people here, and it doesn't feel at all crowded. Based on all the languages we hear the tourists who visit the lagoon today comes from all over Europe.

Our second earthquake..

While we are waiting for everybody to gather outside the bus to get back to the 4th Floor Hotel it happens again! The rumbling noise starts, the ground shivers beneath us and the bus starts swaying. It is definately an unreal situation! This time it isn't at all scary, its just an extraordinary strange sensation. The bus driver tells us that this isn't normal Icelandic earthquake activity. It started the day before with the 6.1 earthquake, and has escalated today with two aftershocks - one around two o'clock which Ian and I didn't register, and one now in the afternoon. According to the bus driver the country's last major earthquake, in June 2000, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. It knocked down a dozen houses but caused no serious injuries. It looks like we're safe, for now..

We have had an interesting day, and what can be better to finish it off with than a delicious dinner in one of Reykjaviks many restaurants. We have booked a table at The Einar Ben Restaurant which is situated at the Ingólfstorg in the middle of Reykjavik center. The restaurant lies in the oldest part of the city, in close proximity to the harbour.

The Einar Ben is on the upper floor of a building built at the beginning of the last century and is named after one of Icelands greatest poets. The restaurant is known for very good service and lovely food, where all the ingredients are Icelandic! Our menu this evening is traditional Icelandic broth with lamb and vegetables followed by pan-fried salmon with carrots and roasted goat cheese. For dessert we have chocolate créme bruleé and vanilla ice cream which is to die for!!! Yumm...!!! If you ever visit Reykjavik... :-)

After dinner we all decide to check out Reykjaviks nightlife. Over the last decade Reykjavik's nightlife has been hyped up by the enthusiastic tourist board and a stream of travel writers. Reykjavik, however, is a small city and those arriving expecting to find a large-scale 'Ibiza of the North' may be a little disappointed as most of the action takes place in a very small central area along the main street Laugavegur. The cafes and bars in Reykjavik tend to have a Jekyll and Hyde character, serving beer and coffee throughout the day, before transforming into buzzing drinking and dancing venues in the evening. Because most locals tend to counter the expensive bar prices by consuming a lot of alcohol at home before going out, it is not until around midnight or later that the streets begin to fill with drinkers and clubbers and the real action begins. At this point, however, most of us return to home base to get some sleep, knowing it will be a long day tomorrow (or, to be correct - later that day)..

 

Sunday May 31 .. All-day sightseeing with Supertrucks and SuperJeeps

We get up early for a very good breakfast and wait for the trucks to arrive. Today we are going to spend all day on a sightseeing trip doing what the Icelanders call The Golden Circle. The Golden Circle includes a visit to the three attractions Thingvellir National Park, the active geysir Strokkur and the famous waterfall Gullfoss. Two vehicles arrive outside the hotel, one more impressive than the other! They look like they can conquer everything, even trees... Ian and I share the smaller SuperJeep with Anita, Per Sverre and baby Roald while the others fit in the massive SuperTruck, and off we go!

Our first stop is Thingvellir National Park which is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. The Park is also central to the nation's history.

One of the few spots in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge comes above water, Thingvellir is an enormous geologic rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The rift has created spectacular scenery, including Iceland's biggest lake and dramatic cliffs. Thingvellir and the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa are the only sites on Earth where the effects of two major plates drifting apart can be observed! (Geology and tectonics of Thingvellir)

Thingvellir was also home to the first parliament in the world. Icelandic Vikings began meeting here annually in the 10th century, gathering around a giant rock formation to create new laws and amend previous ones. To this day, Thingvellir is home to important national gatherings, when people across Iceland are invited to celebrate occasions together.

We start with a visit to the Thingvellir Tourist Information Center where we have an very interesting interactive walk through the areas history, flora and fauna to set the scene before we have a walk through parts of the park. You can really hear history here! .. and if it's geology we want to see, we definately are right on the spot! The scenery is lovely, with the Sog river winding along from the Lake Thingvallavatn. The lake is the largest natural lake on the island, and the Sog river is the largest freshwater river in terms of water volume. The Sog has a healthy stock of arctic char and atlantic salmon. Just guess if Ian wish he had his fly rod here... :-)

The vehicles and our two guides wait to pick us up at the other side of the river to take us to our next destination, Gullfoss. Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfalls) is Icelands most famous waterfalls and also one of Europes most powerful waterfalls. Early in the 20th century the farmer of Brattholt, who owned the water rights of the river contracted them to an English firm for a hydroelectric power station. The farmer’s daughter opposed this and even threatened to throw herself into the foaming water to prevent this accident. She fought bravely alone until a young lawyer, who later became the country’s first president, came to her aid. Together they managed to save the waterfalls and she was commemorated by a monument in the canyon by the waterfalls in 1978. Today the magnificent Gullfoss is protected.

It is an amazing view! The water cascades down two steps, one 11 m high, and the other 22 m, into the 2,5 km long canyon below. This canyon was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic flood waves and is lengthened by 25 cm a year by the constant erosion. In the canyon, alternating strata of lavas and moraines are obvious and tell us about warm and cold epochs of the Ice Age. There is a path along the waterfalls down to a natural viewing platform where you can look directly down into the canyon below. You get really wet, and the rock is very slippery out on the edge, but it's not a view to miss! After having checked out Gullfoss we have a very pleasant lunch at the Gullfoss Café. Prepared for us is a lovely traditional Icelandic broth with lamb and vegetables. In connection with the café there is also a souvernir shop selling bits and pieces made in Iceland. I end up with a lovely, handmade merino wool scarf for colder days in Norway. We have some of them... Here: me and one of our 'small' vehicles :-)

Now it's time to go offroad! The guides want to show us the glacier Langjökull and head for the highlands of Iceland which cover most of the interior of the island. The highlands are situated above 400-500 metres and are mostly uninhabitable, because the water precipitating as rain or snow infiltrates so quickly into the ground that it is unavailable for plant growth, which results largely in a desert surface of grey, black or brown earth, lava and volcanic ashes. The area can only be crossed during the summer.

Crossing this barren landscape the supertruck in front of us suddenly stops and everybody gets out acting like crazy! What happens? Our guide has to explain, that they always stop and tear down cairns which people make of stones, because they want to keep the nature natural. We go amok tearing down stone 'monuments'. Feels rather good after having spent some time in the car :-)

To reach the glacier Langjökull we cross rivers and climb steep hills, and finally we are on top - with a gorgeous view over this barren landscape, its rivers and the second largest glacier on Iceland, the Langjökull (above: a panorama picture taken from the top). We had our doubts though, that the bunch in the SuperTruck would make it to the top. Their car started to smell of burnt oil, and the last steep bit they had to walk. And it was steep indeed!! But finally, we get to the top, happily conquered both rivers and steep hills in our vehicles.

After some time on in the Icelandic highlands enjoying the view it's time to turn south again, towards the active geysir Strokkur. We cross some more rivers on our way, and reach the geothermic region beside the Hvítá river east of Reykjavik. As we enter the park area around Strokkur we can't but notice the phenomenal steam rising from hot springs, vents and streams all over the area. Strokkur erupts very reliably every 5-10 minutes, hurling boiling water to heights of up to 20-35 meters towards the sky. Impressive! And if you are in doubt.. the water is hot.. boiling hot!

On our way back towards Reykjavik and our hotel we stop by the volcanic Kerið Crater in the Grímsnes area. It is one of several crater lakes in the area, known as Iceland's Western Volcanic Zone. Kerið’s caldera is one of the three most recognizable volcanic craters because at approximately 3,000 years old (!), it is only half the age of most of the surrounding volcanic features. And the caldera, like the other volcanic rock in the area, is composed of a red rather than black volcanic rock. The caldera is approx 55 meters deep.

It has been a long day, and 'the supertruckers' sleep the rest of their way back home. We who share the superjeep with Roald, however, are enjoying a serenade on the way back to the hotel. He has been the most adorable and quiet boy all day, but now he is angry - tired of having to spend most of his day in a baby seat in the car. Somehow I can understand that :-)

The day isn't over, and I have a last surprise for everybody when we meet outside the hotel to take a walk to Café Reykjavik, our dinner restaurant the last evening. Outside awaits a 17 seats big Hummer limousine to take us there! Complete with a sunroof to wave from, a bar, a fish tank (!), great "limmo-music" from a very potent car hi-fi and a mirror/star ceiling :-) THIS IS COOL! There is room for everybody, even Roalds pram in the back. You may say we arrive our dinner restaurant in style, everybody taking turn of waving to the curious passers-by from the sun roof :-)

A fabulous trip has come to its end. In a few days we have crammed in most of what Reykjavik and the surrounding areas have to offer in terms of adventures and geological history. The highlighs have been many and interesting. Our last evening is here, and we all relax and enjoy the rest of the evening together. The bus will pick us up at 5AM (!) in the morning in time for us to reach the plane via Oslo back home. No clubbing tonight, just the bed...

 

Monday June 1 .. Reykjavik, Iceland - Stavanger, Norway

Up early - too early... Luckily our hotel staff has made us breakfast boxes to bring on the bus. Very nice of them! Because everybody is too tired to eat this time of night... The bus takes us to Keflavik, and the plane leaves on time. We have to check-in the luggage again at Gardermoen Airport, Oslo, but we have plenty of time. No hassle at all, as with everything else. Organizing is the key. The question now is though - how do we top this at our 15 years anniversary in 5 years time?!? Time will show! ;-)

THANK YOU EVERYBODY FOR MAKING THIS AN UNFORGETTABLE TRIP !!!

Ian & Marianne

 

<< Back to Travel Reports

 

The picture galleries and video clips:

Ian & Marianne - the trip from A-Z :-)

Tonja & Martin - pictures

Robert & Kristin - pictures

Paul & Alice - pictures

Kolbjørn - pictures

Paul & Alice - video clips! -- To be downloaded from Pauls web directly

www.zing.no/iceland_videos_1.rar
www.zing.no/iceland_videos_2.rar

And here, the original itinerary (Norwegian only)

Velkommen til Reykjavik!