Iceland, September 2012

I booked a long weekend in Iceland. The flight was with Icelandair. It wasn't exactly cheap as I booked it late. £299 is a bit pricey for a 3 hour flight and it didn't include free drinks either. Their entertainment system was pretty good though, so it passed quite quickly.

Strokkur Geyser
My friends and I had booked a car, so the first day we did the usual tourist route which is known as the Golden Circle. The scenery is pretty spectacular. We went to Thingvellir, which was the site of the first ever parliament in 930AD. There's also a nice waterfall here which pours over a cliff which is the edge of the American tectonic plate. Next stop was Geysir where there are a lot of geysers. The main one is mostly inactive now, but there is one called Strokkur which erupts every five minutes or so. After that, our next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall, which is an impressive sight with water hammering down. That evening we went into Reykjavik town centre and tried a few local delicacies including smoked puffin. Sadly fermented skate didn't seem to be on the menu.

The next morning, I was up bright an early and heading back to Thingvellir. This time I was going diving with DIVE.IS. They do pick-ups from hotels in Reykjavik and the bus station. The plan was to dive a spot called Sifra Crack, which is a crack in the earth in the zone between the American plate and the Eurasian one. The main draw is the visibility. It's filled with water that comes from a glacier and is then filtered through miles of rock. It's also quite cold, as you can imagine. My computer registered 4.7C.

Silfra Crack
Outnumbering the divers, were the snorkellers. There was also a couple doing their dry suit speciality, the rest of us just doing a pleasure dive. The dive staff were very patient, but then they had to be. I was the only person who'd ever used a dry suit before and it took ages for everyone to get ready. Then one women had water pouring down her neck seal, and eventually didn't dive, then the dive guide's dry glove failed. So despite the rental kit being a decent Bare drysuit, with appropriate undersuit and then my personal Xerotherm thermals, I was quite cold before the dive even started.

The viz was indeed exceptional. It's hard to say exactly how far you could see, but it was probably 60+m. The dive site itself goes down to a maximum of 18m, though I didn't go below 13m. There are also places where rocks have falled in the crack. In some places you can swim under them, in others you need to come relatively shallow, so you end up with a fairly saw tooth profile. Fortunately, it is quite shallow.

Silfra dive profile

Other than rocks, there are a few fish, mostly Artic Char and some algae. Some of the algae is bright green and looks like silly string. We swam down the crack and then emerged into the lake before getting back out again. It felt like I had a couple of armfuls of water, but it was just the cold. I was actually bone dry when I took off my suit.

Our second dive was the same again, though this time we swam back up another, shallower crack from the lake. Without all the hanging around, it felt much warmer this time with just my hands and head getting a bit cold. It was certainly an experience. I've not seen water that clear outside of the Mexican cenotes.

Back into town and we were out that night, though a little bit early for the main nightlife. The locals don't even start coming out until midnight. Everywhere is quiet up until that point. Prices in Iceland used to be high, but now the food and drinks prices were no worse than London prices. The following day, we stopped at Blue Lagoon on the way back to the airport. It was an interesting 3 day break with plenty of things to see.