From Iceland — Musings On The Beast of Búrfellsgjá

Musings On The Beast of Búrfellsgjá

Published July 11, 2024

Musings On The Beast of Búrfellsgjá
Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

Just when you thought it was safe to explore nature…

No one believes me, but I know what I saw in the dark. It was at Búrfellsgjá, the moss-covered lava field turned hiking trail not far from the city; a place where once peaceful shepherds slept with milkmaids in the warm-ish Icelandic summer sun.

I veered off the trail. Peering into the darkness, I saw it — and it saw me. That day I fled, but today I return, camera in hand, to capture a picture of that beast, the beast of Búrfellsgjá.

Búrfellsgjá is a seemingly innocuous hiking trail. Its accessible parking, nearby archaeological site and horse riding trail make it a popular spot to visit. But I was here on a mission, so to the hiking trail, I went. The path led me through 8,000-year-old lava channels peppered by empty Hraun wrappers and picnicking tourists. Here I came upon a stone sheep pen built against a crag. Upon investigation I found a forgotten housing structure, its walls intermingling with the roof of the rock face. Mold, moss and plants grow along the top as the ceiling leaked delicious cave water. No beast could live here, it could never afford rent in this deluxe flat. In this economy? I don’t think so. I must go on, to the top of the volcano.

I approached the corner of a ravine and peered into the depths. Then the ground gave way.

After a long and sweaty journey, I reach the summit and gaze upon the disaster whose effects still haunt the nation: the aluminum plant. It was right there! I could see it. I hate the aluminum plant. But nope, no way the creature lives up here. Perhaps down was the way to go.

The caves and ravines that tear apart the landscape are dark, with snow still crusting at the base even in these summer months. I find the perfect cave alongside the trail. Just flat and wide enough for me to squeeze my fat ass through. Caving enthusiasts might scoff at me for referring to anything in Búrfellsgjá as a “cave” but as a city slicker who literally unconsciously mouthed the phrase “Perfect Minecraft base location” at the sight of it, I had already set the bar so very low. Plus, where else would a cryptid live?

On all fours I began to crawl into the depths of the Earth, the path only illuminated by the flashlight on my phone (don’t do this, this was fuckin stupid, I had three people with me making sure I could get out). With each trepid movement I (quite literally) slammed my head against the ceiling. The cavernous tunnel which I had now entered went on for a staggering, mind-shattering, incomprehensible five meters… there was nothing in there, nothing but frozen mud. I crawled out defeated. Had I imagined the beast? Was there nothing at Búrfellsgjá?

As I began my return journey, the ravines still clawed at my mind, what if…. What if it was down there? I had to know. But I couldn’t do it with others watching. So, as night fell, I returned to the holes. I approached the corner of a ravine and peered into the depths. Then the ground gave way.

So yeah, I’m stuck in a ravine. Good news, though: I found the monster — or, well, monsters. There’s six other tourists here with me. We all did the same dumb thing and decided to check out the holes. Be careful around the holes, guys, and remember, always stay on the trail. Now can someone call search and rescue? I need a strong hunk in uniform to get me out of here.

Want more of Charlie Winters’ musings in your life? Read more here.


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