From Iceland — Getting Spooked

Getting Spooked

Published July 29, 2008

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“We’ll see if the lights work when we’re inside the cave and out of the daylight,” the guide told us as we stood at the entrance to Gjábakkahellir cave in Þingvellir. “Why do I do this again?” I asked the photographer, placing my flashlight on my helmet and followed the group down the rocky trail. Claustrophobics aren’t big fans of dark and narrow tubes so my unease of going willingly many metres underground was hard to hide.
    Gjábakkahellir, formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, is open in both ends. Half way through our guide told us to find a comfortable rock, sit down, and turn off the flashlight to experience total darkness. “There’s no way out of this one,” I thought, so I did, and it was pitch dark. Sitting there with my Swiss Miss in hand I couldn’t help thinking what would happen if an earthquake would strike at that exact moment (highly unlikely, the guide assured). Of course there was no need for my genius escape plan and after our cocoa-break we continued the rugged walk. While viewing the incredible rock formations I got used to the darkness and the narrow paths. Any thoughts of catastrophes disappeared and the rest of the walk left me fascinated with the gloomy walls and the odd shapes in the roof until I suddenly saw daylight again.
    After lunch I was ready to take on the next challenge, snorkelling in Silfra fissure where the European and American plates are drifting apart. Snorkelling has always been a favourite but my only experience of this relaxing activity was exploring weird creatures in South East Asia. As this is Iceland, and we were going snorkelling in glacial water where temperatures hardly go over 3ºC, we were packed in dry suits from head to toe. Surprisingly, with the flattering costume on, the water didn’t feel cold at all (my face just got numb).
    Silfra ranks among the top diving sites in the world I’ve been told frequently, and after floating in the water for an hour I understood quite well what the fuss is about. The water is so crystal clear that the visibility can be up to 100 metres. Amazed by the colours as the incredible underworld landscape that appeared underneath me with neon-green algae, beige rocks and spooky caves, I was soon lost in my own thoughts, lazily scouting for curious sights in the water. If someone hadn’t pinched my shoulder, me and my frozen face would probably still be there. 

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