From Iceland — Chasmic Escapades In Leiðarendi

Chasmic Escapades In Leiðarendi

Published November 18, 2011

Judging by my lack of dexterity in all things strenuously physical, the opportunity to explore Iceland’s caves was an enormous challenge. Thankfully, with the guidance of Iceland Excursions’ delightful caving tour guide Bjarni and Grapevine’s photographer Hvalreki, I knew that I would get by, able to tell the story to you fine people.

It began at 13:00 on Sunday with an enjoyable drive through greater Reykjavík in a somewhat cramped vehicle for someone of my height of 193 cm. Bjarni articulated a clear depiction of the city’s scientific institutions. How delightful! Through busy byways, through patches of suburbia and finally onto the artery connecting Reykjavík to Keflavík, we, the small tour group of at least fifteen persons learned a great many fascinating thing about this lovable mid-Atlantic volcanic rock. Did you know that the Western part is 16 million-years-old and did not cause a famine in Europe in 1784? Me neither.

Hvalreki-Cave Trip4

Soon after, we left the car, and went outside to witness the Icelandic “countryside”: a vast, seemingly limitless expanse that was more fitting in the lunar Sea of Tranquillity than Icelandic barren lushness.  It was now time to suit up into my rock climbing apparel.  While my colleague gracefully donned his orange jumpsuit and caving equipment, I clumsily got into mine in a bumbling, haphazard manner: my helmet head strap too loose, my headlight misplaced, my jumpsuit dirtied. We then scuttled towards the entrance.  As we approached it, Grapevine photographer Hvalreki and I wandered past millions of rocks, a mineralogists’ delight, scattered about on the jagged landscape.

With the knowledge that harming the ancient moss that had grown on the volcanic rocks carries with it an eight-month prison sentence, I was careful to mind my manners around it. All the while, around us, the silence was universal: only interrupted by an occasional passing car. In front of us was the entryway into oblivion. It was a foreboding entrance to the; there was no way of knowing what was in store for us down in the depths.

Inside, Bjarni called our location the “End of the Road.”  It marked the end of escape routes for 16th century criminals, the final resting place of lost sheep, and of my comfort. From then on, I would now be bending my head either over, tilting and crouching or in full prone position, crawling. While investigating and manoeuvring as a very unsmooth operator, I managed to drop my light. How easy it would be to die down here, I thought.

Thereafter, Bjarni took us towards some of the nature wonders of the cave: the massive magma veins that at one time went through anything, the wild ceiling formations and the gorgeous stalagmites. The stalagmites that remained appeared like miniature obsidian obelisks, the remnants of a tremendous blast long ago. While I observed those dark statuettes, the ceiling dripped from a recent rainfall, and continued to do so for the remainder of the experience. Onward we crawled.

Hvalreki-Cave Trip3

Hvalreki paused to observe a basalt chandelier, an abscess of molten rock. Frighteningly beautiful, I thought, like the cave itself. The knowledge that I was 35 metres below the surface in this gorgeous hideaway was more than enough to worry me. The slightest shift, the slightest rumble of Mother Earth around us could have made this the last trip I would go on.

Afterwards, Bjarni instructed us on how to approach the most difficult part of the journey: a tight squeeze through a narrow hole that had been partially sealed by falling debris. We progressed slowly and cautiously. Afterwards, we learned that a 76 year-old woman did this activity with considerable ease. As you can imagine, I was quite embarrassed after that to be scared of anything. 

After we peeled out of our dirtied attire, we climbed back in the bus and headed back into Reykjavík.

Perhaps to make fleeting moments pass faster, Bjarni informed of ongoing political issues in Iceland, and then took the time to take us to stocks filled with drying fish. Soon Bjarni, Hvalreki and the others were all gone, and for reason, I immediately started sniffing around. Apparently, those fish reeked with the pungent odour of death, and I was still drenched in it. Just the same, they smelled slightly less wretched than the stench of fear I gained while climbing down into Iceland’s depths. When the escapade had ended, it seemed that a shower for yours truly was in order.

Where: Iceland Excursions
When: Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 all year round
How Much: 9500 ISK

For more information on this tour look here!
or call this number: +354 540 1313


The original article stated: “Did you know that the Western part is 60 million-years-old and did not cause an Asian famine in 1784?” This is incorrect. The guide said: “16 million.”

Furthermore, the guide did not speak of an Asian famine. He was talking about how when Lakagígar volcano erupted in 1783 a lot of ash went into the atmosphere, like Eyjafjallajökull did last year, but it was a lot more back then and the ash caused the crops to fail in Europe the year after (1784). Some historians believe that this famine led to the french revolution in 1789.

We apologise to the guide, Bjarni Hannesson, for attributing this incorrect information to him.

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