Of Fire and Ice: Exploring Iceland

Iceland has been a destination on our bucket list for what seems like forever, but it didn’t really make sense to fly there all the way from Australia, not when we still had plenty of other places to explore closer to us. But from London where we were based, it’s a hop skip and a short 3-hour flight away.

One of the first searches I did when trying to plan the itinerary was for longer – preferably multi-day –  kayak explorations, and I found Borea Adventures up in the Westfjords in Ísafjörður. They offer, among other intrepid expeditions like backcountry alpine skiing in winter, 3-6 day kayak expeditions. Perfect! I signed us up on the spot, then planned the rest of our one week vacation around one 3-day trip.

So, what we got up to outside of that 3 days of kayaking:

  • Explored one of Iceland’s many lava tube caves, about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. It was neat to see close up the cooled drippings of lava flow on the walls of the cave, and on floor and ceilings like limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Though a relatively short 1.5 hour tour, there were certain sections we had to literally get onto our bellies and sort of roll or push sideways to get across. Not for the claustrophobic.
  • Snorkeled the silfra, which is the fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To my slight regret, we didn’t take any underwater shots, because it was too logistically challenging to lug our gear across our many moves the last few months. But on hindsight, it worked out. The dry suit and gloves that we had to put on to fend off the 2-degree water was so bulky and restrictive that I did not have much mobility. The water clarity was startling though; one could never have guessed from looking at the water from land. But once we plunged our faces into the numbingly cold water, we could see for at least a hundred meters through the striking blue water.
From land the water looks unremarkable, but it’s startling how startlingly blue and clear it is once underwater
  • Checked out the Blue Lagoon. It’s actually a man-made thermal hot spring and is very touristy, but whoever goes to Iceland without being able to resist soaking in the warm outdoor thermal baths with our faces exposed to the chilly air? It was fun!
  • Joined the throng of tourists on the crawl around the Golden Circle. I say throng, but that’s relative to the desolate roads we found ourselves on north of Reykjavik, and nothing at all compared to the traffic jam that is in Yosemite and Yellowstone. It’s easy to see why the day tour is so popular though – three main stellar attractions and beautiful moonscape-like scenery to drive through just 40 minutes from Reykjavik. My photos don’t really do the landscape justice – it was drizzly and overcast most of the day.
  • Drove away from the crowds to Snaefellsjoekull peninsula on the west coast for a couple of days. The sun came in and out as we drove around the peninsula, which lifted our mood tremendously. Explored Skarðsvík Beach and the famed Kirkjufell mountain (featured image).
  • Went out for a walk around our hotel in the fishing town of Ólafsvík at 10pm when we saw that the rain had stopped
  • Did a stroll around Hellnar, supposedly the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Hellnar Iceland4

Hellnar Iceland3

Hellnar Iceland2

Hellnar Iceland

Hellar rainbow Iceland

Hellnar Iceland5

  • Crawled our way through endless switchbacks along fjords to drive from Snaefellsnes Peninsula up to the Westfjords, stopping by another famed waterfall, the Dynjandi.
Driving to westfjords Iceland
Jeff shot this image on his phone through the windscreen as we drove. He snapped dozens, if not hundreds of photos this way; the scenery was just stunning.
Driving north to westfjords Iceland2
Driving down the overpass towards Ísafjörður

Driving north to westfjords Iceland1

Dynjandi Falls Iceland
The awesome Dynjandi Falls

Lavena Coastal Walk, Fiji

We’ve just come back from a phenomenal week in Taveuni, Fiji with a couple old friends. What a trip!

Inter-island travel
We took a 12-seater propellor plane from Fiji’s international airport in Nadi to Taveuni

I’d picked Taveuni, out of the 300 Fijian islands, because of its fame as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ (Jacques Cousteau). What we didn’t realize – and reveled in – is that Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a quiet slice of haven still quite set back in time and away from the bustle and smog of city life. The island is 42km long and 10km wide, and has only 18,000 or so inhabitants who mostly stay in small villages dotted around the lush land. There are two small towns with grocery stalls, but most of the villagers grow their own crops, rear their own animals, and catch their own fish. There isn’t much to do in town, and there are only a couple restaurants that the locals frequent.

We spent most of our time on land lounging around our resort anyway. Nakia Resort & Dive, a small eco resort with 4 bures (Fijian word for wooden and straw huts) and a maximum of 12 guests. The week we were there, there were just 6 of us, and our routine was that we’d wake up at sunrise for an early breakfast before going diving. In the afternoon, we’d come back to a late but hearty lunch, then lounge around by the pool or the hammock with a book in hand. In the evenings, we’d gather for more food and drink, spend a couple of hours comfortably chatting or playing some board or card games, then retire to bed by the moonlight. Rinse and repeat.

We did spend a day poking around the north-eastern part of the island though, on the Lavena Coastal Walk:

Lavena Coastal Walk
Visitors can choose to do a roundtrip walk (13km) to the waterfalls and back. We took a boat one way – the lazier, but infinitely more fun option
The villagers typically keep a vegetarian diet, but rear animals for meat for special occasions
Lavena Coastal Walk waterfall
Wainibau Falls, the highlight of our walk. To get to the falls, we actually have to wade / swim our way through strong current. But the water was most refreshing


Wendy and Chris Lavena Coastal Walk
Along the trek back, we passed by little villages and tons of banana, kava, cassava trees / plants