Location: Lake Myvatn
Today started like most days here. We woke up at 7:30 a.m. to a sharp knock on the door and Kimmi, our director, telling us to wake up. People quickly entered their morning routines, but I can only speak for my own. I sleepily laid in bed for a few minutes, trying to muster the energy to rise, then finally summoned all my strength to climb down the ladder of my bunk bed. The hostel we’re staying in right now gets a lot darker in the rooms than the last one, which is great for sleeping but not so great for waking up. I had my personal choice of breakfast: Cocoa Puffs with blueberries and strawberries with some mango juice on the side. We packed our sandwiches, brushed our teeth, and changed our clothes. Today, we’d be doing community service, and we came prepared for this job with work gloves, jackets, and bug nets to protect our faces. At 8:40, our bus driver arrived, and on the bus, we began to mentally prepare ourselves for the hard day that lay ahead.
Upon arriving at a nearby area of the town we’re staying at, the volunteers we’d be working with split us into two teams. Six of us were to help remove the invasive plant cow parsley (Max, Kiran, Nola, Drew, Ciara, Ava), while the other six cleared rocks from the path leading up to the Hverfjall volcanic crater. (Ellie, Leigh, Thea, Renzo, Emily, and Zora). We’ll start with the Hverfjall experience since I experienced it.
The job was simple. People hiked up to the crater very often, but several large rocks blocking the path made it easy to trip, especially later at night.
Moving these rocks to the side of the path would make it safer and easier to travel. There were also some issues with people climbing on dangerous areas that looked like part of the path, so we wanted to find a way to block those ways off. Our tools were a rock bar, two volunteers, and the rocks surrounding us. The first rocks we moved were quite small and not much of a challenge. Emily, Zora, and Leigh stayed nearer to the bottom to help build a rock wall to prevent people going up those incorrect ways I mentioned earlier. They spent much of the time creating a makeshift arts-and-crafts project by placing the rocks in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. I don’t think we got a picture of the wall, but I saw it myself, and it was beautiful. More importantly than that, it means people visiting won’t get confused about where the path actually is.
Why have I added a paragraph break, you ask? Because I moved rocks. And it was so so so much fun. I actually recommend it fully, not even just as volunteering. I’d pay to move rocks. I’m so serious. I would pay a monthly fee to go to a place where I can move lots of rocks. I worked on clearing the path with Renzo, Thea, and our guide Lyn. The rocks started out small, but you would not believe how big some of the ones we moved were. Please check the pictures from today. I took pictures of some of them. We each had our own specific rock duties. Thea was the queen of the rock bar. She would get the rock bar under the rocks and lift the rock so the rest of us could help roll it out of its hole. Renzo was Mr. Fulcrum. If you’re not familiar with what a fulcrum is, it’s a rock acting as a wedge to raise a stake. Whenever the rock was a bit too big for Thea to get it with just her rock bar, all we had to do was say: “Renzo, fulcrum?” And he would instantly find the flattest rock. He didn’t just do fulcrum work, though. When a rock was a bit raised, but we needed to move the rock bar, Renzo would find a smaller rock and put it underneath. You wouldn’t believe how fast he could find a perfectly-sized rock. I think my (Ellie’s) best skills were in logical thinking. I could look at a rock and think of how to best move it. When it began moving, I doubted myself that my strategy would work, but it just kept working. Every rock was like a little puzzle, and my time playing video games made me a puzzle master. We lifted rocks heavier than any of us. My feet hurt, I skinned my knee, and would do it again any day.
Rock time is over. The rest of our day was okay, I guess… Nah, I’m kidding. I wasn’t working on flowers, but I got some reports from the flower people. I heard it was lovely and calming, with lots of flowers. In the beginning, it was quite cold and a bit difficult to learn how to remove some of the plant species. But as it went, it got more fun! I asked for things that were funny, and both my interviewees said, “People fell!” But our director added that nobody was hurt.
After both of our groups had finished volunteering, we met for lunch. I had a wonderful chicken-and-strawberry jam sandwich (big recommend). We then moved over to Dimmuborgir Lava Field, where we took a beautiful walk with the ranger around the scenery. I need to tell you how good of a job this ranger did. I was exhausted after volunteering and could have zoned out, but she made the area seem so interesting that I hung onto every word. I’ll share the fun facts I remember. Iceland is directly between two massive tectonic plates, the Eurasian and the North American plates. This results in a lot more tectonic activity than in other areas of the world (did the other blogs mention that we’ve had earthquakes? They’ve been very small but very fun). The two tectonic plates are moving slowly away from each other, about two inches every year. This means that Iceland is technically separating into two islands (albeit quite slowly). We saw one of the cracks on the island. It was so cool.
The next fun fact we learned was about the thirteen Santa Clauses of Iceland. We learned a lot more about this another day, but that blog didn’t mention it, so I’ll tell you here. In Icelandic culture, Santa Claus is actually thirteen children and two parents. Each child has a specific nasty act they perform (stealing meat, licking spoons, slamming doors). According to local legend, Spoon-Licker was kicked out of the family home for being too stinky, and we saw his new home (a cave). It’s beautiful. We took a picture (hopefully posted on the website) where Leigh and Emily mimed licking the spoon.
Final tidbit: on our walk in Dimmuborgir, we saw a rock formation that actually has a lot of lore behind it. Our ranger’s father was also a ranger, and he told our ranger as a child that the rocks used to be trolls having a party. Trolls turn to stone in the sun (obviously), so trolls only party at night. However, these trolls stayed up partying too late and were frozen. They described one troll couple frozen just before they kissed, and I SWEAR I see it so much. I’m not a superstitious person at all, but you can see the picture. It’s posted and looks so much like trolls.
I’m being word-limited (blame Robbie), so forgive me for hurrying past the rest of the day. We went back to the hostel and had a nice, chill night. Robbie, Thea, Zora, Ava, and Max cooked a beautiful dinner of lamb, potatoes, and vegetables (the broccoli was the best I’ve ever had). We then did a small activity as a group where we talked about gratefulness and why it’s important to give compliments. And that’s our day! Now, a personal message. It’s currently 8:38 p.m., and I’m finishing up. My phone is taken till Friday, and this is my only connection to the outside world. I hope there hasn’t been a nuclear apocalypse! Also, hi Mom, I’m fine, don’t worry about me—last thing. I was the one who started the singing on the boat. Renzo didn’t give me credit, but it was me. Okay, no more. Bye now.