We reluctantly leave paradise discovered for our return trek to Reykjavik. John and I decide we would have liked several days in Landmannalauger to further explore this unique landscape. Sadly the decision is not ours and we reluctantly board the vehicle.
We bump along the lava highway and gradually return to civilization. Today we will see the Golden circle. It is what most people see when they layover in Iceland for a day or two. It is easy to find and follows a predictable route. The roads are tame, though glutted with tourists.
Each stop is surrounded by gift shops selling their wares for prices that are not fathomable. We browse, not to buy but to win the game of finding the most expensive/least valued item. The quality is excellent though the stickers leaves us shocked.
We stand in a circle around a large geyser then snap pictures along with the rest of the crowd. Predictable oohs and awes surround. We quickly bore of this and try to get away from the throngs in search of something unique, though everywhere we go, more people follow. We see beautiful waterfalls, though the crowds make pictures difficult.
We decide there isn’t much to see though we have a generous amount of time to kill. We peruse the menu of offerings each more expensive than the other. We decide to have a coffee and a cup of soup and pay $45.00 for this luxury. The soup is good, the coffee good, though we shake our heads at the cost, savouring every bite and every sip.
We have signed up for a caving experience through a lava tube and have the opportunity to walk the way the lava once flowed. Others in our group have opted for a snorkelling experience and still others decide to explore on their own.
We don our hard hats and turn our lights on, careful to not look directly at one another with our blinding beams. Kommi leads the way. I stay close behind to hear all the highlights. The footing is tricky and twisting an ankle is a real possibility.
We arrive at a spot and wait for the group to catch up. Kommi notices a boulder perched precariously and encourages quick movement through. The stragglers, oblivious to the danger continue their leisurely pace, taking photos and enjoying the experience without the knowledge. At this moment it occurs to me that walking through a lava tube is quite dangerous and perhaps a foolish risk. I’m reminded that Iceland is an active volcano and begin to assess the danger, a little late. I conclude safety would have me on terra firma above. There is only one way out and I don’t know the way. I decide to put one foot in front of the other, and not think. My feet are on their own as I cannot see them, though feel the uneven ground with the soles of my feet. Each step has careful consideration before its execution. Kommi asks which way we should go, as we stand at a fork. I point one way, though am wrong. I think of how terrifying it would be if I were alone searching for a way out. Panic would reign supreme I decide. My main goal is to shadow Kommi for safety, slow my breathing and not make a spectacle of myself.
We stop and wait for the rest of our group. Kommi has us find a spot to sit. I look over at John and smile, he looks stressed and grimaces in response. I’m puzzled then it occurs to me I’m seeing fear in John for the first time. If John is scared then I’m panicked. Kommi then has us shut off our lights and we plunge into darkness. I close my eyes slow my breathing and settle myself reminding myself that soon we will leave the earth and the feeling of being buried alive for light.
The exit eventually arrives and we crawl out of the earth and stand on solid ground. John is rattled. We discuss the experience and decide this lava tube is both our first and last and we mentally tick off the experience from our virtual list.
We arrive back in Reykjavik. Predictably, the place looks like different, though I know it is the same. We have changed for the richness of our experience