Monday, July 03, 2006

After a long stretch through gray, barren desert, we regained the green hills on the approach to the western fiords. The road turned to dirt, and topped out over a pass into a stunning valley of tundra, yellow and purple wildflowers bursting from its flanks, waterfalls pouring off the rim and a stream at the floor draining toward the sea. At the coast, towering moss-covered cliffs crowded the sea, leaving room only for the narrow road and an occasional red-roofed farmhouse on a carpet of green grass where sheep grazed. Rain fell as a thick mist gathered over the Atlantic, and for many miles we snaked along between a wall of rock and a wall of ocean.

I imagined this was how it felt to drive California's coast 75 years ago, downshifting on the sharp bends in the gravel road, idling before a one-lane bridge while an oncoming car made its crossing. Cold waves lapped over black beaches, lonely crags jutted up from the water, and with the sea fading from gray to green as the sun peeked through the clouds, the landscape was sublime and melancholy.

And just when I thought I'd traveled to Edward Weston's Big Sur, we hit the glaciers. A big chunk of southeastern Iceland lies beneath the vast ice field of Vatnajokull, which crept toward the ocean down a series of fingerlike canyons. Off in the distance the cracked sheets of ice were motionless and menacing. At Jokulsarlon a glacial snout calved into an aquamarine lagoon, and the icebergs drifted almost imperceptibly toward open water, penned in like zoo animals where the busloads of tourists could gawk at their beauty.

Occasionally an iceberg floated beneath the highway bridge, was carried to sea, then was dashed on the beach by the windswept waves. We walked along the gray strand where the blocks of glacier rocked gently in the tide, and we gathered in our hands the cocktail-size ice cubes that had washed up on shore and flung them back to the sea.

On the final day around the Ring, we steered our rental car up the steep switchbacks near the coastal town of Vik. We wanted to reach the top of the seaside cliffs, overlooking a jumble of rock towers jutting from the sea, and then find a trail down to a beach. But the little car was scraping bottom before the first turn, so we left it on the shoulder and continued on foot.

The rain clouds had passed, and as we topped out on the bluff, the sun was dazzling and the wind was fierce. The grass spread out far beyond a radio tower toward an abandoned building on the promontory. We walked along the cliff, leaning away from the edge, feeling that the wind could chuck you over. After an hour of forging against the headwind, we realized that there was no trail to the beach. We were treed, here on this towering bluff.

And that's when we saw the birds. Dozens, hundreds of little white gulls' heads poked out of the rock wall below. We belly-crawled to the edge and peer over.

The gulls danced in the wind. They banked off a howling gust, almost bowled over backward, then straightened their wings and dived forward. They surfed back and forth, now and then catching an updraft and careening a hundred yards over the sea. The sun glistened on the whitecaps and waves surged in slow motion around the rock towers. A pair of puffins emerged from the rookery and braved the winds, looking a bit unsure of their skills, their goofy legs dangling below like parts of a puppet. We clutched the grass where we lay. The wind was going to blow like this all day long. I could have stayed there forever.

This is an awesome article from the NYTimes dude who went around Iceland's Ring Road. So poetic and so awe inspiring. We are nothing in front of nature, something I am forcibly reminded by of today especially when I am flooded in and working frm home...Nice eet ees and wheeeee, this eet ees my first post ever on my own very own blog...


Mike Papa said...

Your forst comment too :)

Good stuff papster. Keep writing betch, dont write for a month and let this rot.
Nature, evident in some small measure along the 110 kms of the Expressway. Green, every concrete inch of the way. Booti-ful place.

anticaps said...

kitsy-poo, am not a nature lover. so i only read the last paragraph. change your blog title to "whee."

soothing waves said...

awesome it is..and very true..nice article.Nature is also very over powering..think thats the reason why sometimes i become silent and reflective when i m at the beach...Silent when i come face to face with nature:D

Kits said...

Agreeed Rao..I could stare at the ocean for hours on end. Probably will get sunburn at the end but still wot an awesome experience!