Iceland – Day 5

On the last day of our stay, the planned stops were the Fagradalsfjall volcano and a dip at the hot springs in Blue lagoon before we got to the hotel and prepare for departing the next morning. It was still overcast changing to rain at regular intervals and with temperatures around 4c.

Our drive to our first took us along the coast for most of the time, giving us a view of the North Atlantic ocean. We even spotted a cute light house.

Fagradalsfjall volcano Crater

This volcano had erupted in March 2021 and once again in August 2022, obviously at two different spots; the craters to both of these spots were accessible thru hiking trails that were 3km and 6km from the base of the mountain and the longer hike was considered a difficult one involving a substantial elevation gain as we would have to almost get to the rim of the mountain. So we decided to visit the crater from the March 2021 eruption. The sight on getting to the area of the lava flow was an awesome site with huge area covered with the lava rocks of different shapes and sizes, and still smouldering; further down, the entire stretch of the flow of the volcano could be seen for quite a distance.

We were climbed further up to get to the crater and once again it was an impressive site giving us an idea about the power of the volcano and the destruction it could cause and here we were merrily walking around. It is simply something one has to experience for no words can describe it and the feeling of standing there. Imagine the feeling that one would have to be standing close to the flow of lava from an active eruption, as we had seen in the movie at the museum where hundreds of people were exactly doing that.

First Level of view of the Lava Flow
From the Crater

Blue Lagoon

Our last stop was Blue Lagoon which we had visited on the first day, but this time we got into the hot springs for about an hour; the contrasting hot/warm water and the cold air above the water is an interesting experience.

Wrapup

Iceland is a wonderful place to visit and its unique landscape and features shaped by the volcanic activity is a must see for everyone. Our only disappointment was not being able to see a good northern lights show, but without cooperation from mother nature on the earth and the sun flares from sun as well, is not something we cannot predict.

We chose to drive around on our own and that gave us the flexibility to choose the places to see, time to spend at each location etc. We could randomly stop anywhere we wanted and spend time as we pleased which we could not have done if we had used the tour operators.

We were forewarned that the weather is quite unpredictable and that is exactly what we experienced. This is something that anyone planning to visit needs to be prepared for.

Iceland – Day 4

It was back to rain and wind though not that strong as we stated out in the morning towards Vik, which is famous for its black sand beach, water falls on the way and the edge of a Glacier.

Seljalandsfoss

The first stop was the waterfall Seljalandsfoss (by now you would have realized that ‘foss’ is ‘waterfall’ in Icelandic), which is actually a bunch of falls next to each other and visible from the road as you head west towards Vik. The main falls, clearly he most impressive of the set, was the one with people milling around it and also on the walkway behind the falls. The falls that was farthest removed from the main one, is completely behind a rock formation and was a place to get wet from the spray from the falling water.

After spending time looking at the series of falls, as we headed towards to the Sk贸gafoss waterfall, on the mountains to the left us (as we drove) we got to see numerous waterfalls of varying sizes and heights; the wind was so strong that the water was just flying away midway and never reaching the ground at all. And dotting the mountains were sheep grazing away at heights that made us wonder as to how they were able to get so far up.

Sk贸gafoss

After getting a view of the Sk贸gafoss falls from the ground level, we climbed up about 600 steps to get an awesome view and power of the falls from above.

These two falls and the numerous ones in between are fed by the melting snow up in the mountains that you can see in the map, which obviously led us to the edge of the S贸lheimaj枚kull glacier. After a short hike from the parking lot, we got to the edge of the glacier – one thinks of a glacier with a sense of awe and expecting that the melting edge would be a spectacular view, but the reality is that the breaking off of the pieces of the glacier happens so very slowly and it is only possible to imagine the breaking off the chunks of ice that are down the river created by the melting of the ice.

Dyrh贸laey Lighthouse & Viewpoint

From this spot, which is at an elevation, one is supposed to be get beautiful view of the ocean, spectacular rock formations, the black sand beaches on either side and the puffins that live around. But by the time we reached this place, the rain and wind had intensified and added to that was the fog making the visibility quite poor. After having a quick peep at the lighthouse and the black sand beach below, we left for the town of Vik to get lunch.

Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara

This is an extremely popular spot for tourists for good reason and it was teeming with people in spite of the rain and wind, and also warnings not to get close to the water because of extremely rough waves and the rip tides.

We were hoping to see the northern lights during our stay and the continued rainy and overcast weather was making it seem that that there was little chance that we would witness it at all.

The hotel we were staying was in a remote area and perhaps one of the best places to see the northern lights from, of course if that did happen. The hotel had a nice arrangement that they would call the rooms when they found that the northern lights were putting on a show any time during the night. Although the staff were not very doubtful about the chances for a show that night, we did get a call that got us running out along with all the guests as well. At best it was a mini show that lasted for 15-20 minutes and the lights were quite low in intensity. The interesting find was that my iPhone camera was able to capture the image very well, perhaps even better than that seen with our eyes.

Iceland – Day 3

This was the day to take the Golden Circle route to view the famous attractions which we expected would be the destination for other tourists as well. And we were not wrong as we saw dozens of tourist buses in each of these attractions and parking in a couple of these areas turned out to be as bad an experience as parking in New York city!

It was a beautiful sunny day with no signs of the rain and wind of the previous day, still on the cold side however around 4C.

Thingvellir National Park

This park is a part of the Atlantic Ocean ridge that runs through Iceland because of which it features a unique ecosystem shaped by the erosion of the earth’s crust in the gorges and fissures. It is a haven for hikers in that there are numerous hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty.

It is in this area that the river 脰xar谩 plays a major role in this area making it a perfect place for settlement with pastures, firewood and water. And it has been place where numerous events related to the history of Iceland have taken place. Now being a national park, it is a protected area and extremely popular with tourists year around.

The waterfalls you see, flows from the north american plate at a higher level down into the ridge; the difference in the levels is accentuated by the canyon walls as one walks thru to the waterfalls. Apparently the falls has been manipulated in other words man-made to make it an impressive sight and that it is.

Geysir Hot Springs

This is approximately a one square mile geothermal field aligning with the Atlantic Ocean ridge, with a couple of active geysers, boiling mud pits etc. It is a certainly a popular area, where people are lined up waiting for the Strokkur geyser to spout hot water steam which happens once every minute or two. And as expected, the strong smell of sulfur is all around the area.

While it is a great spot to visit, I have to say though that this geyser pales in comparison to the geysers, hot springs, boiling mud pots etc. in America’s Yellow Stone park, which I have seen a few years ago. Yellowstone is sitting atop a super volcano and it is not surprise that this area and the Yellowstone feel similar.

Gulfoss Waterfalls

To me this waterfall was the most impressive spot in the Golden Circle as you can experience in the video below. On the river Hv铆t谩 which is fed by the glacier Langj枚kull, it is an impressive falls with intensity close to the Niagara falls. With two stages, we could view the falls from numerous locations and levels (close to the water and from up above). Typical of such powerful falls, the water descends into Gullfossgj煤fur canyon, a deep canyon more than 200 feet tall on either side.

Getting to the lower levels and close to the water means that you get drenched from the water spray; if you are planning to get close beware of this fact.

Kerig Crater

Our last stop for the day was the Kerig crater, a unique volcano with an aquamarine blue lake atop its caldera. When this volcano erupted 3000 years ago, the caldera did not blow out entirely but fell back to create this crater and over centuries the crater was filled with water forming this beautiful lake.

We hiked around the top of the crater getting a complete view of the crater and finally climbing down to the lake. There is a hiking path along the lake too, but having seen a couple of slip on that trail because of rains on the previous day, we decided not to hike but just enjoy the scenery.

Iceland – Day 2

The city of Reykjavik was to be the main area for exploration with options to get to some of the areas around the city were out initial plan for the day, but it became evident that the city was the only option as the day dawned on us. It was a cold, gray, rainy day with 35-40 mph winds making indoor spaces as the only option. In places, the wind seemed far worse than the posted 35-40 mph because of the tunnel effect. Some would call this simply a ‘museum day’ 馃槈

Perlan Museum

It is a beautiful museum with a glass dome housing a revolving restaurant at the top floor – if one sits around long enough one get a 360 view of the city. The exhibits essentially relate to the formation of the island, the glaciers or rather the disappearing glaciers, the volcanoes and of course the aurora or the northern lights. While it appears similar to many other natural history museums around the world, the unique nature of the country in terms of their landscape, volcanoes, glaciers and aurora are highlighted in their exhibits and shows.

The show on the aurora in their i-max like theater is not only educational in terms of understanding the science behind the aurora, one gets to see the full grandeur of the aurora that one may or may not get to see in person; an interesting side note is that there are tours for watching the aurora where a bus drives the tourists to numerous places where aurora can be seen without any interference!! As the narrator emphasized, it is a natural event and hence without clear skies and the solar flares not cooperating it is pretty much not possible to see the aurora as one pleased!

The movie on the volcanoes was equally impressive, where they showed a recent eruption with unbelievable closeups. And there were hundreds of people standing and watching the hot lava flow from probably 10-15 feet away; it sort of reminded the videos from Hawaii (Big Island) a few years ago, where the lava was flowing thru a neighborhood and burning up the houses on the path!

They also had an indoor ice cave we could walk thru to experience the -15C environment (volunteer to freeze in other words :-))

Hallgrimskirkja church

Our next stop was to view the insides of the church and also get to the top of the tower to get a 360 view of the city and surrounds. The church sits at the top of a hill and it was here where we felt the full impact of the winds; fully grown adults were being pushed around by the wind like rag dolls.

The insides of the church was unique in its design in such a way that one would think it was made of ice. The absence of stain glass windows, paintings and ornamentation of any kind which is typical of most churches, gave it an appearance of the church being made of ice. Unfortunately for us, the elevator that takes visitors to the top of the church where one can get a view of the city had broken down and so could not get that view; in a way it may been a blessing in disguise because the winds at that height would have even stronger.

Grotta Light House

The Grotta lighthouse is situated at the western edge of the city and that was our next stop. The current lighthouse was built in 1947 replacing the original one that was built in 1897. It is in a vast open area that is surrounded by black sand and a rugged coastline, and is a refuge for birds.

Even as we approached the parking area for the lighthouse we realized that it was going to be ‘see from a distance’ mode of looking at it. The combo of the choppy sea waters close by, the heavy wind and a half mile or more walk to the lighthouse, simply did not seem an option at all. While we did see a couple of brave souls making the trip to the light house, we saw a bunch of cars come in, turn around and leave without even bothering to stop! And it is also here that I experienced what the winds could do; opening and closing the car required using a lot strength and quite an unforgettable one too, which happened over and over again.

Harpa

Harpa is clearly a striking landmark in the city and visible from many a place. My initial impression was that this was the place for music concerts and opera, but it turns out that it is used many other purposes too. In addition being the venue of concerts and operas, it is also a conference center and a public place. With the concert hall closed for a private event, we were limited to viewing the insides of the building which had an interesting feature that much of the walls were simply plain concrete and the day light pouring into the building thru the glass structures lining the outer walls of the building.

The shore line has a ‘Sculpture and Shore Walk’ which is lined with numerous sculpture which we could see from our room/hotel. Sadly with the rain and wind, that was a walk which could not take and missed viewing the touted sculptures.

From our room, we had a full view of the Hofra house which is of historical significance for various reasons, the well known one being the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev when they signed the peace agreement ending the cold war. It is also supposed to have a piece of the Berlin wall.

Some pictures from our hotel:

Visiting Iceland

Visiting Iceland

Iceland has been a place that we have wanted to visit for quite a while. One important motive was the potential to see the Aurora or the Northern Lights and then of course the unique landscape and the natural beauty that this country has. Since the country is sparsely populated (373,000 as per a recent count), one needs to plan the trips carefully and choose between going to the popular destinations and more adventurous trek around the country. And then you have the weather to deal with – summers can have daylight pretty much all the time and winters can be no daylight at all. Added to that is the constantly changing weather in terms of rain, snow, wind and of course sun, all of which could potentially experienced within a 2 hour period.

We made the trip in the early part of October with the plan to spend 5 days on the island going around the south western part of the country which also happens to be the popular among the tourists and hopefully get to see the Aurora if we were lucky. We also decided that we would rent a car and drive around to see the places of our choice and at the pace we wanted.

Day 1

On landing at the Keflavik airport, we went thru the immigration which was a breeze, collected our bags, had a cup of coffee at the airport, got to the rental car place and were on the road within an hour of landing. The plan was to see a bunch of attractions south of the airport and then head to Reykjavik where we would be staying for a couple of nights.

It was quite overcast with rain in the forecast, temperatures around 40F and a strong wind. We started out with our fingers crossed on how the weather would hold out for the day. As soon as we got on to the road, we found the landscape to quite unique in that everything around was lava rock in various shapes and sizes, very little vegetation and it was only a day or two later that we saw any trees!

The first stop was the ‘Bridge Between Continents’, which is seriously advertised spot for viewing the continental divide or where the North American plates and the Eurasian plates meet or grind against each other depending on how you look at it.

Before jumping into what we saw there, Iceland happens to belong both the North American and Eurasian plates with the divide running across the country in rather a dramatic fashion. And for that reason there are volcanoes scattered all around and the landscape looks very different from any other place one would have seen other than the Big Island in Hawaii. And for this reason, the island grows a couple of centimeters every year, but loses that anyway because of erosion. Here is a picture of the plates running thru the island.

The area we were at was a trench of sorts between the two plates and with a bridge that was to give a feeling that one would be crossing from one plate to another.

The next stop was the ‘Reykjanes Lighthouse’ located at the tip of the south western part of the island. Sitting a top a hill, it is a cute light house built in 1908 having replaced the previous one that was destroyed by an earthquake. We were unable to go up the lighthouse which we would have loved to. From the foot of the lighthouse, once can see the ocean with some breathtaking rock formations on one side, the hot springs on the other side and a power plant generating electricity from the geothermal energy (we saw quite a few power plants around the island based on geothermal energy).

The name to fame for the Gunnuhver Hot Springs is the fact there is a power plant near by, but it also happens that there was a family who lived right next to hot springs in the first half of last century, using the heat and the hot water from it for pretty much all their needs. The area stank of sulpher, but I guess the need for heat overcomes these inconveniences – haha.

The next stop was the ‘Brimketill lava rock pool’, supposed to be famous for its seawater filled bathtub of sorts. The shoreline full of rocks, cliffs and with giant waves pounding the rocks was a sight to see, but the bathtub was a letdown; it was simply an area up on the rocks that looked like a bath tub and filled up with the seawater from the waves.

Blue Lagoon was the next stop; For some, the name may conjure up the memories of the movie with this name from the 80s, but there is no connection between the two at all. It is a geothermal spa atop a lava field with hot sea water fed from the underground reservoirs.

Till we reached this place, we may have seen dozen people at the most in the spots we were at and on arriving here, we saw a hue parking lot with dozens of buses, hundreds of cars and of course people. The presence of tourists in Iceland was in full view! As you go into the facility, you see the lava fields fields filled with the blue water and white crusted edges of the ponds in various shapes and sizes, which are outside the main pool. The main pool continuously fed by the underground springs is pretty large accommodating hundreds of people at a time. The water (sea water to be precise) is between 32-38C feels very soothing even though the outside temperature is around 3-4C.

While Blue Lagoon is well known and perhaps the largest of them, there are hot springs all around the island; If you are visiting Iceland, make sure that you do get into one of the hot springs.

We then headed into the city of Reykjavik and checked into FossHotel. Our room on the 12th floor had a beautiful view of the city and the mountains to the north across the waters of the Greenland Sea. The crazy weather patterns were most visible from this vantage spot in that as I looked around, I saw sunshine on one side, low hanging clouds in another and rains farther out and the scenery was changing by the minute!

We knew the next day was going to be rainy, colder and windy – but we had no idea the kind of weather that we would be having the next day!!

A Whistle concert by S Kalynaraman

In the recent months, I have been going thru the recordings of S Kalyanaraman that I have not listened to at all. It is a combination of duplicates, poor recording qualities etc. The intent is to identify the ones that are different from the ones already on my blog and add them to the current set.

And it is then, that I ran into a whistle concert, the one and only one among the set I was going thru; I do remember that in his later days he had difficulties with his voice and have read about his attempts (for want of a better word) in whistling rather than singing. To my knowledge, whistle is often used in the back ground music and interludes in the movie songs, but a full fledged concert was something that I could not wrap by head around at all.

So, with some trepidation, I started listening to the concert only to realize that my assumptions and expectations were completely wrong. In almost every way, this concert is a typical Kalyanaraman concert, with the only difference that he is whistling. He has brought in pretty much almost all elements of his singing style and everything that goes with it into his whistling.

The accompaniments have done a great job of ensuring that they are not overpowering the whistle which for obvious reasons has a low volume levels.

Hope you enjoy this concert as much as I did.

with A Kanyakumari, S V Raja Rao and E M Subramaniam

  1. vAtApi gaNapatim – hamsadwani
  2. bAgAyanayyA – chandrajyOti
  3. jAlandara – valaji
  4. nannupAlimpa – mOhanam
  5. suguNamule – chakravAgam
  6. rAgam tAnam pallavi – shanmukapriyA
  7. dikku teriyAda kATTil – rAgamAlika

Ramayana – A Picture Story

You may ask as to why I would be referring to a picture story of Ramayana in this age where Ramayana is available in so many forms and media. May be it is nostalgia or that I have not seen the epic being presented in a picture book or that my wondering about what motivated the publisher in printing this story close to a hundred years ago. It is an impressive representation of the huge epic which has been depicted thru pictures in 108 slides!

I had this picture story as pages organized as inserts or slides in a book for a very long time; I wonder how this was actually printed originally for it seems that my maternal grandfather moved the pages into a book in order to preserve it more than anything else. Many years ago, I transferred these pages into plastic sleeves to protect them from further decay.聽

You can see that this was published close to 100 years ago (1928 or around) and I am glad that they are in decent shape. The discolorations you see are because of scotch tape or variations there of used to fix the tears and other reasons that could have happened while they were being inserted into the book and plastic sleeves. There are a few missing pages.

This PDF files is a scan of these sheets.

You can also read it using this link https://archive.org/details/ramayana_202202