Great to be back in Iceland, and as usual it doesn’t disappoint. Ian and myself got the (very) early flight from drizzle Brizzle, got the van sorted and, to make use of our time before picking up camera assistant Neil that evening, went on a recce to the South Western peninsula of Reykjanes.
This peninsula is one huge lava field, an outpouring of a massive eruption a few hundred years ago, its created a barren landscape that stretches for miles and miles. There is a stark beauty about this place that matches nothing Ive seen before on my travels.
The area is home to the famous Blue Lagoon (more on this down the line) a geothermal pool popular with locals and tourists alike that plays host to some wild parties all year round. Not being as hardy as the locals, us soft southerners didn’t take a dip and opted instead to recce the area for a shoot we will be doing here later in the summer.
So we headed over to the Gunnuhver mud pools and vents, some of the largest in Iceland, with the most spectacular lighthouse nearby…. nobody told us about the ghosts and spectres though….
Legend has that 400 years ago a witch called Gunn became involved in an argument with the local judge over an unpaid debt. Judge Vilhjálmur ruled that Gunns only possession, a cooking pot, should be taken in payment for this debt, an act that sent Gunn into a fury, swearing eternal revenge.
When she died, Judge Vilhjálmur attended her funeral, but disappeared on his way home through Reykjanes. Next day, his body was found, battered and bruised..and in the graveyard, the witches coffin was empty. Gunn had returned from the afterlife.
Shortly after, the Judges’ wife also died in mysterious circumstances and for years the ghost of Gunn caused havoc for the locals, with villagers disappearing and women and children going mad. So they enlisted the services of a local pastor who was also a powerful sorcerer (an interesting theological combination!). After much contemplation (and a fair amount of the local liquid spirits) he came up with the novel idea of giving this ghostly witch the end of a piece of wool, then throwing the ball of wool into the boiling mud pools. This proved successful apparently, and the powerful spectre followed the wool ball down to the steaming pools where she remains tethered to this day…some say you can still see and sense her in the right conditions even now, and with the sulphuric smells, clouds of steam, and bubbling cauldrons of mud, its definitely a place that makes your other senses come alive.
I’d love to say that Ian and I saw the ghost. Sadly, on this occasion all we saw were a few American tourists braving the elements (incidentally, very close by to here you can cross continents from one tectonic plate to another, America to Europe in about a second), a pretty spectacular lighthouse, and a small but very cool fulmar colony on the sea cliff nearby.
Whilst we were down there we took a look at the lava formations down by the sea edge. For two committed monochrome nuts like Ian and myself, seeing the extraordinary colours formed by the molten rock cooling and leaching out various minerals was a treat indeed.
So all round a successful recce, we’ll be coming back here later in the summer to do some filming underground in the lava tubes and with a bit of luck, a decent down inside the magma chamber of a real volcano, looking forward to that!
As always in Iceland, it never ceases to amaze me how even in the most inhospitable and barren parts of this incredible island, life manages to grab a foothold and flourish, its not just the witches that come back to life here..