Thursday, 5 September 2019

Thoughts on brexit and democracy

Whether you think we should leave or remain, as far as I can see these are the facts:
  1. For the past 40 years, the EU have been getting the blame for a lot of problems. Some of this is deserved, some of it is scape goating.
  2. In 2016 the Prime Minister, David Cameron, committed to doing "my best" to implement the result of the referendum.
  3. David Cameron arranged for parliament to legislate for an advisory referendum.
  4. Campaigns commenced, in which both sides lied. They stated things about our current relationship with the EU which were demonstrably untrue (or at the very least, were designed to mislead), they continued to do so after evidence was presented showing they were untrue, and they presented their predictions as fact - both sides said certain things would definitely happen if we voted to leave, and that certain things would definitely happen if we voted to remain.
  5. Several of the big campaigns broke the law (and this has since been proved in court.
  6. The referendum was held, in which 52% of voters voted to "leave" and 48% voted to "remain". Both options were unqualified as to exactly what they meant.
  7. David Cameron demonstrated what doing "my best" entailed by immediately quitting and leaving the problem to Theresa May.
  8. Parliament is made up of MPs who have direct contact with their constituents, but the government didn't try to gauge Parliament's understanding of what their constituents wanted from brexit, and therefore what Parliament were likely to support.
  9. The Conservative government interpreted the referendum result as meaning that a "hard" brexit should be implemented and started work to take us out of the single market.
  10. Parliament voted to start the process of us leaving the EU. 81% voted to start the process, 19% voted not to start the process.
  11. Despite 81% of the MPs apparently supporting leaving (at least, they voted to start the process), the government felt they didn't have a big enough majority to push through a "hard brexit", so called a general election.
  12. In 2017, the public democratically elected a new parliament, and the Conservative party lost their majority, but stayed in power as a minority government.
  13. The government's strategy to leave the EU remained unchanged despite the new mix of MPs - they were still negotiating a hard Brexit with no input from the new Parliament.  The MPs are elected to represent all of their constituents, but the government didn't consult with them to see what the constituents wanted from brexit, and therefore what Parliament would support.
  14. The government negotiated a "hard brexit" deal with the EU and then asked Parliament to support it.  Parliament refused to support it, which might not be surprising since the government had never asked if their view of brexit matched up with the views of the MPs.
  15. Courts ruled that there had been a lot of wrong-doing during the referendum, but that they couldn't invalidate the result because it had been legislated as an "advisory" referendum, despite David Cameron pledging to implement whatever the result was.  If the referendum had not been "advisory", its likely that the result would have been declared invalid and the whole thing re-run to make sure the public.
  16. There is testimony from an expert that there's good reason to believe that the illegal behaviour significantly affected the referendum result.  This is obviously expert opinion rather than provable fact.
  17. In 2019, Boris Johnson took over as Prime Minister.  One of his first acts was to prorogue (suspend) Parliament.  This would reduce the amount of time available to Parliament and likely reduce the amount of influence Parliament has over brexit.  I'm not commenting on why he is proroguing Parliament, only that he is and it has an impact.
  18. Boris Johnson has stated that he believes he will get a last minute deal from the EU, but that if he doesn't we will leave without a deal.
  19. The vast majority of MPs in Parliament have indicated that they don't support the UK leaving without a deal.
  20. The majority of MPs have indicated that they don't support risking a no-deal brexit.  There is good indication that many of them simply don't believe that the Prime Minister will get a deal.
  21. The Prime Minister reportedly hasn't actually tried to negotiate with the EU, which probably makes MPs less inclined to believe he will get a deal.
  22. Parliament have voted to prevent a no-deal brexit from happening.

Opinion

So, I've tried to be as factual as possible up until now.  I don't think you can reasonably argue that any of the facts above are untrue.  Certainly I've seen people dismiss expert opinion with comments like "oh but that expert is a remainer so their opinion doesn't count", but that doesn't change the fact that an expert has expressed an opinion.

This is where things get a bit more murky, because I'm putting my opinion forward rather than just sticking to the facts.  But I've tried to think critically and logically about this in light of all the facts.

Firstly, I think dismissing expert opinions as irrelevant because they might have some bias is a shame - all experts on both sides have valuable things to say.  But notably, most of the expert opinion I have seen is that leaving without a deal is going to cause big problems.  Conversely, the claims that everything will be fine always seem to be made by people who are not experts in the relevant field.  If you think it'll all be fine then that's great - go look at the evidence, reason critically and present your findings.  If you're not an expert and you're not prepared to present any evidence, please forgive me if I choose to believe the people who are qualified in the relevant field or are presenting compelling evidence.

Now, I have a problem with the original interpretation that the public voted for a "hard-brexit" for two reasons: Firstly, because the official Vote Leave campaign, and several other campaigns explicitly stated that voting "leave" would not lead to us leaving the single market, and as the referendum itself didn't specify one way or the other, there is absolutely no indication that this is what the majority actually wanted; and secondly because the voters only voted to leave by a fairly slim majority, so reasonably a government should also be working to accommodate the significant minority too. It seems to me that it would have been more reasonable for the government to try and accommodate both sides by taking some middle ground and heading for the "Norway solution", and indeed that is what most of the high profile campaigners on the "leave" side had been promoting immediately prior to the referendum.

Secondly, the government has put about more and more rhetoric that people voted to leave the EU at any cost, and that a no-deal brexit is "the will of the people".  Since there seems to be a problem demonstrating that the public voted for a "hard brexit", demonstrating that they voted for a no-deal seems even more of a problem.  I've heard it said that David Cameron is on video saying, prior to the referendum, that a no-deal is a possibility, but I've not seen this video, nor been able to find it.  Regardless, the official Vote Leave campaign, and most of the other big "leave" campaigns didn't discuss this possibility, so I don't think you can reasonably say that people expected it to happen as a result of voting to leave the EU.

My summary on this is: if the referendum result doesn't clearly show that people voted for a "hard-brexit" or "no-deal" brexit, rather than one of the many other types that were possible, you need to actually ask rather than just making it up.


Thirdly, the idea that Parliament preventing a no-deal is somehow undemocratic doesn't seem to make sense: MPs are elected to represent all of their constituents.  In order to do this they talk to constituents, etc. and if their constituents are overwhelmingly against no-deal they have an obligation to represent that view and vote against a no-deal..

Similarly, I've seen claims that Parliament doesn't represent "the will of the people" because most MPs are in favour of remaining.  I can't comment on whether a majority of MPs actually are in favour of remaining these days (I don't think there has been any indicative vote on that?) but you can't forget that they were democratically elected a year after the original referendum.  If a constituency still wanted to leave the EU, they wouldn't have elected an MP who supports remaining.  It seems only reasonable to assume that the current mix of MPs is reasonably representative of their constituencies, so if they are at odds with the referendum that seems to be all the more reason to suspect that the referendum result is no longer an accurate representation of "the will of the people".  Similarly, its important to remember that many of the current MPs weren't the ones who voted to start the process of us leaving, many weren't the ones who voted to have a referendum in the first place, and many were elected on a manifesto of not supporting brexit.

Finally, if you have a democratically elected Parliament, the idea that it is ok to use constitutional loopholes to prevent them from overturning a referendum that happened long before they were elected seems bonkers.  People change their minds, and you can't argue that a "remain" supporting MP who was elected in 2017 shouldn't be allowed to represent those views because their constituency voted "leave" in 2016 doesn't make sense - if the people of a "leave" voting constituency still wanted to leave, why would they have elected a "remain" supporting MP?

Democratically elected MPs who stand up for what they honestly believe their constituents now want, rather than what they wanted 3 years ago, are not "traitors" - please stop calling them that.  "Traitor" is not synonymous with "has s slightly different vision of brexit than me".

And last, but not least, comments like "the EU aren't trying to give us a good deal" make absolutely no sense at all. The EU's obligations are to negotiate in a way that benefits their members, they are not obliged to give us a good deal. If we're lucky, there will be overlap between things that benefit them and things that benefit us, and that's where a good deal for both sides comes from. But the EU isn't going to harm themselves in order to give us a good deal, and why should anyone expect them to?  At the moment, it appears that the EU has decided that agreeing to the UK's "red lines" is more harmful to them than a no-deal, and the only way we can change their opinion is by changing our red lines.

The fact that we are told that "give us a deal or we'll shoot ourselves in the head" is our best negotiating tactic really underlines just how weak the UK's negotiating position is, and if we won't compromise why would we expect the EU to?

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Carbon footprint

I've been doing some work estimating the carbon footprint of running servers with the aim to offset our products.  There are obviously two main parts to this: the emissions caused by manufacturing, supplying (and, at the end of its life, disposing of) the hardware, and those caused by actually running the hardware.  The former is a one-off cost each time you buy a new server, whereas the latter is the ongoing cost (e.g. electricity for powering the server, the air conditioning to keep it cool, etc.)

There are lots of different types of emissions that contribute to climate change, and for simplicity these are all summed together and expressed as kilograms of CO2 equivalent (kgCO2e).

Dell, helpfully, publish carbon footprint figures for their hardware, but unfortunately don't explain their methodology and some of the figures look suspiciously like a work of fiction to me.  I'll look at the Dell PowerEdge R440 as an example.

Dell's data sheet estimates a total carbon footprint and breaks down the carbon footprint into several aspects by percentage.  So I can use that total and the breakdown to calculate the carbon footprint of each aspect:
AspectPercentageEmissions
Manufacturing15.7%1155.52 kgCO2e
Transportation0.3%22.08 kgCO2e
Use83.9%6175.04 kgCO2e
EoL0.1%7.36 kgCO2e
TOTAL100%7360 kgCO2e

The data sheet estimates it uses 1480.002 KWh / year, and they assume a 4 year life, so that's 5920.008 KWh over its life.  They don't say what "Use" actually includes - I'm assuming that it is just the electrical power consumed by the server.

The amount of CO2e created in order to generate a KWh of electricity depends on how you're generating it - wind, hydro, solar, nuclear, etc. produce low emissions, coal produces very high emissions, gas is somewhere in the middle.  In the UK, DEFRA publish annual conversion factors based on the current generation mix on the national grid.  This changes year to year (the trend is downwards as we add more green capacity to the grid) and in 2019, this conversion factor is 0.2773 kgCO2e / KWh including transmission and distribution.  Other countries have a different mix of generating capacities, so will need a different conversion factor.

So, given the electricity consumption that Dell estimate over the server's life (5920.008 KWh), the emissions quoted for "Use" seem outrageously high - the conversion factor they seem to have used works out at 1.043 kgCO2e / KWh - almost 4 times the DEFRA figures.

A 2011 report from the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology estimates that coal power (which is the worst case) produces 0.786-0.990 kgCO2e / KWh, so Dell's figure is even worse than the worst case of running the hardware off 100% coal power.

Its possible that their "Use" figure also includes the air conditioning required to keep the server cool.  If this is the case it makes their figures quite useless since they don't actually say that's what they're doing.  A rule of thumb is that about 50% of the power consumed by a data centre goes on air conditioning, so that would make their conversion factor 0.5215 kgCO2 / KWh - still way above DEFRA's figures for 2019.  In fact, even DEFRA's conversion factor from 2002 is significantly lower than this.

Unfortunately, very few other server vendors seem to publish figures to use as a comparison.  I couldn't find anything for HP kit (they provide a carbon footprint calculator, but this is only for printers, workstations and stuff rather than servers, and it also doesn't work at all).  Lenovo don't publish any information for their servers, but they do for workstations - although I haven't analysed their numbers in depth, they do look more reasonable than Dell's, attributing around 50% of the emissions to "use".

Recalculating Dell's figures using DEFRA's conversion factors, I would expect something like:
AspectPercentageEmissions
Manufacturing40.9%1155.52 kgCO2e
Transportation0.8%22.08 kgCO2e
Use58.1%1641.62 kgCO2e
EoL0.3%7.36 kgCO2e
TOTAL100%2826.58 kgCO2e

This looks more in line with Lenovo's figures.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Netfilter's conntrack

People who use Linux for firewalling tend to use iptables to set up their rules.  The subsystem in the Linux kernel that actually does the firewalling is called Netfilter.

I've never found a complete description of all of Netfilter's features, especially some of the lesser used ones.  So here is a bit of an overview which includes a few recent discoveries that I've not seen documented elsewhere:

Netfilter includes a connection tracker, which can keep track of each flow that the system is handling.  Each flow has a 32 bit value called the connection mark (connmark), which you can use for anything you like.  This mark allows you to record 32 bits of information that persists as long as the flow does rather than having to treat each packet in complete isolation.

Packets traversing through the system are always in one of the following connection tracking states: UNTRACKED, INVALID, NEW, ESTABISHED, RELATED.

UNTRACKED and INVALID refer to packets that are either explicitly being excluded from connection tracking, or that the connection tracker doesn't think are valid for the current state of the flows that it knows about.

When a new flow is established, the first packet is in either the NEW or RELATED state, and subsequent packets are in the ESTABLISHED state.  RELATED means that netfilter thinks that the new flow is somehow related to another flow, and therefore shouldn't be handled in complete isolation.

I've seen information elsewhere that says that when a flow starts in the RELATED state, it inherits the connmark from the parent.  Experimentation shows that this isn't entirely accurate (or at least, not entirely clear).  It turns out that flows that start in the RELATED state permanently share the same connmark data with the flow(s) that they are related to.  This means that if any of the flows change their connmark, those changes also affect any other flows that they are related to.

The REJECT filter target asks the kernel to drop the packet being processed and reply with some kind of packet that indicates that it was rejected.  For example, "-j REJECT --reject-with tcp-reset" will respond with a TCP RST packet.  The response packet originates in the OUTPUT chains and has a state of RELATED, rather than being considered part of the original connection as you might expect.

In the case of rejecting connections with a TCP RST packet, the RST will, of course, have the same 5-tuple as the original TCP connection.  There doesn't appear to be any way of accessing a unique ID that identifies the flow, so as far as I can tell it is (probably) impossible for an external application to reliably tell the difference between packets belonging to the original (rejected) flow, and packets belonging to the related flow that carries the RST.

It is a shame that a flow ID isn't made available to user applications through the NFLOG / NFQUEUE interface.  Some poking around suggests that a flow ID *might* be available through the NFQA_CT section of the netlink message, so that warrants further investigation maybe.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Gwlad yr Iâ / Iceland

Scroll down for English.



Cymraeg

Yng nghanol mis Hydref, treuliodd Mel a fi wythnos yng Ngwlad y Iâ. Hedfanon ni o Gatwick ac roedd yr hedfan yn brofiad diddorol. Hedfanon ni ar hyd y Deyrnas Unedig, uwchben awyr glir, dros Ynys Skye ac Ynysoedd Allanol Heledd. Ar uchder o 11Km dros Glasgow, gwelon ni bod y wlad yn gul iawn yn y gogledd. Ro’n ni’n gallu gweld yr Afon Forth a Môr y Gogledd trwy’r ffenestri ar y dde, a Chefnfor yr Iwerydd ar y chwith.

Cyrhaeddon ni Keflavik yn y glaw, yng nghanol y prynhawn. Ar ôl casglu ein bag a’r car llogi, roedd rhaid i ni wneud tipyn bach o siopa – bwyd a thanwydd ar gyfer ein stôfau gwersylla. Gwnes i ymchwilio cyn gadael cartef, a chredais i bod poteli nwy, a thanwydd Coleman ar gael mewn gorsafoedd petrol. Yn anffodus, doedd dim un o’r ddau ar gael mewn gorsaf betrol. Yn ffodus, gwelon ni botel o “lampa olía” (cerosin), a oedd yn addas. Yn y pen draw, doedd dim rhaid i ni boeni, achos yng ngwersyll Grindavik, roedd cwpwrdd mawr yn hanner llawn o boteli nwy, yn rhad ac am ddim.

Gaethon ni bryd o fwyd hyfryd hyfryd o dorgoch gyda saws cimwch mewn bwyty o’r enw Ráin, ac yna gyrron ni dipyn bach yn ofnus i Grindavik. Yn y dyfodol, dylwn ni gofio peidio â gyrru mewn gwlad dramor am y tro cyntaf yn y tywyllwch!

Dydd Sul

Dihunon ni fore Sul yng ngwersyll Grindavik a phacion cyn mynd i Geysir. Ar y ffordd, gwelon ni ceudwll folcanig yn Kerið. Maen nhw credu bod y ceudwll yn ffurfio pan bod cerrig o’r wyneb yn cwympo i mewn i siambr magma’r llosgfynydd. Mae llyn afloyw ar waelod y ceudwll a llawer o adar adeingoch dof o gwmpas.

Yn Geysir, mae siopau â llawer o feysydd parcio. Cerddon ni o gwmpas y ffynhonnau poeth, gyda nentydd o ddŵr yn llifo dros y tir. Cyn bo hir, cyrhaeddon ni geiser Strokkur, sy’n echdorri pob 5-10 munudau. Pob 20 metr mae jet uchel o ddŵr poeth yn echdorri, ac yn llifo dros y llwybr, gan adael haen o fwynau. Roedd y ffynhonnau mawr poeth â mwynau o’u cwmpas nhw, ac aethon ni lan y bryn am olygfa o’r holl le.

Yn wreiddiol, ro’n ni wedi cynllunio i wersylla yn Hveravellir, yn yr ucheldir. Ro’n ni credu bod yr heol (F35) fel arfer ar gau ar ddiwedd mis Hydref. Ond roedd yr heolydd wedi cau am sawl wythnos, achos yr eira a gwersyllon ni yn Sjkól, ar bwys Geysir.

Ar ôl gosod y babell, ymwelon ni â rhaeadr Gullfoss. Mae grisiau enfawr o rhaeadrau yno. Roedd arwydd ar y llwybr yn argymell defnyddio cramponau, ond roedd pawb yn ei anwybyddu. Ffeindion ni ddim iâ ar y llwybr, ond roedd chwistrell o’r rhaeadrau, yn rhewi ar lannau’r afon.

Tra ro’n ni’n coginio swper, roedd Mel yn meddwl ei bod hi yn gallu gweld golau glaswyrdd yn y awyr. Wedyn ar ôl iddi hi dywyllu, gwelon ni’r Aurora Borealis yn dawnsio ar draws yr wybren. Roedd y golau’n eithaf gloyw ac yn gwneud symudiadau cyflym o gwmpas yr awyr.

Roedd hi’n noson dawel ac oer, a’r tir wedi rhewi. Roedd dillad isaf thermol, a bagiau cysgu draenblu gyda ni, ond berwon ni ddŵr a llenwon ni boteli poeth, cyn mynd i’r gwely.

Dydd Llun

Cysgon ni yn weddol dros nos, ond roedd fy mat aeri yn gollwng. Ro’n i’n cysgu ar fatiau aer ⅔ydd o’u hyd, ar ben matiau ewyn hyd llawn. Roedd e’n anghysurus cysgu ar y mat ewyn un unig. Gwnes i geisio ei drwsio fe, ond do’n i ddim yn gallu ei wneud yn iawn.

Trannoeth, roedd hi’n oer iawn. Ar ôl i ni orffen ein paned o de, roedd y llaeth oedd dros ben wedi rhewi yn ein bowlenni brecwast.

Aethon ni i Þingvellir, lle ‘r oedd hen senedd Gwlad yr Iâ. Mae Þingvellir yn ddyffryn hollt, gyda plât cyfandirol Gogledd America i’r gorllewin, a Eurasia i’r dwyrain. Mae’r platiau yn symud ar wahân tua 2cm pob blwyddyn. Cerddon ni i Sgógarhóll, a chroesi’r llwybr lle’r oedd sawl bwlch dwfn wedi llenwi â dŵr. Ro’n nhw wedi agor achos y drifft cyfandirol, yn amlwg. Dilynon ni Grugiar yr Alban ar hyd y llwybr, cyn iddi hi hedfan bant. Wedyn cyrhaeddon ni Sgógarhóll. Dyma fan yng nghanol unman lle’r oedd sawl llwybr yn cwrdd, ond yn anffodus, doedd dim amser i gerdded ymhellach.

Gorffennon ni’r dydd gyda dip yn y Lagŵn Dirgel, ffynnon boeth yn Fluðir, cyn mynd yn ôl i’r babell i goginio. Dyw y Lagŵn Dirgel ddim yn gyfrinach,. Pris mynediad oedd £20 (£16 i ni achos rhoddodd y gwersyll yn Sjkól ostyngiad o 20% i ni). Pwll nofio yw e gyda ochrau o garreg a llawr graean. Mae e’n cael ei fwydo gan ffynhonnau bach, poeth iawn, o’i amgylch. Rhaid bod yn ofalus achos mae’r dŵr yn boeth iawn erbyn iddo gyrraedd y pwll.

Roedd hi’n gymylog yn Sjkól, felly do’n ni ddim yn gallu gweld yr Aurora.

Dydd Mawrth

Do’n ni ddim yn gallu gwersylla yn yr ucheldir achos roedd yr heolydd wedi cau, felly penderfynon ni gerdded yn yr ucheldir. Roedd yr heolydd yn eithaf clir, a meddylion ni bod yr awdurdodau wedi bod tipyn bach yn oreiddgar. ‘Sen ni wedi bod yn y Deyrnas Unedig, bydden ni wedi anwybyddu’ rhybudd. Gwnaeth “superjeeps” ein pasio ni – ceir mawr gyda teiars mawr, a bwsys arbennig gyda teiars enfawr. Parcion ni ble mae’r F35 yn mynd yn heol graen, a cherddon ni ar lwybr y ceffylau.

Roedd hi’n braf a hyfryd, gyda gwynt oer a cwpwl o centimetrau o eira ar y llawr. Aeth y gwynt yn llai pan o’n ni mynd i lawr o’r heol ac roedd cerdded yn ddymunol. Ro’n ni yng nghanol cefn gwlad, gyda mynyddoedd gwyn ag eira arnynt o’n cwmpas.  Meddyliais i y byddwn i’n hoffi teithio dros y mynyddoedd ar sgis, ond dywedodd Mel fy mod i’n hollol dwp!

Yn anfoddus, do’n ni ddim wedi mynd yn bell cyn ffeindion ni afon heb bont. Doedd Mel ddim yn hoffi’r syniad o dynnu ei hesgidiau hi bant a chroesi afon rhewlifol yn ei thraed noeth, felly cerddon ni ar hyd y glannau dipyn bach, i ffeindio lle i groesi. Yn y gorffennol, cerddais i ar draws yr afon â thraed noeth, rhoi fy mag a f’esgidiau ar lan y afon, cyn mynd nôl i gario Mel ar draws.

Ffeindion ni draciau cïol yn y eira – blaidd efallai, ac arwyddion sgyffl rhyngddo ag aderyn roedd e wedi ei ddal am ginio. Wedyn, ffeindion ni afon arall oedd yn fwy ond penderfynon ni droi’n ôl a mynd i’r car. Gorffennon ni’r dydd drwy gerdded ar hyd traciau bach yn Geysir i’r capel bach yn Haukadalskirkja.

Dydd Mercher

Dihunon ni i weld bod yr iâ yn dechrau meirioli, ac roedd y tywydd wedi troi’n eithaf gwlyb. Pan doedd dim rhew, roedd y llawr o dan y babell yn bwllyn!! Pacion ni ein pabell wlyb a gyrron ni i Reykjadalur. Pan cyrraeddon ni, roedd y tywydd yn braf. Mae hi’n daith o ryw 50 munud, a phasion ni ffynhonnau poeth, cyn cyrraedd yr afon thermol. Dyw yr afon ddim yn ddwfn, ond roedd cerrig wedi eu gosod i ffurfio cronfeydd bach lle ro’n ni’n gallu gorwedd. Mae bwrdd cerdded ar lan yr afon, a cwpl o sgriniau gwynt i gael newid tu ôl iddyn nhw. Yn yr awyr oer, ro’n ni’n newid mewn i ddillad nofio a mynd mewn i’r dŵr ar frys. Roedd y dŵr o dymheredd cyffyrddus ar gyfer arnofio a gweld y mynyddoedd eira o’n cwmpas ni.

Roedd y Lagŵn Dirgel yn neis, ond dw i’n meddwl bod yr afon thermol yn Reykjadalur mewn gwell amgylchedd, a dim yn unig achos ei fod e’n rhad ac am ddim!

Ar ôl arnofio yn y dŵr am awr, aethon ni nôl i’r car a parheuon ni ar ein taith nôl i Grindavik. Pan cyrraeddon ni, roedd y tywydd yn stormus iawn. Ro’n ni wedi cadw bwrdd mewn tŷ bwyta ym mhwll thermol y Blue Lagoon, felly aethon ni am ein swper. Roedd e’n neis, ond dim cystal â’r swper gaethon ni yn Keflavik ar y noson gyntaf. Roedd y Blue Lagoon yn neis iawn, a treulion ni tua awr yn arnofio yn ei ddŵr cymylog – mae e’n ddrud, ond mae en’ werth gwneud unwaith. Mae bar wrth y pwll ble wyt ti gallu prynu diodydd. Tipyn bach o gimmic yw e! Ar ôl i fi brynu fy niod, roedd rhaid i fi benderfynu sut i arnofio heb ei ollwng e yn y dŵr!

Roedd y gwynt yn gryf iawn yn Grindavik, a dihunon ni sawl gwaith yn ystod y nos pan chwythai’r gwynt yn gryf a gwastadu ein pabell cromen fach.

Dydd Iau

Mae ystafell gyffredin dan dô yng ngwersyll Grindavik, yn cynnwys gwresogydd a chegin. Mae hi ar agor rhwng 08:00 a 22:00 pob dydd. Roedd y gwynt yn gryf o hyd, felly gaethon ni frecwast yn yr ystafell.

Gadawon ni am ddiwrnod yn Reykavik. Dw i ddim yn “berson tref”, a gwnaeth y lle ddim creu argraff dda arna i. Doedd y siopau ddim yn ddiddorol iawn a do’n ni ddim yn gallu ffeindio rhywle da am ginio. Roedd tai bwyta yn iawn os o’t ti eisiau pryd o fwyd mawr (a drud), ond doedd dim caffes i brynu brechdanau, ayb.

Ond ro’dd y Tŷ Llosgfynydd yn ddiddorol iawn. Mae cwpl o ffilmiau byr gyda nhw, un am echdoriad yn Vestmannæyjar yn 1973, ac un arall ar y echdoriad Eyjafjallajökull yn 2010. Mae arddangosfa o wahanol fathau o greigiau hefyd.

Roedd ein pabell yn sefyll yn iawn ar ôl i ni gyrraedd nôl yn Grindavik a choginion ni swper yn yr ystafell gyffredin. Gwnaeth y gwynt barhau trwy’r nos.

Dydd Gwener

Ar ôl noson aflonydd, achos y gwynt, gaethon ni frecwast yn yr ystafell gyffredin cyn pacio ein pabell. Achos ro’n ni wedi coginio yn yr ystafell gyffredin am ychydig ddiwrnodau, do’n ni ddim wedi defnyddio ein stof, ac roedd tua 300ml o cerosin ar ôl! Rhoddais i e nôl yn y cwpwrdd “tanwydd am ddim” yn y gwersyll.

Gaethon ni ddiwrnod hamddenol!, Aethon ni i’r goleudy yn Garðskagaviti, tipyn bach i’r gogledd o Keflavik. Wedyn, aethon ni i amgueddfa Byd y Llychlynnwr. Roedd e’n ddiddorol iawn, cofnod o daith y Llychlynnwr mewn i wlad yr Iâ, wedyn i’r Ynys Las, a Gogledd America. Mae adluniad yno o long y Llychlynnwr yr Íslendingur, ac ro’n i’n gallu dringo mewn iddi. Roedd y llong wedi hwylio o Wlad yr Iâ i Ogledd America yn y flwyddyn 2000, gan ddilyn taith y Llychlynnwr gwreiddiol.

Yn olaf, cyrhaeddon ni ein fflat a dychwelyd y car. Am y noson olaf, arhoson ni yn y fflat bach - garej wedi ei addasu a dweud y gwir. Roedd e o fewn tafliad carreg o faes awyr Keflavik.

Dydd Sadwrn

Codon ni ddydd Sadwrn yn gynnar iawn iawn – codon ni am 04:00 a gadael y fflat am 04:30, i gerdded i’r maes awyr. Wrth i ni esgyn, gaethon ni ein cyfarch gan godiad haul hyfryd hyfryd, a gwelon ni yr haul yn goleuo’r Blue Lagoon a Grindavik, o danon ni.




English


In the middle of October, Mel and I spent a week in Iceland. We flew from Gatwick, which in itself turned out to be an interesting flight. We flew the length of the UK, over clear skies, exiting over Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Looking down as we flew over Glasgow at an altitude of 11Km really gave a sense of how narrow the country gets that far north. Looking out of the windows on the right we could see down the Forth and to the North Sea, from the windows on the left was a view over the Atlantic.

We arrived in Keflavik in the rain in the middle of the afternoon, and after picking up our checked bag and getting the hire car, we needed to do a bit of shopping – food and fuel for our camping stoves. I had done some research before we set off and it seemed that gas cartridges and bottles of Coleman fuel were available from all petrol stations. Unfortunately the petrol station we tried didn’t have either. Luckily we did spot a bottle of “lampa olía” (kerosene), which would do at a pinch. As it turned out, we needn’t have worried, because the Grindavik camp site had a large cupboard full of half-full gas cartridges available for free to campers.

We had an absolutely lovely meal of Arctic char with lobster sauce at a restaurant called Ráin and then headed off on a slightly scary, but uneventful drive to Grindavik. One day we will learn that waiting until its dark before having our first experience driving in a foreign country isn’t good for the nerves!

Sunday

We woke up on Sunday morning in Grindavik campsite and packed away before heading off to Geysir. On the way, we happened across the volcanic crater at Kerið, which is believed to have formed when the surface rock collapsed into the volcano’s empty magma chamber. There is an opaque lake at the bottom of the crater and lots of very tame redwings!

At Geysir, there are a few gift shops and ample parking. We walked around the bubbling hot springs with streams of warm water running across the ground. A bit further on was the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every 5-10 minutes. After each big 20 metre high jet of hot water erupts, it flows across the path, depositing a layer of minerals. There were a few big mineral encrusted hot springs boiling away further up the hill, and we continued up beyond the springs to get a good look over the whole area.

Originally we had planned to camp in Hveravellir, in the highlands, and our research had suggested that the road (F35) usually closed for the winter in late October. But the roads had already been closed for a few weeks due to snow fall, so we instead camped at Sjkól, just a few minutes up the road from Geysir.

After pitching the tent, we paid an evening visit to the Gullfoss waterfall; an enormous staircase of waterfalls. The path had a “crampons recommended” sign on it, which everyone was ignoring. We didn’t find any ice on the path, but the spray from the falls was forming hoar frost on the banks of the river.

Back to the camp site and as we were cooking dinner Mel thought she could see a blue-green glow in the sky, and once it had gone properly dark, the Aurora Borealis was clearly dancing across the sky. The lights were quite bright and making fairly rapidly moving patterns across the whole sky.

The night was still and cold, and the ground frozen. Although we had thermal underwear and down sleeping bags, we relit the stove, boiled water and filled up hot water bottles before heading to bed.

Monday

We had a reasonable night’s sleep, although my self inflating mat had sprung a leak. We had been sleeping on ⅔rd length self inflating mats on top of full length closed cell foam, but I was left effectively just sleeping on only the closed cell foam – uncomfortable. Although I duck-taped the leak, I never managed to properly seal it.

The temperature in the morning was low enough that the remaining milk had frozen in our breakfast cereal bowls by the time we’d finished our cups of tea.

We headed off to Þingvellir, the site of the early Icelandic parliament. Þingvellir is a rift valley, with the North American continental plate on the west side and Eurasia on the east. The plates are drifting apart at a rate of about 2cm each year, and as we walked to Sgógarhóll the path crossed a number of deep water filled chasms which had obviously opened as a result of the continental drift. We followed a ptarmigan along the path before it flew off, before reaching Sgógarhóll, which was basically just a junction of several paths in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to walk further.

We finished off the day with a dip in the Secret Lagoon hot spring at Fluðir, before heading back to the tent to cook. The Secret Lagoon isn’t especially secret, and costs about £20 each to get in (actually, about £16 for us since Sjkól camp site gave us a 20% off voucher). It is a purpose built swimming pool with stone sides and a gravel floor, and is fed from some small, but very hot, springs immediately next to it. You have to be a bit careful because the water is indeed very hot where it enters the pool.

Although we were later told the Aurora had made another appearance, it was overcast at Sjkól, so there was nothing for us to see.

Tuesday

Having been unable to camp in the highlands due to the road closures, we decided to drive as far into the highlands as we could for a fairly long walk. The roads were actually fairly clear, which left us thinking that the authorities were possibly a little overzealous with the closures. If we had been in the UK we may well have ignored the closure and carried on. Superjeeps – big four wheel drive cars with massive tyres, and even special buses with huge tyres whizzed past occasionally, but we parked where the F35 becomes a gravel road and set off along a bridle path.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a stiff cold breeze and a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground. The breeze dropped off as we dropped down from the road and it was a pleasant walk. We were in the middle of the countryside surrounded by snow covered mountains on all sides, and I couldn’t help but think that I would love to do a multi-day ski touring expedition across the mountains – although Mel said I was nuts when I suggested it!

Unfortunately we hadn’t gone too far before finding an unbridged river that we needed to cross. Mel wasn’t keen on taking her boots off and wading across a glacial river, so we walked up-stream a bit but couldn’t find a better place to cross. In the end I waded across in bare feet, dropped all my gear off on the far bank before returning and carrying Mel across.

Continuing on we found canine tracks in the snow – maybe a wolf, and signs of an obvious scuffle between it and a bird as it caught dinner. Then we found another, slightly larger, river to cross and we started to realise there would be more river crossings than was apparent from the map.

Not wanting to continually take our boots off to ford rivers, we decided to cut our losses and head back to the car. We finished the day with a short amble though some tracks at Geysir to the small Haukadalskirkja church.

Wednesday


We woke up to find that a thaw had set in and the weather had turned quite wet. It turned out that, when not frozen, the bit of ground we had pitched the tent on was a puddle! We lazily packed the sopping wet tent away before heading to Reykjadalur. By the time we got there the weather had dried up and the sun had come out. There’s about a 50 minute walk past bubbling, boiling hot springs before arriving at a thermal river. The river isn’t very deep, but small weirs have been built out of stones so that it has pools which are deep enough to lie down in. There are board-walks along the river banks and although there are no changing facilities there are a couple of wooden wind breaks. In the cold air, we changed into our swimsuits and hurried into the water, which was just the right temperature for floating around in whilst watching the snow covered peaks around us.

As nice as the Secret Lagoon was, I think the Rekyjadalur thermal river was a far nicer environment to relax in, and not just because it was free!

After floating around in the water for an hour or so, we headed back to the car and continued our drive back to Grindavik. By the time we got there, the weather had deteriorated and it was very windy. We had a table booked in the restaurant at the Blue Lagoon thermal baths, so we headed off there and had a meal – nice, but no where near as nice as the (less expensive) meal we had had on the first night in Keflavik. The Blue Lagoon itself was very nice and we spent about an hour and a half floating around in it’s cloudy waters – its expensive, but worth doing once at least. They have a bar actually in the pool to buy drinks from, which is a bit of a gimmick and I found that after I’d got my drink I was left trying to figure out how to carry on floating about without dropping it in the water!

The wind in Grindavik was still raging and we were woken up a few times through the night as big gusts of wind flattened our poor little dome tent.

Thursday

The Grindavik camp site has an indoor, heated common room with cooking facilities, which is open between about 08:00 and 22:00 every day. The wind was still howling, so we took advantage of these facilities and had our breakfast in the common room.

We left for a day in Reykavik, half expecting our tent to have blown away by the evening. I’m not really a city person and I must say I wasn’t terribly impressed with Reykavik – the shops weren’t much of interest and we couldn’t find anywhere decent to have lunch. There were restaurants if you wanted a big (and expensive) dinner, but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of little cafés doing light food, sandwiches, etc.

We did find the Volcano House quite interesting though. They have a couple of short films, one about the eruption on Vestmannæyjar in 1973, and another on the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. There’s also a display of various types of rocks.

Thankfully the tent was still just about standing when we returned to Grindavik, and we made use of the common room to cook and eat our dinner. The wind was still absolutely howling, and continued through most of the night.

Friday

Another slightly restless night because of the wind, and we made use of the common room to have our breakfast before packing up the tent. Since we had been using the camp site’s cooking facilities instead of our own stove for the past couple of nights, we had about 300ml of kerosene left over, which I left in the “free fuel” cupboard at the camp site for someone else to make use of.

This was going to be a bit of a lazy day, and we headed up to the lighthouse at Garðskagaviti, just north of Keflavik. Then headed down to the Viking World museum, which was extremely interesting, documenting the movements of the Vikings into Iceland, and then on to Greenland and North America. They also have a reproduction Viking ship, the Íslendingur, that you can climb onto. The ship was sailed from Iceland to North America in 2000, retracing the original Viking voyage.

Finally, we checked into our accommodation and returned the car. For the final night of the trip, we stayed in a self contained studio apartment, which was actually a converted garage. It was within walking distance of both the car hire place and Keflavik airport.

Saturday

Saturday was a very early start – up at 04:00 and out of the door at 04:30 for a walk from the outskirts of Keflavik to the airport. As we took off, we were greeted by the most magnificent sunrise and watched as it illuminated the Blue Lagoon and Grindavik far below us.

Lessons Learnt

  • The tent is old, and the groundsheet wasn’t as waterproof as it should be. After the ground thawed out on Wednesday we ended up with quite a bit of water in the tent. This wasn’t a big problem as we made sure everything in the tent was in dry bags and our sleeping bags were in bivvy bags.
  • Our tent isn’t very good in high winds. At least it doesn’t break, but it ends up being flattened by the big gusts.
  • It is a real pain to prime my stove (Primus Omnifuel II) using kerosene in subzero temperatures. I couldn’t light the priming pad with a butane lighter and found that it was best to put a tiny piece of cotton wool in the stove’s burner bell, soak it with kerosene and light that. Even so you need to give it a lot of heat with a lighter to get it to catch light. Ordinarily, I carry a small bottle of alcohol with the stove, which I use for priming if I’m stuck burning kerosene, but I couldn’t carry that on the plane. Maybe priming paste is a good option if you can get away with carrying it on the plane.
  • We had taken an MSR Pocket Rocket stove as a light weight backup, but trying to run it off half-full gas cartridges picked up from Grindavik camp site was a complete failure in subzero temperatures.
  • Butane lighters are useless in the cold. I had planned for this and kept a lighter in a money belt under my clothes, or inside my sleeping bag, at all times to keep it warm. That seemed to work very well.
  • A smaller fuel bottle is available for my Primus stove, and would probably have been useful to reduce its size in our luggage.