A Limerick photographer has described the journey to an active Icelandic volcano as akin to something from a JRR Tolkien novel.

Juliette Rowland, 34, made her journey to Mount Fagradalsfjall, which erupted on Friday for the first time in over 800 years.

“It was like walking to Mordor”, said Juliette, a professional photographer, who took a series of stunning photographs of the once-in-a-millennium occasion.

Juliette, who lives in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík, made the six-hour round trip hike to see the open fissure in the Geldingadalur valley.

“I’ve never seen a volcano like this before. I think this is the first time any of us have seen anything like this”, said Juliette, who has been living in Iceland since 2014, four years after the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull, which caused disruption to air travel in western and northern Europe.

Speaking yesterday, with sore feet from the long trek, Juliette described how there had just been a heavy flurry of snow.

“It’s really is the land of fire and ice for sure,” she said.

Juliette and her friends are some of the thousands who have made the journey, which is about 6km from a road, near the fishing port of Grindavik.

Although access to the site was initially blocked by authorities, restrictions were later lifted and visits were allowed under strict guidelines.

Juliette said many who made the journey were ill-prepared, wearing jeans and trainers, and not bringing food or water, meaning a number had to be assisted by search and rescue.

She described how the journey was made worthwhile by the amazing views and perfect conditions, which allowed them to get very close to moving lava.

“It’s just unbelievable. It’s just really surreal. To see this magma, coming from kilometres deep in the earth and just exploding into the sky. We all felt very fortunate to have been able to witness something like that. It was very humbling,” she said.

As a photographer, the eruption offered an amazing opportunity for Juliette to use her skills. However, she says she had to make sure she actively capture the moment with her eyes, as well as the camera.

“I struggled with just being present. To see all of it with my own eyes as well instead of just constantly documenting it,” she said.

Juliette also said there is a large feeling of relief locally as previously, due to the pressure created by the volcano, there had been thousands of earthquakes.

“I think the highest one we had was 5.7 or 5.8. on the Richter scale. That was pretty scary so it’s just a bit of a relief now they’ve kind of calmed down a bit,” Juliette said.

Describing Reykjavík as similar to a European city but with “the feel of West Cork”, she said they have minimal lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19.

“Pubs, bars, restaurants are all open. There are limits. There a few small gigs back on but nothing big. We feel really lucky to be here,” Juliette said.

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