18/06/2013 – A Song of Ice and Fire

Week 25 – A trip to Iceland, the second post detailing the typical tourist bucket list. Previous installment on getting your Zzz and muscle work done. These posts are more like travel reports so if you feel like a wall of text is hitting you, scroll on and watch the photos instead.

After the morning run and a hearty breakfast, it was time to do stuff! So we thought some ice and fire. No, nothing to do with Game of Thrones (be that books or tv series), but everything to do with this volcanic little island. Through the hotel reception we managed to squeeze in a spot for a Golden Circle afternoon tour or rather shorter stops at Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir than if you had taken the real Golden Circle tour.

It was (still) horrible weather; rain pouring down with some wind for good measure. Fortunately we had come prepared; woolen underwear (non-itchy, not ugly, more like this), all-weather pants and all-weather jackets. Shockingly, the majority of the tourists came ill-prepared (clothes, shoes, you name it). Hint: one does not visit Iceland for the weather! We, however, were rather comfortable, warm and dry.

It took about an hour from Reykjavík to get to our first stop. The tour guide talked, rather uninspiring in all honesty, about Iceland and the things we saw along the way. Fun fact 1: there are extremely few trees on Iceland because of mankind and geothermal activity, but mostly because of the Earth’s cycles of climate change (it seems we’re heading towards a warmer period so millions of trees are being planted in hopes to bring forests back to Iceland). Fun fact 2: Iceland’s flag is blue for the basalt in the mountains that gives off a blue colour from a distance, red for the magma and white for snow and ice. Yes, I learned this on the bus.

Anyway, first stop, Geysir, famous for having all the other geysers named after him. Geysir is actually rather inactive and rarely hurls up water these days. There was a strong smell of sulphur on arrival, steam rising from the mud and next to the path a small hot spring called Little Geysir.

We installed ourselves for Strokkur’s water eruption, the active geyser that is right next to Geysir (Geysir’s cloud of steam can be seen on the right side of the photos). The eruptions come approximately every 7 minutes and with our limited time, we had to make the most of it.

Photography-wise we were extremely unlucky with the weather. The water sprouting up had exactly the same colour as the overcast sky, making it rather difficult to really see anything on the photos. We watched Strokkur erupting thrice in the 20 minutes (lunchtime excluded) we were there, two small ones and one big one. The gallery displays a small eruption.

Then back to the bus for a 10 minutes drive to Gullfoss, called so for the rainbows that appear when there is sunshine. Here we were lucky as a few rays of sunlight shone on the waterfall, making for some fine rainbows. Despite the black-and-white, a rainbow can actually be seen as a convex shape on one of them.

It was a rather wet affair there. I did not go all the way to the ridge as the M9P would not survive all those sprays of water, but Rune went all the way there, shot some photos and came back with his outdoor clothes and photography equipment all wet (he himself was dry).

And, back to the bus. Next stop, Þingvellir, the historic location of parliament and the place of the national burial place, after some 50 minutes. From the European continent to the North-American one through the rift valley or crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, that is created between the tectonic plates. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is also housing Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn. Apparently the lake is teeming with all sorts of fish (I think there is trout there..?) and fishing permits can be obtained. There are a lot of deep fissures in the rift valley and some tour operators offer to take you diving in some of them. When you cross the valley from the European continent, you will see the North-American continent rising straight up.

While Þingvellir National Park was a spectacular site for the eyes, it was a bit lacklustre for photography because of lack of time. We only had two stops of each 10 minutes, one in the valley and one on the North-American wall. This area is surely a lot more interesting when you have more time.

After these last two stops, we drove back to Reykjavík, again dropping people off at various hotels. Being rather hungry, we hurried straight after dropping off our stuff to the city centre to find a place to eat at and settled at the Fiskélagið/Fish Company. Here we ate some creative food. Main (both): halibut with mashed potatoes, mashed carrots that tasted like oranges and carrot cake. Dessert (Rune): yoghurt with ice cream, appeals, caramel and beer foam. Tip: reserve a table in advance, restaurants seem to be filled up with patrons when you just show up and I don’t know anybody that is willing to eat their dinner after a day of activities at 22:00hr when a table finally becomes available.

Nom nom nom…


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