Sunday, March 10, 2013

Icelandic saga, part 3

The road to Thingvellir

Sunday 03 March was our third day in Iceland and on tap was a "jeep" tour of the Golden Circle. We were the only two people on the tour, so we had a guide and a ride all to ourselves. The "jeep" was a very nice Nissan Patrol with leather seats and serious a$$-kicking 44" tires. Our enthusiastic guide took us down snowy roads to Thingvellir (Þingvellir in Icelandic -- Þing means meeting or assembly, vellir means plain or field), a national park where back in the year 930, the first Althing (Icelandic parliament) took place.

Thingvellir


The Mid-Atlantic ridge runs through the plain, technically separating North America from Eurasia, and it's slowly splitting Iceland at a rate of about 1 inch per year. Someday, the island will split. Hopefully not anytime in the next several million years.

It was cold up there on the plain. I mean, really cold -- the coldest day of our trip yet -- probably around 28-30F but with a wind chill of what felt like 90 degrees below zero. Clark Griswold at the Grand Canyon: We're here. Take photo. OK. Let's go. I'd love to go back in the summer, though, when everything is green and the weather is warm. Er.

Next up was the Hvítá River (which is supposed to be awesome to raft) and the nearby geothermal area where there are several geysers including The Great Geysir and Strokkur. It wasn't as cold here, which is a good thing, because until then, I'd never seen a geyser before and I have to say, it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Strokkur goes off about every 5 minutes or so, and I must have stood there for half an hour . . . in total awe.


Strokkur, I think. Maybe it's The Great Geysir.


We had lunch and shopped for souvenirs at the visitor center. Then it was time to move on. Our next stop was Gullfoss ("gold waterfall"), and as we were driving up, a 'rainbow' suddenly appeared over the waterfall. We ran out to get photos, and for a few minutes we could even see a double rainbow. We were spellbound and ended up hanging out there for quite a while, walking around the many pathways and taking photos from every possible angle.


The 'rainbow' at Gullfoss.
Someone being silly at Gullfoss.

Somewhere along the Golden Circle route, we stopped to see the beautiful Icelandic horses. We slid out of the 'jeep' and walked toward them, and they returned our curiosity by eagerly meeting us at the fence. I've seen lots of horses in my day, but these horses had the sweetest temperaments of any I've ever been around. ***S wants me to point out that Icelandic horses are special and you should read more about them here.***


Sweet Icelandic horses

We kept going to Kerid (Kerið), a volcanic crater lake where, according to our guide, some really good concerts are held. He said they put pontoons on the water, and the bands set up on the pontoons. The acoustics are supposed to be amazing.

Funny thing though, I've not been able to find any photos of any concerts here, so I think maybe our tour guide was pulling our legs on that one.

Kerid

We made a few more stops, briefly visited a geothermal power plant, and went four-wheeling through a river. On the way back to Reykjavik, our tour guide sang to us. He told us that he'd visited a fortune teller, who told him he was supposed to be a great singer. Yeah, right. At the volcanic crater. On a pontoon.

After dinner at the hotel, we went back to our room and opened the curtains, hoping to see the northern lights without going back out into the cold. Around midnight, we looked out the window and saw a sort of green mist in the sky. The northern lights! OK, so they weren't the bright, dancing lights we were expecting. But we did see them.

I've got one more entry I want to do about our last day in Iceland. I'll write it as soon as I can. Check back soon.