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Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Golden Circle

This morning we got up and met with Ari, our host, for a super-jeep tour of the Golden Circle. Ari's vehicle is a Nissan Patrol. This is like the bigger brother of my Nissan Xterra, though in the US it's sold only as a luxury model, as the Infiniti QX80. It has enormous tires that sit out quite wide - it just barely fits within the lane, and it required some effort to climb in.

Before we left the apartment, I put the GPS antenna on the roof, so my tracker should have made a good track of where we went. Unfortunately the Google tool I use to create the maps, Fusion Tables, doesn't work with the iPad, so that'll have to wait a few days before I can interpret the data.

Our first stop was Þhingvellir National Park. This is mostly a hiking destination, but also the location where the original Alþing met. This body was originally a law court, composed of judges appointed by the various kings and chieftains. We visited the site of the Lawspeaker's rock - a large rock that the Lawspeaker, the man who memorized and recited the laws and the procedures of the body. The rock is no longer there, but it's known approximately where it was, and there's a flagpole there now. It's on a hillside below a cliff, and beyond it is an open plain with a river flowing across it. Or rather... that's what's usually there. Today it was more of a swamp, because of the record rainfall Iceland has received the last few days.

The rainfall has actually caused the evacuation of at least one park and tourist area, and a number of roads are closed. The river we did go near was high enough that any National Park in the US would have closed it with roadblocks miles away. Instead, there was a cord strung across the boardwalk about three feet back from the water's edge, with a sign that said "Please stay out of the water". It amazed me the number of people we saw today wearing jeans and other cotton clothing, and flat-soled canvas shoes out in the muck and weather.

After Þhingvellir was Geysir, the geothermal vent that gave its name to geysers. Near the actual Geysir is another geyser named Strokkur, which erupts water and steam every 5-7 minutes. Geysir itself does not erupt on a regular basis, though it has been active for 10,000 years.

From Geysir it's just a few minutes down the road to Gullfoss, an enormous multiple waterfall. There's a path all the way down to the edge of the falls, but it was closed today due to all the rain - there were concerns about mudslides and rockfall from the hill above. I got some pretty good pictures and video from up on that hill, though.

On our way back towards Reykjavik, we made a short stop outside of Selfoss, on a beach exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. It's always awe-inspiring to see the power of the ocean crash ashore, and feel the wind shoving you around. The sand, as well as the gravel they use for paving walking paths, is a beautiful black, ground from volcanic rock.

After that we ate on the move as we headed to our last stop. Seltún is a geothermal area with a lot of mud pots and warm creeks. It was beautiful, with many different colors of earth.

On the way back to the main road, we passed a little car down on the beach. It was a French tourist who had driven his miniature car down onto the beach and gotten stuck - his female companion was not impressed. Unfortunately, Ari had been doing work on his truck recently and had removed his winch and tow equipment while waiting for parts, so we had to go old-fashioned. Nick, Ari and I lined up and pushed the car to where it could get solid traction. The occupants were grateful, and went on their way with a promise to stay on the pavement.

That was about it for the day. When we got back I ran out to the post office to mail a postcard to the office, to the Bonus (budget grocery store) for travel snacks, and to the Dominos for some pizza for dinner - we were all to tired to cook or go out. After that, it was a night in, washing clothes and packing.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Akureyri. It's about a 5 hour drive from here. While there we will spread Papa's ashes, go whale-watching out of Husavik, and possibly take a flight or cruise out to Grimsey Island for some geocaching and to go north of the Arctic Circle.

Oh yeah - and also photograph and film the Northern Lights.

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