Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sunday, August 23- Our Amazing Golden Circle Tour

This is a staple of every tourist’s itinerary; we booked a Super Jeep tour that promised no more than 8 passengers and found that it was just the two of us- we had the guide to ourselves.  What luxury! 

As we left the city, we drove through a field of pseudo-craters.  They appear to have been created by a traditional volcano, but are actually the result of flowing hot lava crossing over a wet surface, such as a swamp, a lake, or a pond causing an explosion of steam through the lava. The explosive gases break through the lava surface, and flying debris builds up a crater-shaped structure.

We then stopped at Braurfoss, a waterfall that was impressive to us, but the guide told us it was only a preview for Gullfoss, which we’d visit later. 
He was right, but we found the salmon run interesting and when I went into the small restaurant to use the bathrooms, I found a display of hand-knitted mittens and bought a pair for our granddaughter.

Our next stop was a small fishing village, with a helpful display of the types of flowers found in Iceland.  I’d been taking a lot of pictures of flowers but hadn’t been able to identify them.  Ron also noted racks of drying fish.


As we passed a sign pointing to Selfoss, I asked the guide how far away it was; Jonathan had jokingly asked that I pay my respects at Bobby Fischer’s burial site.  When I found that it was 60 km from Reykjavik I’d told him we’d probably miss that site, but our guide told us that Sellfoss   was just a short trip from where we were.  Although Fischer wasn’t particularly religious, he’d become friends with a local priest and had wanted to be buried in the churchyard.  It was a beautiful, tidy little church and there was already an Asian family there.  Someone had left a couple of chess pieces on his gravestone.  Fischer died relatively young, after refusing treatment for a urinary blockage that eventually led to kidney failure.

Gullfoss was somehow more spectacular than Niagara Falls and far more beautiful because there was nearly no development in the area.  This is partly due to the influence Sigrithur Tomasdottir , an early environmentalist who fought to save Gullfoss from development.  The sheer power of the thundering waters made it a natural candidate for hydroelectricity.  Even after an Englishman got the rights to lease the land in 1907, she mounted a legal battle, repeatedly making the arduous journey to and from Reykjavik on horseback.


It was fitting that the first time either of us saw a geyser was at Geysir, the place that’s the origin of the English word.  The original Geysir isn’t very active now, but Strokkur, nearby, erupts every 5 to 7 minutes, delighting the tourists who stand around it, cameras poised, waiting.  I climbed up to the top of a hill overlooking the geyser to get this shot.  Most of the plume in the picture was steam but it was still impressive.  Later we had lunch, where Ron enjoyed one of the local beers and I discovered Skyr, which is an Icelandic version of Greek yogurt.

It's easy to get a picture of an erupting geyser when it erupts every 4 to 6 minutes.
I climbed it because it was there.


Much of the eruption was steam, but still pretty impressive.
 Our next stop was Thingvellir, the site of the oldest continually-meeting governing body in the developed world.  (“Thing” is the Icelandic word for “meeting”.)  Originally, chieftains from all over Iceland would meet there to make laws and settle disputes.  What’s interesting is that it’s certainly not central- it’s on the coast.  They couldn’t have known 1,000 years ago that the area was in the rift between two tectonic plates, but somehow they knew it was special.  Our guide claimed that you couldn't point to any particular crack and claim that that was the actual plate boundary but it was still awe-inspiring.


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