Iceland in Words – Day 2
As my trip was that of the self-drive variety, day two began with the picking up of my rental car. Coming into it, driving in Iceland was the cause of 90% of the anxiety I was feeing about the adventure I was about to embark on. The island’s unpredictable weather, gravel roads, and the utter isolation that one experiences along its Ring Road had me quite nervous. Based on advice and research, and in an attempt to save some money I opted for a Ford Fiesta rather than a studier 4×4 vehicle. This also meant driving stick shift, something I am well acquainted with. It would be this car that I would be spending my next 9 days, and 2100+ kilometres with.
The rest of day two consisted of seeing the sights along the Golden Circle, perhaps the most popular route amongst tourists wishing to see the wonders that Iceland has to offer. The Circle’s first stop was Þingvellir National Park, a landmark that is significant both for historical and natural reasons. Not only is Þingvellir part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, but it is also where the original Icelandic people held their legislative assembly and was where the world’s oldest parliament convened. Besides impressive (and massive) fissures, the park also featured a small but fascinating waterfall (that was used for executions in the medieval era by way of drownings).
All throughout my driving from sight to sight, my car’s radio would dip in and out as I traversed the hills and valleys of Iceland. However on my way from Þingvellir to my next stop, and perhaps in lead up to the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower (something I’ll go into further detail about later) the broadcast remained strong enough for me to hear a cover of “Let It Be” sung in Icelandic. It was quite something to hear such a tune in a foreign language, especially so early into my trip.
Next on my journey was Kerið, the most impressive among a string of several volcanic crater lakes in the area. The red soil and green mossy vegetation typical of the surrounding landscape combined with the and blue water to create quite a striking sight. One interesting thing about Kerið is that unlike 95% of Iceland’s other attractions (outside Reykjavik that is) it had an admission fee. It wasn’t much (only around $2.50), but to pay that for the privilege to walk around a crater in the middle of nowhere seemed odd. Add in that I’m fairly certain that while driving to the crater, I was following the guy who ran the admission booth and it was a bit of a peculiar experience.
With Kerið behind me, it was time to travel north to Geysir. Not a geyser, THE Geysir from which all other ones are named. In actuality, although Geysir is one of the world’s tallest geysers when it does erupt it simply doesn’t do that much anymore. Indeed, it was really just a pool of steaming water while I was there. On the other hand another nearby geyser, Strokkur was very active, erupting at least a half a dozen times while I was there. The park was also littered with mud pots, boiling pools, and smaller geysers. This was also my first source of Icelandic interaction with other people. I couldn’t tell you their names, but I had a couple ask me to take their picture in front of the sprawling, steaming field that is the Geysir area.
The final sight on the schedule was Gullfoss, or “golden falls”, a magnificent tiered waterfall. From a distance, and when you only see the upper levels of the waterfall it looks neat and majestic. And then you get closer, you see the water pour into this deep canyon and you are able to truly embrace the wonder before you.
While at Gullfoss, I actually ended up running into the couple from Geysir. Once again they approached me for a photo and this time I asked if they could return the favour. After looking at the pictures, I definitely got the better end of the deal and made a note to improve my ability to photograph people in the future.
The day ended with my first accommodations outside of Reykjavik. This consisted of a hotel on some sort of horse ranch in what seemed as though it was the middle of nowhere. The guesthouse also featured my first taste of geothermal relaxation in the form of an outdoor hot tub. It was in the hot tub that I met a local couple from Reykjavik at the hotel for the weekend. In hindsight, this was probably one of my better chances to see the Northern Lights. A return trip to the hot tub allowed me to see more stars than I can remember seeing in a long time, including one of the shooting variety. However, it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in and it was time to say goodnight.
Highlight of the Day: As impressive as the rest of the Golden Circle is, in my mind it was Gullfoss’ power reigns supreme (a developing theme that you may notice over the rest of my trip). There’s just something about this waterfall that left me awed for having seen it.
Dinner: Lobster soup and a grilled chicken breast with vegetables. Both were delicious, though the lobster soup did not compare to that of the previous day.