Iceland Day 3: Golden

After a good night’s sleep and some reflection, yesterday doesn’t seem quite as bad. I’m thankful that I didn’t bring this bag with me to China, it would have been much worse trying to find a quality bag of the right size out there, and here I just have 4 hotels in 2 cities. I think I can manage. And the money I spent on the taxi I realize is about how much I saved in that mixup at the blue lagoon and from hitching a ride there with other travelers. Though that hamburger was inexcusable!

I think to myself in the morning about how we take air travel for granted. I was just the other day cruising along at around 6 or 7 miles high going 600 mph over the arctic circle. Along with a whole bunch of other people. When I think about it in those terms, it’s pretty awesome.

Today started nice and early, I slept ok, but could use more even though I got like 10 hours, I have a lot to catch up on. I caught the bus fine and even was able to figure out with the map that I take the #15 bus from the BSI station to the airport, an also from the airport to my next hotel when I return in a few days time. I ended up at the bus station a couple hours early, I would have liked the sleep, but I was happy to not have stress. It also gave me time to figure out that the day I leave I want to be at the BSI station by 6:30, but if I failed the 8am bus will probably get me there with just enough time.

Today is the “Golden Circle”, so named because Gullfoss (or Golden Waterfall) casts rainbows when it’s sunny. It was a big loop through a couple towns, stopping at 1 water fall before the massive Gullfoss falls, then Geyser, and the ancient parliament of Iceland. It’s an all day thing getting me back to the city by 530pm.

The first thing you notice is that Iceland is incredibly empty. It’s population is half the size of Bhutan’s actually, but in a space the size of Kentucky. And nearly half of the people live in Reykjavik.  Driving out into the country side all you see is emptiness. There aren’t a whole lot of farms, the volcanic soil isn’t great for farming, which also means it’s not great for grazing either. They catch fish for a lot of their food and import the rest and you notice it not just in their prices but their landscape. The other thing you notice is all the billowing steam coming from geothermal plants and springs. They’re very proud that they use geothermal to heat everything, and that it along with hydroelectric powers their entire country.

Our first stop isn’t on the itinerary and is a waterfall I have no idea how to pronounce. It’s not large in comparison to Gullfoss but it’s still really stunning. There is an old man fishing in the river and it completely captivates me. We’re voyeurs looking over his shoulder as he tries to snag a salmon for dinner.

Next up is the king of Icelandic waterfalls, Gullfoss. It falls in 2 tiers around 90 ft. The water is glacial water, and I can’t help but think how old that water must be. It’s been trapped in that glacier since the ice age. I’m also struck by how much flow it has, it’s all glacial melt and yet it’s tremendous is volume. How in the world is there a glacier left? And it’s been running for centuries like this. The tour lets us get very very close, much closer than we would be allowed in our nanny state. I have images in my head of tripping and falling into the rushing water and going over the falls. I can be a klutz thanks to being so far from my feet and them being quite long. I snap a few choice photos and move on. I was very hopeful to see the rainbow that the falls are named after, but it’s gloomy now and there is no chance of that today. After an hour we move on.

Next up is Geysir, which is where our word geyser comes from, and they sound about the same too if you want to hear it in your head. The thing is though I find out Geysir hasn’t erupted since the year 2000. But there is another much smaller one nearly the size of Old Faithful called Strokkur. Strokker erupts every 8-10 minutes on average and I get to watch it go 5-6 times. It’s kind of fun to watch. The physics of it is there is a larger water column that is keeping the lower portion that’s super heated from boiling, something causes the pressure to lower and then the lower portion flash boils suddenly taking up 16x the volume, exploding upwards taking the cooler column of water with it.  You can kind of see this watching it, it kind of throbs, and then suddenly the water level drops a little bit before expanding up in a big bubble and erupting into a big white ploom. The perfect sexual metaphor.  I tried my best to get photos of it, but my camera just doesn’t respond quickly enough to the first few shots and I just catch it barely after it’s started and not the big bubble. I think maybe no auto focus would have been something to try.

Either way after wandering the Geysir park a bit I catch lunch in the cafeteria, it’s expensive as you would expect, but that’s what you need to budget for, I’ll make it up with dinner.

Our final stop is this national park where the first Icelandic parliament would meet out in this field. On stop stools. It’s very Viking. What’s interesting more to me isn’t this mostly empty field, but that it sits within a piece of land where the European and American continental plates are pull themselves apart causing these large sheer walls where the plain is sinking between them. We get to walk up this rift between them and I’m not longer on a tectonic plate, just a sliver of land slowly sinking. Does that mean I was not on a continent?

Back to the BSI station and I’m falling asleep. I still need to catch up. I stopped in at the grocery store I saw the day before I get a frozen pizza, a bottle of water, and more yogurt.

Arriving back at my guest house there are some new guests going through what I did, waiting for the house keeper to show up. It’s lame of him to do it like that, its perhaps part of why the price is reasonable, along with it being out in the ‘burbs. He needs some kind of closed circuit telephone or something, not everyone has a phone that works here. There is also a french couple about my age that I get to talk to, they’re very very pleasant.

Now I’m quite sleepy so my journal is getting a bit too much to the point…

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