Friday, March 23, 2001

Driving around Iceland's Golden Circle

Suðurland, Iceland
Awoke at pre-sunrise 7am, showered and watched the sun rise over a hill by the hotel. We rented an Opel Astra and headed out around Suðurland, also known as Southern Iceland. I drove the car up to Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir), which is a park on the divide of the American and European tectonic plates.
The Continental Divide?
We got out and walked around. McG had the ‘courage’ to try to walk over a frozen stream, and would have been successful had his last step not plunged through the ice. His pants leg was about 4 inches of wetness that began to freeze in the 0°C air.
I can't get over how the blue sky only shows up in the reflection
Þingvellir
We saw the building where Iceland’s early settlers founded a parliament in AD 930, the world’s oldest surviving national assembly. Andy then drove us over to Geysir which, when it goes off, is twice the size of Old Faithful. On the way, we took a gravel road marked “Impassible”. Big pot holes, 14° slope down, going through the middle of nowhere.




If we had gotten stuck, we’d have to walk what remained of the 16km to civilization.Geysir didn’t go off while we were there, but Strokkur, the more regular geyser (every 5 minutes) nearly scalded us while we were considering whether or not to pass downwind of it.
Strokkur
One of the guys asked “How long until it goes off?” I looked down at my watch and replied “In a few minu…” But before I finished the sentence, the steaming water shot out of the ground only 30 ft away from us. A near miss! We drove up to Gullfoss—literally, "golden falls"—moments after the Golden Circle tour bus pulled up to the Geysir lodge.The waterfall was huge. The parts that weren’t frozen were forced to flow faster thru the parts that were. We were able to get right up next to the water. Without tourists anywhere, it was like we discovered the falls ourselves.
Gullfoss, looking upstream 
Gullfoss, looking downstream
Frozen mist at Gullfoss
The rare photo of Greg
Rainbow at Gullfoss waterfall
Icelandic horses on the drive
That's some red soil
We left Gullfoss for a black sand beach on the south side of the island. It was really windy and also isolated. The small berm between the beach and the town made the stretch look very surreal.
Black sand beach at Eyrarbakki
 
We drove back to the hotel and napped a bit. At around 10:30 or 11pm, McG and I went out to see what nightlife there was on a Thursday night. Neither of the popular clubs were open, so we ended up at a pub filled with ex-pats. The live music was mostly American: CCR, Eric Clapton, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As McG doesn’t drink and I was driving, it was Pepsi all around. We got back to the hotel around 1:30 am and our clothes held on to the cigarette smoke we’d been stewing in. My voice was really ragged and I was good and tired.

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