Iceland Virtual Tourist Meet, day three
26.05.2018 - 26.05.2018
‘Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
it is about learning to dance in the rain’
Well, the weather forecast was right, and if ever we needed to learn to dance in the rain, it was today!
But despite the weather, a large group of VT members gathered promptly near Hlemmur Square for our 8.00 am departure on a bus tour of the famed Golden Circle.
Chris and I had driven some of this route on a previous visit to Iceland but at that time of year, February, not all the roads were open and today’s first stop, Thingvellir, was new to me.
I have to confess that the rain lashing down dissuaded me from making the walk down to the fissure which marks the divide between the tectonic plates of Europe and America. But I managed to keep my camera dry for a short time in order to capture some photos of the bleak landscape and of the spray from a waterfall hidden beyond a ridge.
Landscape near Thingvellir
My friend Isa did however make the walk and has kindly allowed me to share this photo with you. It gives a very good sense of the conditions!
Walking at Thingvellir, taken by Isa
It was just as well that I did get those landscape photos as it was difficult to see the scenery through the raindrops on the bus windows, and impossible to photograph it. I felt bad for those VT friends who had never previously visited Iceland and seen its stark beauty - they weren't seeing much of it today!
View from the bus
Our next stop was at Geysir. This is a spectacular area where the landscape is dotted with hot springs and geysers – so much so that one of them, the Great Geysir (Icelandic name, Stori Geysir) itself, gave its name to the phenomenon as a whole, with geysers all over the world named after it (geysir is Icelandic for ‘gusher’). Sadly the Great Geysir is these days more or less inactive (although I have read that occasionally it can be coaxed back into life when artificially stimulated with carbolic soap powder). But luckily another nearby geyser, Strokkur, is much more obliging, and erupts at regular 5-10 minute intervals. It may not reach the heights that its neighbour once did, but at 30 or more metres it is still a pretty impressive sight.
Steam and hot pools at Geysir
I had seen Strokkur in action on that previous trip, so on this occasion contented myself with a few photos of the bubbling and steaming springs beside the path. This was an area that had struck me with its unearthly beauty on my previous visit – more so even than the drama of the erupting Strokkur. The path is lined with bubbling hot springs, hissing fumaroles, belching mud pots and so on, all surrounded by a rich green moss that seems to thrive in the steamy atmosphere.
Steam and hot pools at Geysir
My friend Yvonne has kindly let me use this photo which she took here - it really shows the elements that our VT group had to battle to see the falls.
VTers in the rain at Geysir, by Yvonne
It was too rainy for me today to risk having the camera out for any length of time, but here’s a video I shot back in 2012, and some photos of Strokkur
Soon I retreated to the warmth of the café where I enjoyed a much-needed cup of coffee and later some mushroom soup for lunch - not particularly exciting as a meal but OK to warm me up. I passed a pleasant hour chatting with friends and browsed the large souvenir shop but didn’t make any purchases.
Then it was on to our next stop, Gullfoss, the Golden Falls, which give the Golden Circle its name - Gullfoss means ‘Golden Waterfall’. This is Europe’s largest waterfall. It is actually two separate waterfalls, the upper one has a drop of 11 metres and the lower one 21 metres.
Having seen the power of Gullfoss it is hard to imagine that it was ever threatened, but so it was. In the middle part of the last century such wonders were perhaps less appreciated than they are today, and for a while there was talk, and even some plans, of harnessing the power of the river here to generate electricity. The popular story is that these plans were overthrown due to the efforts of one woman, Sigrídur Tómasdóttir, who even threatened to throw herself over the falls. Whether it was her threat, or a simple lack of money, is not clear, but the falls were saved and today are protected as they should be, while a memorial to Sigrídur stands in the upper car park area. Iceland would certainly be the poorer, despite all its other magnificent scenery, without this dramatic sight.
Wet visitors at Gullfoss
Again, I had been here before, but I love waterfalls and was determined to see it again, so I braved the downpour to walk out along the path that leads to the upper falls. I grabbed a few photos but was too concerned about the effect of the heavy rain on my camera to linger long.
Here are some extra images from my 2012 visit, when despite a lot of ice I was able to get closer to the falls, and also a short video I shot then.
Gullfoss panorama in the snow, 2012
Upper Falls, 2012
Lower Falls from above, 2012
Gullfoss in the snow, 2012
Like many other visitors, it seemed, I soon took shelter in the souvenir shop and this time did buy a couple of things to remind me of our VT meet here - a little whale ornament and a bandana decorated with an image of the falls.
This was to have been our final stop, but as we had spent less time than planned at the other locations (owing to the weather) an extra brief halt was added, at the volcanic crater Kerid. This was a completely new sight for me, so although some stayed on the bus, having by now had more than enough of the rain, I decided to pay the 400 ISK ticket fee (this is privately owned so chargeable, unlike national park sites in Iceland).
Although I only had a short time here it was well worth seeing and paying for - a beautiful deep green lake lying in a crater streaked with vegetation of various hues. The crater was formed about 6,500 years ago, the result, geologists believe, of the collapse of a small magma chamber. The water here rises and falls according to the level of the water table, varying between 7 and 14 metres in depth.
I struggled to take photos though - each time I cleared my lens of rain drops more were blown on to it by the strong winds. These are the best I could manage.
Crater lake at Kerid
Saturday evening dinner
From here we headed back to Reykjavik. We alighted in the rain (still) at Hlemmur Square and I stopped off briefly at the Reykjavik Roasters opposite the apartments as I felt in need of a good cup of espresso as a pick me up. The. It was back to my room to dry off all my clothing and relax before dinner.
In the evening the same bus took us to the Viking Village in Hafnarfjördur for dinner. As the name suggests, this a themed restaurant - a little corny perhaps, but a lot of fun and not too over the top, except perhaps in its décor. Outside there are trolls and Vikings aplenty, while inside we found stuffed seabirds, Viking saga friezes, weapons and even a bat flying overhead!
At the Viking Village, Hafnarfjördur
We had a cosy upstairs room with seating mostly on long benches, but like several others prone to back problems I was able to secure a seat with a back-rest, for which I was grateful.
The food here was quite good (I had fish, which was nicely cooked) although the promised soup starter never materialised.
More important than the food was the typical VT family atmosphere and we drank a toast to those friends we had lost in the last year, one of whom was a particular friend of mine, Katherine, whom many of us were missing. It was nice to know she was remembered.
Dao thanks Regina and Jón
Ali in the Viking Village
VT group in the restaurant
There was live music from two very accomplished and fun musicians which was not at all gimmicky as these things can be. I enjoyed chatting with friends old and slightly newer, and the evening passed quickly.
Musician at the Viking Village
But we didn’t stay late, as there is an early start again tomorrow, so around 10.00 the bus was there ready to bring us back to Reykjavik and in my case at least, to bed.