Monday, May 4, 2009

Iceland - Travel Day #2

I almost called this Travel Day # 1 1/2 since it wasn't actually a planned travel day. We were simply headed into Reykjavik to Morgunblaðið (the local newspaper). But about the time everyone knew for sure that we had somehow missed it, William spotted the road to Þingvellir. As he made a quick turn he said that famous phrase, "This won't take long."

Mountains and snow are a major part of the beauty of Iceland, but we had overcast skies this day so the pictures are not as spectacular as what we actually saw. This was part of the chain along the road to Þingvellir.

Trees in Iceland - not typical.

Þingvellir (pronounced Thing-ved-learrrr . . . always roll the r's) is the #1 most important historical site in Iceland. It is the site of the open-air Parliament that set the laws for Iceland, Althingi, first established in 930 and continued until 1798 when it moved indoors.

The area was chosen because it was accessible to everyone in Iceland, if you didn't mind crossing a few glaciers, and there was plenty of space. Plus there were huge rock formations that could be used as a platform by those who wanted to speak.

But the location of Þingvillir has another unique feature. Iceland sits across the joining of 2 of the earths tectonic plates. Frequent earthquakes along these plates happen at Þingvillir, making it an ever changing geological wonder.

Almost the first thing we were asked by Icelanders was "Have you been to Þingvillir yet?" I was very glad that we could answer "Yes!"

As we left Þingvillir William followed a road sign that simply said "Geysir". That was the last direction sign we would see for quite a while. The road turned to dirt and took us to the top of the mountain ridge. Remember the ridge I showed you at the beginning of this post?

We now appeared to be riding along the top spine of that ridge, almost as high as the other mountain ranges in the distance. It was a spectacular view and the road was good so I wasn't too concerned . . . until we came to a little knoll with a sign that we were about to go down the mountain at a 14 degree incline. William started scrambling for the lowest gear possible on that Toyota then we topped the knoll and got a look. The narrow, dirt road took a dive straight down with no guard rail and only those yellow sticky-up things on the rocky mountain side. I wish I could show you a picture! The most startling view of the whole trip, and no one thought about the camera.

After getting back to sea level we found the road to Geysir, the granddaddy of all geysers and where they all got their name.

Geysir shot boiling hot water up to 200 feet into the air for more than 500 years, but has now gotten lazy and stirs only rarely.

Little Geysir is a tiny geyser with spurts only a few inches. But at almost 250 degrees that is still nothing to play with.

Then there is Strokkur. Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes spewing hot water 60 to 100 feet in the air

Strokkur was absolutely fascinating, but for an area filled with hot springs the temperature was amazingly cold. After half and hour Jimmie and I went in search of somewhere warm.

And a little farther down the same road there was Gullfoss, something not even mentioned on our map. We pulled over for a look.

It was one of the prettiest falls I have ever seen. William and Katrece took the walk down close to the falls so they got some up close and personal shots.

But the cold was extreme here too. We finally found the highway to Reykjavik and headed back.

And when we got there the very first thing I saw - Morgunblaðið. It was just around the corner from where we got on that road to start with earlier. We should have turned south instead of north.

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