Today, we were escorting an all-day tour, billed as ‘The Golden Circle’. I’ve done it before so knew what to expect, and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to repeat the experience. We had to be on the quayside by 7:30am, which meant a very early start, and a quick breakfast.
‘The Golden Circle’ is an eclectic mix of everything brilliant about Iceland.
Our first stop, after driving out of Reykjarvik, was a small shopping mall in the middle of an area susceptible to earthquakes and bubbling with steam fissures that have a habit of popping up randomly and unexpectedly. Our guide told us of a couple who woke up one day to find one in their living room. The house had to be abandoned and demolished.
When they were building the shopping mall, a large crack had appeared in the earth beneath it. Instead of abandoning the project, they decided to make a feature of it. So, although our stop was primarily for restroom purposes, we were able to view the crack beneath a glass floor, and exhibition boards told us about the earthquake, with looping CCTV footage of stuff flying off the shelves and stories from local residents about the event.
Despite being a sensitive area, the steam fissures are captured to heat up water; miles and miles of large pipes stretch across the land, taking the water into the city, where it is stored in large water containers. I was curious as to why the pipes zig-zag across the land instead of taking a more direct route. The guide told me that the reason they are laid like that is to slow the flow of water down, and also it makes them less susceptible to damage in the event of an earthqake.
Our next stop was Geysir, an area of of hot springs featuring a geyser that erupts regularly every four to eight minutes. Not surprisingly, this is a great tourist attraction. The geyser itself is impressive when it blows, and is reputed to be the most consistent of its kind in the world (and ‘Geysir’ gives its name to other similar geothermic eruptions across the planet).
Visitors stand around the edges of the large spring, cameras poised, awaiting the next eruption, in the hope of catching it on film. Fortunately, with the regularity of the eruptions, no-one has to wait very long for it to happen, but capturing a photo is still a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.
After wandering around the springs for about an hour, we were treated to lunch in the Glima Restaurant attached to the visitor centre. Glima is a type of traditional Icelandic wrestling, which looks suspiciously like Sumo wrestling, but without the excess fat. Large TV screens attached to the walls of the restaurant showed rolling footage of wrestlers (both male and female) in action. I have to say that lunch was spectacularly good. Soup was served at the tables, along with a complimentary beer or soft drink, followed by a buffet featuring hot and cold food for all tastes; meatballs, chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes, salad… you name it, it was available. All of which was followed up by generous proportions of cakes and desserts. It was one of the best excursion lunches we’d had.
After lunch, our next stop was the Gulfoss Waterfall, a massive waterfall that drops down three levels in a dramatic and spectacular fashion. Visitors can view the falls from several different viewpoints; I chose a spot right down near the edge of the falls, accessible by a long winding path, which was great, but very wet, since the wind was blowing the spray over every one… I got quite drenched, but was happy with my video and photos.
From the waterfall, we drove to a location famous for being one of the first parliaments in the world, situated in an area where two tectonic plates meet and are visible, creating a dramatic canyon between the two. The bus dropped us off, and we walked, as a group, down the length of the canyon for about a mile and a half, to be picked up again at the opposite end. It’s a stunning geological location, with interesting rock formations and another impressive waterfall.
Our final stop of the day was something known locally as ‘The Pearl’, a large glass dome-like building on the outskirts of Reykjarvik, with a balcony on the fourth floor giving extensive views across the city.
My coach then took a drive through the city back to the port, which was not on the itinerary, but was probably not such a good idea, as the roads were busy with work traffic, making us a little late arriving back at the quayside, and the very last passengers to board the ship for the last time before leaving Iceland.
And so, we’ve left Iceland and are now jeading in a southerly direction on our way towards our final port-of-call, Ringaskiddy in Ireland, where we are due to arrive on Saturday. The sea is rough, with swells of up to four and a half metres high, throwing a few people about and sending stuff crashing to the floor in the Bistro on a couple of occasions. Poor old Bruce, who is a one-man-band (complete with big bass drum strapped to his back) had to give his second performance in the Show Lounge, which was a major challenge for him.
It’s going to be a rocky night, but the forecast is for it to settle down as we go into tomorrow, which will be the first of two back-to-back sea-days, meaning two more painting classes.