Our second day’s adventure started with breakfast, of course. It was actually quite the nice spread, and I have to admit there were a lot of fish dishes. For breakfast. And nothing smelled… well, fishy… I think all the breakfast seafood that I sampled were still living in the ocean a couple of days prior. Fresh fish don’t smell… well, fishy. I think that I’m going to get accustomed to that quickly.
After breakfast we headed Eastbound out Hiway 36 with adventure in our hearts, the adrenalin inducing excitement of the unknown just ahead, a GPS that only speaks Icelandic, over Icelandic roads (many even paved), looking at signs we didn’t understand. Let’s see, load the GPS with Pingviller or Mossbaer and that’ll get us out of town. After that, we’ll just follow the GPS or map. No worries.
Heading out of Reykjavik, one of the first things I noticed was the beautiful farmland. The farms themselves appeared not only quite big, but certainly professionally run.
The hills behind the farm are lava cinder, gradually being worn down by rain, wind, snow… and time. One can easily see where the greenery is creeping up the hill, and ever so gradually creating a bit more pasture for the sheep and horses that live here. Patience, please… it’ll be ready in just a few hundred more years.
It seemed to me, that after passing three or four of the mega-farms, there would almost always be a country church
Ahhhh. And if that scene wasn’t pastoral enough… it also highlighted those spectacular little Icelandic ponies peacefully enjoying the morning’s offering of lush damp greenery.
I cannot fathom a trek through Iceland without making a bit more mention of those tough, tough little horses.
The breed was brought to the island in the 9th and 10th centuries by Scandinavian settlers. Natural selection contributed a lot to the early horses . Tough winters, starvation, and being used for food all contributed a lot to these horses characteristic durability and hardiness. Now, natural selection has given way to Selective Breeding programs to keep the line pure and cleanly Icelandic.
Here are a few pics of some of those ponies now, Helen:
I’ll post a clip following this blog.
These are known as five gaited horses, two of which are typically Icelandic.
The mane and tail are traditionally full, and although spirited and having lots of personality, they are quite docile around people. They know no natural enemies.
OMG Grette, did you trim your own mane again!? Ghaaaa.
The Icelandic Government has prohibited the import of horses. Period. The purpose is to keep the Icelandic breed genetically pure, just as it has been since the 10th century. If one of the ponies is sold to someone outside Iceland, that horse may never return to its native land ever again. Ever
Shoot low, they’re Icelandic!
Yield Right-of-Way. No exceptions.
A bit later:
We’re way past Lugarvatn. Aren’t we close?
We’re on 36.
No, we’re on 37, see there’s a sign right there
I thought we were supposed to be on 35 through Muli. Are you sure that wasn’t 37 km to… um, somewhere, I couldn’t read it…
Ghaaaaaa! We’re past Geysir and Strokkur!
NO. WAIT. I see steam coming from around that corner! And there’s a tour bus out of Reykjavik! Yay, we’ve found Geysir! Strokkur and Gullfoss gotta be somewhere around here…
The steam and hot water in the vicinity of Geysir and Strokkur is discharged through many acres of active fumaroles and geysirs. I thought it quite eerie looking and was surprised that, although sulfur abounded in the rivulets, streams and bogs, I don’t recall it smelling bad…
I did see a lot of elemental looking sulfur just laying in the bogs, rivulets, and around the fumaroles. I can certainly see how Jules Verne’s visit to parts of Iceland (just the ones I’ve seen, so far) inspired his book, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.
And just around the corner, and up the hill, the highly touted Geysir. Oh. About that… can we talk?
The mid-Atlantic ridge cuts Iceland into two parts, drifting away from each other at the rate of about 2 cm a year, leading to earthquakes, tremors, and shifting the flow of magma and water (and everything else) beneath the surface.
Poor ol’ Geysir has been the victim of a few relatively recent earthquakes. She’s been opened up several times by the shifting techtonics, each time erupting madly 70-200 meters high many times a day. A few years later, only 100 meters every few hours… and then.. a few meters, maybe two or three times a year…
Thank goodness that Strokkur was just down the hill, and gushing hot water and steam up and out about every 4-5 minutes. Turns out that the geothermal areas in Iceland are divided into high temperature areas within the volcanic zone, and low temperature areas outside the zone. Geysir and Stokkur are both in the High Temperature zone with a base temperature of around 250 degrees Celsius (100 C is boiling).
We were warned (once) to stay on the marked trails. I thought yeah, yeah, don’t make foot prints and blah blah blah. Then my old ears caught the explanation… Some of the mantle on top of this geothermal area is quite thin. One misstep might predictably lead a person to breaking through into some of the hot water. One could break through for about a foot and get a horrible scalding burn on a foot… or break through for 10 meters? A hundred meters? Ouch! Well, it wouldn’t hurt that long I suppose…
Strokkur, holding it’s breath…
The water at the surface is barely 100 degrees C (slightly below boiling) while the deep water is 200-250 degrees C (480f) under intense pressure.
The hot temperatures below heat the cooler surface water to well above the boiling point and water starts to rise in the throat expanding rapidly and forming Strokkur’s characteristic bubble.
Superheated water rises forming a dome, or bubble. You can just make out the steam beginning to form beneath the bubble.
Here, the bubble’s surface is beginning to be breached by the hot steam.
Water and steam spout up through the middle of the bubble, with the geysir beginning to erupt more violently.
Ahhhh, relief! (I think that she needed that.)
The shockwave sends the surface water outward through the pond…
Cooled, the water slowly drains back into the throat of the geysir as it catches its breath, awaiting more heat from below,
as the cycle repeats itself over and over again. At least until the next tectonic shift. And in Iceland, that could be tomorrow, or decades from now, who knows?
It was a long day today, the adventure spread over many hours and kilometers. Well worth it to me and my fellow travelers, though! The good news is the same as the bad news to a weary traveler: there’s plenty of daylight left to head on down the road toward Gullfoss.
Looking Southwest, toward Gullfoss Falls
Gullfoss and the surrounding area were made a nature preserve in 1979. The area’s ecosystem is also protected, and it’s vegetation remains untouched. Attempts are still being made every single day to minimize man’s footprint, to keep man-made structures to a minimum, and to not disturb the land and geological formations,
Pics from Gullfoss to follow…