Got up again at 6:45am. Packed up and ate breakfast. Set off for the places missed yesterday. Started by journeying out to Pingvellir. WOW! SO breathtaking! Pinvellir (which is mispelled but I don’t have the key with the first letter that looks like a misprinted P on it so the P will have to do!) is a National Park containing Iceland’s largest lake. It is also, coincidentally, where the North American and the European tectonic plates meet. The ground in this area seperates and moves, on average, 2 cm a year. Which may not seem like that much but over hundreds of thousands of years it has caused dramatic changes in the landscape. There are deep fisures where it looks like the rocks have literally been ripped apart from one another. And this is a good place to have earthquakes as well.
Off to Geysir–Icelandic for…geyser–along the way to the left was one of the biggest glaciers I have seen. It spanned horizon to horizon. Off to the right was mostly flat tundra plain. Geysir is so named due to the numerous geysers in a very concentrated area. Some are so close together that they can’t measure the temperature because they can’t get past the superheated ones to get to them. Most of the geysers in this area are a pleasant and balmy 120 degrees C. Take your skin right off! Unlike in the US where this area would be all roped off and no one allowed within distance to get sprayed…in Iceland they trust people to be smart enough not to get too close. Looking at the ground and seeing where it was wet it was possible to get close without being in danger. I watched the biggest one which goes off every 5-10 minutes go and it as neat. Then I got closer, not where it was wet mind you, to watch it front and center. I have been to Old Faithful and was unimpressed and frankly, a little bored. And this is sort of what I was expecting from this one. Well the ground starts shaking and I think, “hmmm…this is going to blow soon.” And then in a great whoosh! There is suddenly water hundreds of feet in the air and steam everywhere! I jumped away and shrieked. Then as a suprise, right after it was finished, it went again! This, I learned, it actually pretty rare for this particular geyser. So a double treat. At that point a group of school children ran up so it was time to go. Couldn’t resist walking backwards to watch them shriek and squeal as they were all too close. He, he, he.
On to Gulfoss across what seemed to be another expanse of flat tundra prairie. Arriving where the Gulfoss Falls are supposed to be there was nothing special. Simply a parking lot and 2 little buildings apparently out in the middle of nowhere. Skeptical I walked down the path…and WOW! Better than Niagra Falls, better than the Great Falls of Virginia, better than Seven Falls of Arizona. Spectacular (I know, I’m tired of that world already too.) multi-cataract (like 27?) DOUBLE falls that I couldn’t even see the bottom of. Basically there is about a thousand foot drop from the river down into this gorge but none of this is visible from above because the river goes from maybe 30 feet across and VERY deep, to about 3 times as wide at the bottom of the gorge. AMAZING!
The lady at the shop there said that Mt. Hekla was only about 30 minutes away from there and then only 2 hours from Keflavik. Well, she was correct about the 2nd part but after driving for 45 minutes through spectacular scenery (I kid you not that around every corner and over every hill was a picture perfect postcard worthy view) I was no closer to the volcanoe, altough I could clearly see it off in the distance there was the small matter of this 90 ft river to cross. I found a tall hill and hiked to the top for more spectacular views. Deciding that I would miss the plane for London I turned for Keflavik. The drive there was uneventful and gorgeous. At one point it became clear that I was headed up a big steep incline. At the top I stopped and turned and GOODNESS! Streched out before me was the plain that I had been crossing. With Mt. Hekla and the glaciers off in the distance to the left, the vast plain, and then the crashing ocean off to the right. The view was so expansive that I could even see the islands (Faroes and ?????) which are about 15-25 miles off the coast. Incredible!
Arriving at the gas station near the airport I discover that they won’t accept foreign debit cards or credit cards. And I don’t have nearly enough cash to fill up. This is when things begin to get tense! Driving like a madwoman back to town to fill up, filling up, turning in the rental, and then struggling with what seemed to be multiplying luggage through the small, yet convienently under construction airport to the check-in counter. Only to learn that the time they put on the ticket for the plane leaving is about 30-40 minutes early because everyone dashes in at the last second. So although according to the ticket we took off about 45 minutes late we were actually, according to the airline, right on schedule! Very strange.