Google Analytics

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Walking In Iceland 2: Road Trip

back to: introduction - previous day - next day 

Thursday 25th August 1977

Neville and I arrived in Iceland yesterday for a walking tour which does not begin properly until tomorrow. We have therefore hired a car for a trip to Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.

Two others from the party have joined us: Gavin from Aberdeen who is a factory inspector, and Steve, a nuclear chemist from London. Steve is the one we spotted with his rucksack at the airport, who looks remarkably like our friend Gavin. But this other chap is also called Gavin. This is very confusing. I keep calling Steve, Gavin, and Gavin, Steve.

Thingvellir 1977

At Thingvellir, you see a cliff face. As you begin to ascend you suddenly come to a gorge running parallel with the face. A river runs along the bottom of the gorge from a waterfall on the upper cliff. It runs for some way before breaking through the lower cliff into the lowland. The strange topography marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasion tectonic plates. It was also the site of the Althing, the ancient Icelandic parliament, which met there for nearly nine hundred years until 1798.

Even in the sun it is cold, and there are intermittent showers.

Geysir, Iceland 1977 Geysir, Iceland 1977

Geysir, of course, has the geothermal hot water geysers. Out of holes in the ground that resemble the craquelure an avant-garde oil painting, they eject pillars of hot water and steam high into the air with a terrifying roar, subsiding into witches’ cauldrons of angry boiling water which gurgle ominously. It demands nerves of steel to stand close as they threaten to erupt and dissolve you.

Geysir, Iceland 1977

Photographing them requires split-second reflexes which Steve, apparently, does not have. He uses half a film and still misses it. If the famous but almost inactive, eighty-foot Great Geysir erupted, he would probably click the shutter just too late have to wait with his camera for the next thirty-five years until it went off again. He would then, almost certainly, still miss it.  

The sulphurous fumes, the noise, the hell on earth – I decided there and then it was best to be good and go to heaven. Film does not really do it justice. 

The same is true of Gullfoss. All that rushing water takes me back to the canning factory where I have been working, cleaning the machinery with a hose pipe. Channel that lot through and it would be spotlessly clean in an instant, assuming there was any machinery left, or indeed any building. I wonder what it would be like to jump in.

Gullfoss, Iceland 1977
Gullfoss, Iceland 1977

We end the trip with a short ride north towards the Langjökull ice cap, the second largest in Iceland and source of the Gullfoss waters, but we turn back at the first river crossing. We are in a Volkswagen, not a Land Rover.

Formal, polite conversation most of the day. It will be more spontaneous when everyone gets to know each other. Tomorrow is the first day of the walking tour, proper. 

 

(next part)
Some names and personal details have been changed. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who was there.

35 comments:

  1. Nice shot capturing the rainbow in the mist!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The colour slides are very dusty, though. It took ages getting rid of all the marks.

      Delete
  2. What an amazing land. The idea that you could more or less step from one tectonic plate to another on a small island mid-Atlantic is kind of too big for my mind. Geothermal activity - well that and a strange disease of sheep and dogs (that's got you wondering) are two things that New Zealand and Iceland have in common. Their volcanoes and geothermal stuff are just way more concentrated than ours and their scenery way more spectacular if your photos tell a true tale. Eagerly anticipating the next episode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would that be the hyatid tapeworm?
      I doubt I'll ever get to see the Pohutu geyser in NZ. That must be spectacular too.

      Delete
  3. What a fascinating place; as Tigger says, to be able to straddle two tectonic plates in one small location is remarkable.
    I have seen the geysers in New Zealand North Island and experienced that rotten eggs smell at Rotorua, so I can imagine what it was like on your visit.
    Incidentally, your mention of the Althing highlights the Norse connection with the Isle of Man. Our parliament is called Tynwald, from the old Norse Thing, or Ting, and Vald for field. Tynwald still meets every year on 5th July on the field where it all began.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure how big an area the joint between the plates actually covers but you'd have to be a giant to straddle it.
      Thingvellir and Tynwald, the same root. I understand that because the Althing had a break, Tynwald is the longest continuous parliament. They certainly know how to talk a lot in the IoM.

      Delete
    2. The rotten eggs smell will be hydrogen sulphide. I can't remember whether it was that or sulphur in Iceland, but I wrote down sulphurous in the notebook.

      Delete
  4. How this takes me back. I have done the Golden Circle many times, at all times of the year. One highlight was listening to a small recital of part of the Laws in Icelandic at the Lögberg at Þingvellir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We just drove there without much background information, so I don't believe we knew which was the Law Rock or Lögberg. I'm not convinced it was even marked then. Icelandic is a very old language, as its alphabet suggests, e.e. Þingvellir.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Yorkshire Pudding said in his account of his trip to Iceland that it's like watching the earth being born.

      Delete
  6. For the time, the photos are excellent. The scene in the second last photo is incredible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As mentioned to Debra, the slides are very dusty and I've had to spend quite a time removing all the fuzz. I wish I'd had a better camera - it was only a Zenith E.

      Delete
  7. Your photos are beautiful! I can't imagine walking on that small ledge above the falls. I doubt if I'm brave enough for that. That trip must have been an amazing experience for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks small but I don't think it was especially dangerous.

      Delete
    2. The photographs show only half of the waterfall. It has two steps. The left hand side of the lower step is visible in the first picture.

      Delete
  8. Reminds me of the Azores, boiling, bubbling thermal pools and steam rising out of the ground.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the Azores are also at the junction of tectonic plates, which would explain it.

      Delete
    2. Whilst looking at some particular gruesome looking boiling water bubbling by the side of a path I was told that a tourist a few weeks before had fallen in and, needless to say, died. On some of the islands these pools of water bubbling away were numerous and naturally just taken for granted by the locals. The rest of us gathered round them to photograph, point and go oh and ah, like idiots.

      Delete
    3. I was being my usual flippant self in saying that the geysers threaten dissolve you, but the water is at a superheated temperature and genuinely dangerous.

      Delete
    4. I Googled the story when I got back to the hotel because I thought perhaps the guide told it to everyone to scare them. I discovered it was indeed true and by no means rare as the story referred back to others.

      Delete
  9. I can see why the country left you with such memories, very dramtic but also frightening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Memories also based on the notes I made at the time.
      When I've been awestruck watching astronomy programmes about the geological processes on other planets, what you see in Iceland and similar places makes it obvious that these same processes take place on earth too. I agree, that is quite frightening.

      Delete
  10. I thought of Iceland as a land that was not yet properly formed - still in the infancy of its geological journey. I liked your use of language in "... subsiding into witches’ cauldrons of angry boiling water which gurgle ominously". Looking forward to Part III.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the way I tell 'em.
      Rachel, above, mentions about people not realising how dangerous they are and falling in.

      Delete
  11. I thought that I commented. If we can take our transatlantic cruise back, Iceland is one of our stops. I'm very excited about it, and now that I've seen pictures, I'm even more excited. What a wild country!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll see later in the journey that the walk was in an isolated, uninhabited and at that time difficult to access area. The roads are better now and it is possible to self-drive to some spectacular place.

      Delete
  12. This really makes me want to go there myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do. You're fit to do one of the cross-country hiking trips, and it's a bit more civilised now than it was. They even have toilets at the huts where you sleep.

      Delete
  13. Iceland is a weird country -- very beautiful but so otherworldly. We were there for just a few days back in 2011, and we had a great time, but we didn't see nearly as much scenery as you did. We need to go back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm transcribing my notes bit by bit. Haven't really got started yet.

      Delete
  14. I've never been. However the volcanic and underground boiling earth are common to New Zealand with which I am familiar and which is also on the Ring of Fire. If I were to travel again (which I doubt) you are convincing me that Iceland should be on the short-list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I can tell, NZ and Iceland are similar in this respect, although I haven't been to NZ.

      Delete
  15. Wow, Tasker, that sounds interesting!
    Iceland - I saw only documentaries (and never imagined that it smells of sulphur...)
    Absolutely beautiful photos with the rainbow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. The pictures aren't perfect but it's difficult to get good scans from 35mm slides - they don't compare well with modern megapixel digital.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).