That is the name of the OPI nail polish I had applied at my pedicure before leaving on this trip. Not my normal color choice, but the name was appropriate.
Note: this will be a long post! Also, I am experimenting with putting some videos in, so let me know how that goes from your end!
We arrived at 7AM. Because the clock was set back an hour, we woke early and watched as the ship came into the port. It’s always an interesting process. We typically take on a harbor pilot from the local area to guide the ship into port. The harbor pilot arrives in a small boat, and then has to transfer over to our ship while everyone is moving. It’s a bit tricky. Once we get to the dock, our captain parks the ship. We are always amazed at how accurate they are at placing the ship in an exact spot, without bumping into anything.
We signed up for the Golden Circle tour. This tour took us to the waterfall Gullfoss, the Geysir geothermal area, and the UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park as well as to a geothermal power plant. It was a full day tour, starting at 9:30 and ending at about 6:00. Our guide was Gudmunder (who told us to call him “Gummi”). He is a biologist (likely retired) and was very good at providing us with interesting information to accompany the sites.
First stop was Hellisheiði (pronounced “het-li-shay-thee”) Power Plant, which is is the newest and largest in Iceland.
To access the potential energy under the surface, wells are drilled thousands of metres into the ground, penetrating reservoirs of pressurised water. Heated by the Earth’s energy, this water can be more than 300°C in temperature, and when released it boils up from the well, turning partly to steam on its way. At Hellisheiði, the steam is separated from the water to power some of the plant’s seven turbines, while the remaining water is further depressurised to create more steam, used to power other turbines. At its maximum output the station can produce 303MW of electricity, making it one of the largest single unit power plants in the world.
Next we went on to Gullfoss, which is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. The three-step waterfall is a part of the glacial river Hvítá and falls into a 62-metre (105 ft.) deep canyon. For the first half of the 20th century, there were ideas about using the waterfall to generate electricity, but thankfully nothing came of it. Here are a few photos of the gorgeous site.
The wind was quite strong here, and we got a bit wet when we wandered down to the lower level to view the falls.
We had lunch in the restaurant at the waterfall. I wasn’t expecting much, as there were so many tour busses there, but we actually had some very nice salmon, in addition to asparagus soup. We spent our lunch talking with Bronwen and someone else whose name I can’t remember. There was also a shopping area, and we took a look around.
When we were kids, my sisters and I loved to shop at the Icelandic wool store in Princeton. We really liked the designs of the sweaters and the wool was so warm and lovely. I was looking forward to potentially getting another Icelandic wool item while in Reykjavik, but they were way too expensive to even consider!!
Next, we went on to Geyser geothermal area, which is in South Iceland, near Laugarvatn Lake. The area is named after the biggest, and now mostly dormant, geyser named “Geysir” and all geysers in the world owe their name to it. The biggest attraction is the active Strokkur, which shoots up a column of water up to 30 metres (98 ft.) into the air every 8-10 minutes. We were able to see several of the spouts while we were exploring the area. Brad got a nice “burst” photo that he turned into a sort of video of one spout.
We were told that we should make sure we were NOT downwind of the geyser when it spouted, because we would get wet and could get burned. Despite warnings from every single tour guide, people were stupidly standing right in the way of the spout, walking past the barriers to get close to the spouts, or trying to stick their finger into the pools. Fortunately, no one appeared to get hurt while we were there, but I imagine it happens often.
My favorite photo of the day is a panorama that Brad happened to take of the area at the same time that Strokkur decided to spout. You can see me over on the left (the one with the white hair, obviously), looking at the old, inactive geyser.
The UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park is the location of the oldest parliament in the world. Here, you can also see the place where the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates pull the country apart by a couple of centimetres per year.
This site was interesting for both aspects. The Icelandic people settled here in and started their Parliament in the year 930. The site itself was ideal for their annual gatherings. There was space for everyone to set up their tents and shops. There was a place for the “Law Speaker” to be able to recite 1/3 of the laws each year, so that everyone knew what they were … until the time when they wrote the laws down. There was water and shelter from some of the elements with the geography. Gummi told us about some of the laws and practices of their society.
The geology was also quite interesting. Actually seeing where the two tectonic plates nearly meet (within 7 km of each other) is a little mind boggling.
Before we left on this trip, we learned about the famous hot dogs in Iceland. They are expensive, but supposed to be very good … made from lamb. We could have gone to search one out in town after we got back to our ship, but Brad pointed out that it would cost us $20 each for the round-trip shuttle bus into town, plus about $20 each for a hot dog, and when I thought about it, $80 for two hot dogs did seem a bit excessive, even for this trip. Oh well. So we had dinner on board, which was fine.
I will leave you with a few pics of us during the day.