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Iceland – Day Three

Posted by joeabbott on December 24, 2009

From my daily journal …

12-12-2009, Saturday

I awoke too early but light from a crack in the curtains was coming in. Not light from the sky … the wind was still howling and rain was pelting down. This is light from the building itself. Good thing I can sleep with lights on. I drifted in and out of sleep.

I heard Suzy’s watch beep two more times and then came back when her watch alarm went off. It was now 6:30 AM and I realized I’d fallen back to sleep. I lolled about while Suzy prepped for the day and when she was done, I hopped in the shower.

I tossed on my nylon climbing pants thinking my jeans would get too wet today. Good thinking. I topped it off with an undershirt, my Australia Exofficio shirt and was ready.

As we left the room we saw the “Troll Lads” had left us a treat on the door. The two oranges were a score but Suzy really liked the little red velvet cloth bag they came in. It was a cute little bonus from the hotel.

The Troll Lads are a children’s myth told around Christmas to rein in unruly kids. The story went that bad children were taken away to be eaten by the Troll Lads at the holidays. Then it evolved to the Troll Lads being mischief makers. Now the Troll Lads bring little gifts to the good boys and girls. Goes on for 13 days before and 13 days after Christmas. Score!

Shortly thereafter we were at breakfast enjoying the same fare as the previous day. I was feeling much better so, in addition to the odd tasting eggs and middling potatoes, I had some toast, cheese, and tea. All quite nice.

We hopped on the bus and awaited the inevitable late arrivers. The guy whose wakeup call never came, and the couple who were told we had an 8:30 departure (not 8). But we were under way at about 8:15 AM and picked up another crew downtown.

Suzy and I squeezed together in a seat together. Another tight fit but we like each other and the closeness was much less uncomfortable than the distance between our seats and those in front of us. The world is full of small people!

Off we went to Þingvellir but first a short stop at a wool village.

It seems we needed a buffer event as it would be too dark at the parliamentary fields if we went directly there. The sun “rises” here this time of year after 10 AM.

The wool shop held little of interest for us. Lots of stuff but not a tremendous bunch of things we’d want. Suzy picked up a nice necklace and I got a postcard or two. The short duration of the stop was nice. I saw a knife-making shop in the distance but it was too inconvenient to get to, and we had too little time to investigate. Pity that.

On to Þingvellir!

The story here is that the early tribes and clans met in this valley to settle out differences. It was “central” and had good fishing and wood for all the gathering. They setup their national rules and ultimately laws. This was in 900 AD or so (maybe 870 AD).

In addition to the momentous event for civilization, the area is significant as it lies on the main fault of the American and Eurasia tectonic plates. Here the plates aren’t smashing together … they’re pulling apart! The valley floor is the result of the “gap” left by the two receding plates!

The result of the recession is a land marked by upheaval. Great escarpments border the valley, lava from beneath provides the bedrock, and the silt from ages of glacial wash upstream provide the nutrients for growing things. The trees that were once in the valley are all gone and only a church stands amid braided river courses as a testament to the achievement of man. Water runs everywhere through the valley, the fissures in the rock run throughout and we spent far too little time in that place but way too much time in the rain.

We will return here tomorrow and hope for less rain and more light!

We all boarded in quite wet and the bus was already taking on that funky smell of too many people drying out. We decided to take a road usually closed in the winter. That’s what I was told when I asked if the sign stating “Road Impassible” meant something different in Icelandic. As there was no standing snow, we were trying it.

A short while down the road and approaching driver stopped to tell our guide that “impassible” meant just that. We continued on regardless.

Sure enough, we eventually got to a spot where a small bobcat with a backhoe was fixing the road in the middle of nowhere. No indication of how the bobcat got there but the road was washed out and a mess.

Our driver and guide (“Siggy” and “Early”) debated, talked to the bobcat operator, and watched a few other people in massive 4WD Land Rovers get through. After enough watching, we foolishly tried, too.

I say “foolishly” but we ultimately made it with no damage. Once we seemed to get stuck but Siggy pulled us through with a bit of backing up and a good run at the berm. A small cheer ensued and we were on our way to Gulfoss.

Gulfoss is a stepped waterfall that is gorgeous. At one time it was on the boards for being dammed up but a local woman “saved” it. Good for her as it’s a beauty. We enjoyed a bit of nibbling after pictures and walking about and then in to take in some nearby geysers.

The stops were short and always accompanied by a snack bar and souvenir shop. We walked to the geyser fields, took pictures, and generally enjoyed some rain free strolling.

The weather lighted up a bit here but would later resume.

The Stokker geyser erupts roughly every 4 minutes. It’s quite an energetic blow of about 90’ and crowds gathered and cheered as it did its thing. I got a couple of pics and even some video but not sure how it will come out. I stupidly decided to rotate the camera as I shot. Huh? OK ….

As we were leaving the guide asked who would like to see a fish ladder. He got a collective “meh” but we went anyhow. The odd thing about this fish ladder is that it was put in near a natural fissure\drop. Which was odd in that I’d only seen ladders by dams and manmade features. Here we were helping the fish overcome a natural impediment. Odd, that.

Then we went on to a Presbyterian church. I was quite tired and had been napping so I’m not sure of the significance of the church but it looked like any other moderately modern church. A concert was to start that night and lots of people were cramming in. Suzy and I were lamers and just napped in the bus.

One last stop brought us to a geothermal plant. While I could spend hours here, there was very little to see. A huge interactive screen layout out showed a schematic of the system, but very little else to see. Just lots of clean looking pipes, pumps, and generators.

Another souvenir shop and mini-café and then back in the bus. By now it was back to raining and we had to decide if we would go back to the hotel, dry off, have dinner, and rest for tomorrow … or get dropped of downtown to fend for ourselves, hope shops were open, and get drenched.

Of course we went downtown!

The driver dropped us off and we were pointed to a World Famous Hot Dog stand. Literally, world famous. It was big news when then-Pres. Clinton visited and got a dog with just mustard. Just mustard! Big news.

We wandered a bit, found the stand, and I got a plain while Suzy got “a Clinton”. We washed it down with a Coke and enjoyed it all in the rain. Nice.

From there we strolled up the main drag and for the next couple of hours poked our noses in art galleries, bookstores, candy shops, and boutiques. Our small collection of books and treats grew modestly; we then stopped at a bakery for croissants and hot chocolate. The rest was nice.

We braved the weather one last time to hail a cab and head back to the hotel. We’d been willing to walk back to the hotel but the cab was there and we were both glad to have a ride “home”. And as we got dropped off at 9 PM or so, happy people jumped in for a return trip to the city. Everyone was happy.

A bit about our room. It’s small, maybe 10’ wide and 20-25’ long.

The large window looks out onto the stairwell to another tower of the same hotel (I think).

The shower is about 3’x3’ at most. You can’t open the shower door completely as it hits the toilet.

The beds are wonderfully comfortable but do not have a top sheet. Just a comforter in a nice sheet-like cover. It’s super warm and clean. They know how to do bedding here. Real down pillows. Nice.

We aren’t’ spending much time in the room but what we are spending is best done with only one person moving about at a time.

The shower is good but the amenities are few. No hand lotion or toiletry kit. Small but comfortable.

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