Today’s tour is another full day event, even though arrival isn’t until 13:30, so it will be interesting to see the tours returning at 22:30, which is about 2 hours after the normal bed time of most passengers. By the time we finish dinner at 21:45 it is normally a very quiet ship, so I expect to hear some snoring on the return journey to the port. Our 8 hour Icelandic adventure consists of the Thingvellir National Park with the North America/Eurasia fault line, spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall, StrokkurGgeyser, downtown Reykjavik and Judi’s favourite a Icelandic Horse Show. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, so I hope you also enjoy my ramblings and small sample of photographs taken during the day.
On departing the ship, we were surprised by the absence of tour buses, as normally they have anywhere from 20 to 30 buses, but we only saw 1 bus. Yet again the ship had everything well organised, with Angus, the Customer Services Director stationed ashore advising the tour buses were at the dock gate, which was a 10 minute walk, or short ride in the shuttle bus. We hopped on the shuttle bus, which whisked us to the gate, where we found our bus. Most of the pushers and shovers were shoe-horned in the regular seats, so Judi and I continued up the back, where we stretched out having the entire back row of 5 seats to ourselves.
The guide spoke excellent English, and about 5 other languages. He was also a living encyclopaedia, as he provided information and facts throughout the entire day. Definitely one of the best guides we have ever experienced. On departing the port we drove through the Reykjavik suburbs noting a beautiful and clean city. Clearing the city, we commenced climbing up to a valley through the SW mountains. The initial scenery is what we expected to see – mountains, lava flows and geothermal plants.
Lava flow as we climbed up the valley through the mountains.
Lava flow at the side of the road
One of the geothermal plants, which has numerous pipes leading to the plant from other locations.
One of the pipes carrying the superheated water to the plant. The pipes sit on wheels so they can move during the frequent earthquakes.
In the background is the volcano that erupted a few years ago and disrupted air travel across the Atlantic and throughout Europe.
As we approached the end of the valley we were afforded an exceptional view of Iceland’s SW plains, which is something we didn’t expect. In fact, for the next few hours we drove through very fertile plains.
View from the top of the valley, we continued downhill and along the road skirting the town and around the headland on the left. Once around the headland we entered a long wide and fertile valley.
Some of the fertile valley with the volcano in the background being about 5 years overdue for one of its regular eruptions.
River meandering through the valley.
Throughout the valley we passed numerous homes dotted around the country side, which are summer cottage built by city residents. They either purchase or lease the land, building a 2nd home, which is heated by tapping into the geothermal system for minimal cost.
Arable valley stretches for miles, which is a sight that we didn’t expect to see in Iceland.
Our first stop of the day is a family run farm owned by Knuter, Helena and their 5 children, who all actively participate in the farm operations. They breed and show Icelandic horses and with greenhouses they grow tomatoes and cucumbers year round. They produce about 1 ton of fresh vegetables per day, or 370 tons per year. The Icelandic Horses are pure bred, having been in existence for over 1,000 years. Once a horse is shipped out of Iceland it is illegal to re-import it back into the country, or any other horse. Therefore, the bloodlines have remained pure for hundreds of years.
As we disembarked from the bus we were met by one of the owner’s daughter and two sons, on horseback. Very pleasant children who chatted freely as we headed for the paddock and horse show.
One of the owner’s daughter and horse close-up.
The paddock has a grandstand that seats over 100 spectators, so they had lots of room for our bus. Once everyone was seated, the show began. The children demonstrated the 5 different gaits used by the Icelandic Horses and finally rode around the ring with glasses of beer or milk, showing how stable the horses can move.
The oldest daughter opened the show by riding a couple of laps with the Iceland Flag.
Walking around the ring at a slow pace.
Demonstrating how smooth the ride is by carrying a well filled pint of beer around the ring for a few laps.
The boys provided the same demonstration, but they had glasses of milk.
After a few laps very little, if any was spilled.
Owner’s kids and their horses posing for photographs after the show
On completion of the show, Judi was in her element, as she got to enter the barn and actually pet the horses. The only guidelines were not to feed them.
Judi posing with one of the horses.
One of the lighter coloured horses.
En-route to Strokkur Geyser
On departing the horse farm we continued up the valley towards our next stop at the Strokkur Geyser, an amazing geyser that erupts fairly regularly, about every 5 minutes, and can reach heights of 80 feet.
The arable valley is well farmed, with the most popular crop being hay, which is required to feed the animals during the long winter months.
Horses and sheep grazing away in the same field.
Strokkur, which is Icelandic for “churn” is located in the Haukadalur geothermal area adjacent to the Hvita River. In addition to the main geyser, it contains a multitude of other geothermal features, such as mud pools, fumaroles and other geysers in the immediate vicinity. First mentioned in 1789, it is believed to have been created after an earthquake unblocked the conduit. In the 20th Century another earthquake blocked the conduit, so the geyser remained dormant until 1963, when a group of local volunteers cleared the conduit and allow the geyser to flourish, yet again.
View of the Strokkur Geyser surrounding area.
Geyser blowing off steam with visitors eagerly awaiting the next eruption.
This one was just a baby eruption, seen from a level below the pool. The mineral rich water is well over 100C and the barriers over 100 feet from the pool advise of water temperatures of 80 to 100C. It is not recommended to stand down wind of the geyser, due to the high probability of receiving scalding injuries.
Spray returning to ground and being blown away by the strong winds. The next few photographs highlight the evolution of an eruption.
After the previous eruption the water pours back down the geyser spout, or conduit. Once the spout is filled it starts bubbling up to the surface. The above photograph is the beginning of the eruption cycle, with the trapped gases and scalding hot water building up pressure and pushing up on the water above.
The bubble continues to grow in size and you can clearly see the gas bubble inside the water.
All of a sudden the geyser erupts shooting water up as high as 60 to 80 feet. The elapsed time between the 3 photographs above was less than 3 seconds.
This was taken from downhill of the geyser and the chap in front gives you some perspective, as to the height it reaches.
Thoroughly satisfied we started meandering down to the exit and the hotel for dinner.
Some of the other geothermal activity in the vicinity of the main geyser.
The Geysir Hotel & Restaurant where we had a pleasant dinner of cream of onion soup followed by baked Atlantic Salmon. We certainly experienced the cost of living, as a small bottle of beer and glass of wine was about CAN $21 – ouch!!
I will conclude the remainder of the tour on a separate post.