Day 58 – Reykjavik, Iceland Circle Tour – July 18th, 2015 (Part 1)

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.

Valley transit with sheets of relatively new lava

Lava flow as we climbed up the valley through the mountains.

Valley transit with new lava along side of road

Lava flow at the side of the road

Valley transit geothermal plant amidst a sea of lava

One of the geothermal plants, which has numerous pipes leading to the plant from other locations.

Valley transit steam pipe on rollers heading to the geothermal plant

One of the pipes carrying the superheated water to the plant. The pipes sit on wheels so they can move during the frequent earthquakes.

Valley transit looking at the volcano that erupted recently causing air travel delays

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.

Valley transit looking down on the SW lowland 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.

SW plains with volcano that is overdue for an eruption

Some of the fertile valley with the volcano in the background being about 5 years overdue for one of its regular eruptions.

SW plains with a river meandering through the valley

River meandering through the valley.

SW plains with summer cottages and mountain in background

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.

Enroute to Geyser arable valley with river and numerous farms

Arable valley stretches for miles, which is a sight that we didn’t expect to see in Iceland.

Fridheimer Farms

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.

Horse farm with owner's kids providing a welcome at the entrance

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.

 

Horse farm owner's daughter and horse close-up at the entrance

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.

Horse show riding in front of stands

The oldest daughter opened the show by riding a couple of laps with the Iceland Flag.

Horse show 6

Walking around the ring at a slow pace.

Horse show 10

Demonstrating how smooth the ride is by carrying a well filled pint of beer around the ring for a few laps.

Horse show 13

The boys provided the same demonstration, but they had glasses of milk.

Horse show 17

After a few laps very little, if any was spilled.

Horse show kids and horses

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.

Horse farm with Judi and horse 2

Judi posing with one of the horses.

Horse farm with horse in barn close-up 2

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.

Enroute to Geyser with one of the many hay fields

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.

Enroute to Geyser with horses and sheep grazing together 

Horses and sheep grazing away in the same field.

 

Strokkur Geyser

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.

Geyser looking uphill from the entrance

View of the Strokkur Geyser surrounding area.

Geyser standing below the geyser looking uphill

Geyser blowing off steam with visitors eagerly awaiting the  next eruption.

Geyser downhill eruption 2 number 2

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.

Geyser downhill eruption 2 number 5

Spray returning to ground and being blown away by the strong winds. The next few photographs highlight the evolution of an eruption.

Geyser eruption 3 number 2

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.

Geyser eruption 3 number 3

The bubble continues to grow in size and you can clearly see the gas bubble inside the water.

Geyser eruption 3 number 4

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.

Geyser eruption from a distance

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.

Geyser with other steam vents below the main geyser

Some of the other geothermal activity in the vicinity of the main geyser.

Geyser with Hotel Geyser where we stopped for lunch

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.

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