Posted by: jeanne | June 10, 2016

our trip to iceland – part 2

i stated in prior pre-trip posts that it was going to come down to how far i could drive before jetlag caught up with me and forced me to the side of the road.  my goal was the campground at fludir, around the corner from the super-secret swimming pool.  but i figured anywhere at the far end of the golden circle was cool.

we set out around 9 on sunday morning, with few fellow travellers going over the high moorland to hveragerdi and the geothermic area we wanted to explore during our first day.

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it was all go until we came into hveragerdi and spotted an open grocery store.  they were still closed when we left hafnarfjordur, and weren’t expected to open until noon.

so we piled out, grabbed a cart, and cruised down every isle, including the one with the knitting supplies, because yes in iceland they sell wool in the supermarkets and gas stations, because you never know when you may be caught out in the open without a skein of wool to wrap up in.

we got three kinds of lunch meat, bread, butter, skyr, milk, juice, a can of lamb soup i never did open, some few other things – a rotisserie chicken, mixed individual cereal boxes, coffee pads, honey, and a stop in the candy aisle for the kids to have something to fight over later.  we packed the cooler full and headed off for the hinterland.

an hour later, we were looking for the super-secret volcano lake, thinking it might be a little hard to find.  but there it was, at the end of a short, newly widened gravel road, with a parking lot and a ticket booth.  there was a tour bus there, and a lady at the ticket booth, and it cost us about 3 dollars.  they’d done some path building around the rim, and put up ropes to keep tourists off the unstable slopes, and they were in the middle of building a boardwalk on the closest overlook to the parking lot.

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so we walked around, and i introduced the kids to the very real dangers of iceland, the beautiful place that can kill you.  the boys made much of this.  but again, there we were at the mouth of a volcano, and if that gravel slope let go, it was a couple of hundred feet straight down into the green lake in the middle.  the lava around the rim was mostly reddish, and the consistency of splattered clay.  we brought back one piece that looked like it had been flung by an angry potter.  it’s really light, like fired clay;  it tinks when you clink it, like ceramic.  the rim we were on wasn’t the only one around; the satellite picture of kerid shows at least three in a row, but they’re below ground level, so all you see from the road is a little hill.  and all the cars parked there.  that’s the real clue to all these sights.

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when we finished our tour of the rim, the tour bus was gone, and so was the ticket lady.  probably nipped home for a cup of tea until the next scheduled tour, and to hell with the few bucks from individual tourists in their own cars and vans.

so we took off for the next place, about an hour down the road.  up the road, actually.  we were following this broad valley with winding rivers and plenty of farmland and vacation cottages plunked down in the fields.  the valley wound up and up toward the highlands.  it’s the route we took when we crossed the highlands in a big old tour bus (with siggi and runa), but this time i was driving, and our bus had only 4 passengers.  plus, i kept getting tired.  driving down a road where the scenery is dazzling but doesn’t change very quickly, sitting up and gazing out over a vast distance compared to the view from the trucklet, bouncing in hydraulic truck seats, and jetlagged.  more than once my eyes threatened to close.  but this country can kill you, and i was vigilant.  plus, an hour later we came to geysir.

at first all the boys could see was the visitors’ center and gift shop and cafe.  but we steered them past that and across the road, and there they saw a steaming stream for the first time.  we wouldn’t let them dip their hands in it until it stopped steaming, and then it was cold.  too bad, eh?  there were lots of tourists there, more than at kerid simply because more people know about it.  everybody knows about geysir, even the boys.  but they weren’t very impressed with the bubbling pots of mud and boiling pools of water, and they didn’t care at all about the minerals encrusting the edges of these pots and pools, coloring the rocks all around the place in shades of yellow and red and white.  but boy did they react when strokkur went off not 30 feet in front of them, narrowly missing them with its falling spray.  they’ll remember that for awhile.  and the smell.

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after getting back into the camper, it was another hour up the same road until we got to gulfoss.  we could see its gorge from some way off, as the valley narrowed and prepared to do some serious winding upward.  i wasn’t alert enough to take the first turnoff to the lower parking lot, but ended up in the upper parking lot, with a hundred other cars and tour busses, all trouping past a masterly gift shop and cafe and clomping down an endless boardwalk leading to massive and very tall stairs that lead down to the lower parking lot which was a lot more empty.

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so after shepherding all the boys down the long long stairs and resting for awhile at the bottom, enjoying the view of amazing gullfoss from a far distance, i hiked back up the stairs and went to fetch the van and bring it back to the lower parking lot.  jim and the boys stayed at the bottom, and never ventured down the path that takes you to the water’s edge.  it was slick with mist, and the way the wind was going we were guaranteed to get wet.  i hadn’t yet worked up the need to break out the rain gear, or the sticks, so i was unprepared.  and we were tired.  and the waterfall is impressive without getting right up next to it.

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we couldn’t see down into the gorge from there, however; that’s the only sorry part.  the gorge is so powerful, and it’s topped with columnar lava that makes you think of some vast powerhouse turning all that water into electricity.  but it’s just lava; or is it some elvin structure, or maybe a row of trolls turned to stone as they built the flume for a troll’s water park right there.

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it was great.  and the road was closed at that point, because even tho it’s summer in iceland, the routes into the highlands are still impassable.  so we turned around, as planned, and directed our wheels toward fludir, where there’s a nice campground, a choice of two pools, and the only ethiopian restaurant in the country.

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it was late in the day, the campground was crowded with trailers and campers that looked like their owners were at work for the weekend, so we pulled into the upper field and faced the mountains.  the car still vibrated even after it was turned off.  i still vibrated, anyway.  grandpa was exhausted, so we left him to snooze, and we went looking for the super-secret pool, and thought we might have a bit of trouble finding it.

but at the bottom of the hill, where the stream crossed under a bridge, there was a newly-widened gravel road going off along the river.  which is where the pool was supposed to be.  so we slogged thru the new gravel, which was deep in spots, and acted like slow-motion quicksand on our feet (we took the old road up the hill on the way back).  at first i didn’t understand the newly widened gravel part, and thought maybe it was for heavy trucks for one of the greenhouses, or maybe there was a new housing estate going in and the new house owners would need serious gravel roads during the winter – what do i know.  so i kept going off the gravel road for older, more worn surfaces.  and ending up at someone’s front gate and having to turn back.  duh the road was for the super-secret pool, because there’s a changing area and cafe, and they sell beer and wine for drinking in the pool, and there’s coffee, and you can sit.

we’d brought our swimming suits from the camper, but the guy said there was only half an hour left, and we could come back in the morning, early because the owner liked to open up.  and he let us go around the hot springs area.  the pool is the oldest operating pool in the country (tho one in the north claims to be the first one in operation, now closed), and it is built right next to a hot spring with an abundance of mini bubbling pots of mud and boiling pools of water, and even a litli geysir, with a boardwalk and informational signs.  it smelled of sulfur so the boys held their noses; in one place it was too thick to breathe and it was hard not to choke up.  it was way cool.  i got some nice shots.  the boys did that pose thing for most of the trip.  i was already tired of it.

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and then we walked back to the camper, expecting jim to still be asleep, but he was sitting up in the front of the truck, watching the sun skip across the horizon, from peak to peak along what i suppose was longjokull glacier to the north.  i guess we demolished that chicken, but i don’t remember any of our meals.  and then we crashed.  and when we woke up, we turned over and went back to sleep.  and did it again.  and slept some more.  and only when the kids woke up and we all needed to go to the bathroom (the kids straight out the camper door into the grass), did we get up and make coffee and open the bag of kleinur, and add milk to the cereal for the boys.

and i guess that’s a good place to leave it.  we’ve done the golden circle, and are now ready for a trek across the south of iceland, to see more waterfalls, more volcanos, glaciers, outwash lagoons, and sand endless sand.  and lava endless lava.  and clouds.  and trolls.  and a hidden woman.  and two elves.

 

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