We again woke up to an overcast rainy day. Talking with some of the locals I understand they need the rain. This is the first rain they have had in about two months. It would have been nice for the photos if it could have held off for a couple more days, but I am just being selfish. I do want to apologize for the formatting of yesterdays post. Everything looked fine in WORD, but when uploaded to WordPress it did not translate. Maybe today will be better.
Today we had a tour which I had arranged over the internet several months ago with a local family owned travel service, Iceland Guided Tours. My contact had been very positive and they had great reviews on TripAdvisor. Nevertheless you always worry about how things will go especially when other people are depending on a good tour that you have planned. I should never have been concerned!
We were met at the appointed time, 8:30 by Odinn who I had been communicating with. He tracked us down since the Maasdam had not docked in the originally appointed berth due to our schedule change. There was a full mini bus of Massdam tourists so I wasn’t the only one who had found Iceland Guided Tours.
Odinn was a tremendous guide. His English was excellent and his knowledge was inexhaustible. We were signed up for the classic “Golden Circle” tour. Holland America offered an identical tour for $175 per person on a large bus. Our tour with Odinn was $65 per person with only 16 persons. In addition Odinn was willing to make stops or diversions if anyone was interest in a particular place. If you are traveling to Reykjavik I highly recommend Iceland Guided Tours.
Odinn, our tour guide.
This is not a great photo, it was taken from the bus, but is shows one of the 6 geothermal plants located in Iceland. Each pipe represents a borehole about 7000 feet deep which brings superheated water to the surface. The water is then used not only to generate electricity but to supply homes and businesses with hot water. Hot water is so inexpensive here they even have one ocean bay which is heated from 50 degrees to 70 degrees with geothermal heat.
The above photo is of one of the borehole sites. Here the water is captured and the sound muffled. Apparently without the sound deadening it sounds like a jet turbine constantly. The building to the right of the dome is the muffler.
Geothermal heat is so inexpensive that it heats many huge greenhouses which produce vegetables and flowers for the Island. Odinn said they is some fruit production but not enough to sustain the country without imports. One plant would be sufficient to produce enough electrical power for the entire island. Iceland is working to entice more industry to the country with its cheap electricity. As a result there has been some development of power hungry industries such as aluminum production.
We stopped at Kerid. This is a volcanic crater located near the road from Sog to Reykholt. It is about 160 feet deep and almost 1000 feet across. This crater is about 3000 years old and is a part of a group of volcanic hills called Tjarnarholar. This is considered to be a very small crater but not quite a mini-crater. There are about 800 volcanoes on Iceland and about 40 are active and 10 are considered very active.
One of the highlights of the Golden Circle tour is the famous waterfalls Gullfoss – the golden falls. The next several photos are of the falls. I was very disappointed in my photos. The falls are so large and impressive that it is absolutely impossible to depict their beauty and magnificence in a photo. Also the weather did not allow for the best photography, but we take what we are given.
The people above the falls give some scale to the photo.
Note the people on the cliff in the left center of the photo.
The above photo was taken from the Gullfoss falls looking back to the mountains toward central Iceland. You can see the glacier Langjokull, which is the second largest in Iceland and one of the largest in Europe.
Trivia question… What is the only Icelandic word introduced into the English language? Yes, you are correct, geyser. The photo above is of geyser. Not a photo of a geyser but a photo of geyser, the first so named and the name became the moniker of all such hot water spouting fixtures. Geyser does not spout too frequently, but there are others in the area which does.
The photos below are of the geyser Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes, shooting a tower of water and steam about 100 feet into the air. Since there is almost no warning and the display only last a couple of seconds, getting a good photo is not easy.
One of the most interesting, even though not necessarily the most spectacular places we visited today was Thingvellir National Park. This park encompasses two very different but very important parts of Iceland. First the Althing (national assembly) was established here around 930 and continued to convene here until 1798. Many crucial events in Icelandic history took place at Thingvellir and it is at the heart of Icelandic nationhood. No less remarkable is the geology of Thingvellir. It is here that the North American and European tectonic plates come together. We quite literally drove off the European plate through what is known as “no man’s land” which is the “new” ground formed by the expanding plates and then onto the North American plate. As the new land if created at the rate of about 1 inch per year, the area between the plates sinks forming what is now a valley through which many streams flow. It is beautiful and almost magical to think that here is where the separation of the North American Continent and the European Continent begins and continues. It is also amazing that the early settlers of Iceland over 1000 years ago chose this exact spot to form their most important council area.
One of the fissures in the area.
This is the wall which forms the North American plate.
Just as a note of interest, it was here the Vikings executed women who were convicted of a capital crime. The execution was by drowning and it was known as the drowning pool. Men were beheaded, often with a not too sharp sword.
After our last stop, Odinn brought us back through Rejkyvik with a brief tour of the city. Overall it was a great trip and the only thing which would have made it better would have been the weather.
For dinner this evening I was famished and embarrassingly had 5 courses. I started with salmon and tuna tartar with caviar, followed by five onion soup and then an excellent salad with blue cheese. My entrée was probably the best seared tuna I have ever had. It actually did melt in your mouth. My dessert was described as rich chocolate studded with candid fruit and pistachio nuts – delicious. Dinner was accompanied by another bottle of the excellent Chilean chardonnay and with dessert I had coffee. Sure, I am not going to gain any weight… Actually we have all been doing pretty well. We do a lot of walking, often 7 or 8 miles on shore days and 2 or 3 while at sea and we never take the elevator while on ship. Going from promenade deck 6 to the Lido deck 11 or the observation deck 13 by stairs is pretty good exercise.
We are looking forward to fjords tomorrow morning and our next stop Djupivogur. No folks, I don’t make these names up.