21.02.2014 - 21.02.2014 -3 °C
Despite our late night chasing non-existent lights in the sky we were up early as we had a long day of driving ahead of us. Our plan on day three was to drive around the Golden Circle - the most popular tourist route in Iceland. The 300km Golden Circle loop not only offers beautiful scenery it also leads you to all the hot spots close to Reykjavik including Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and the famous Gullfoss waterfall. The popularity of this trip was the main reason we left Reykjavik so early; we wanted to avoid (at all costs) the huge tourist buses that completed this loop every day.
Not being a big morning person (especially on very little sleep) it was Iceland’s scenery that kept me awake during the early morning drive oh and of course my very important navigation job. We have decided that Icelandic scenery is the best way to overcome tiredness. This point was proved as we arrived at the Þingvallavatn lake just in time to see the sunrise over it’s frozen surrounds. Photos do this sunrise much more justice than words…
As we had already visited Þingvellir National Park the day before we were able to drive on past the tourist buses that were pulling in there as their first stop and head straight to the intriguing Geysir area. The Strokkur Geyser is the most famous geyser in the Haukadalur geothermal area erupting every 10 minutes or so often to a height of 30 metres - we were hoping we would be in for a good show this day. Once again it was so windy that a simple thing such as getting out of the car proved extremely difficult. The Icelandic wind is something we will never get use to, the chill factor as well as the ability to move only in slow-motion is quite entertaining up until the point you realise you have only moved about 10cm and can’t feel your face. Once we had managed to stumble our way across the car park and down a small icy pathway we found the Strokkur Geyser or as it was at that moment a hole in the ground surrounded by a rope guard. Now I am not really sure what happened next because it happened so quickly but one second I was standing and the next second I was flat on my back on the cold, hard ice. This fall is one of those great mysteries although Drew does tell me he captured a part of it on the GoPro (wonderful) but I think the combination of the icy path along with the brutal Icelandic wind resulted in me being knocked off my feet in front of 30 people - not embarrassing at all. I love how after falling down people always pretend they are fine even though their whole body is in a world of pain and I was no exception standing there with my fake happy face waiting for Strokkur to erupt. The Geyser eruption did cheer me up though it was a pretty cool thing to witness…
Next stop on our Golden Circle tour was the most famous waterfall in Iceland Gullfoss. The Gullfoss waterfall lies on the Hvítá River and receives its water from Iceland’s second biggest glacier which then falls 32 metres into the canyon below. As we were there in winter the Gullfoss Waterfall and surrounds were mostly frozen which was a pretty spectacular sight. Once again, due to the wind, we had the problem of not being able to hold our cameras up to take pictures. It was quite amusing standing there with other tourists waiting for momentary lapses in the wind to quickly take photos. The only relatively safe path around Gullfoss that day was the one where you couldn’t quite see into the canyon and therefore it looked like the waterfall just vanished. This viewpoint was enough for me and after managed to snap a few pictures I quickly retreated to the shelter of the information centre. Drew being the more warm-blooded of us went off on another trail quite close to Gullfoss that allowed better views into the canyon and as a result we now have these amazing pictures (I am talking about the waterfall not Drew's selfies).
After our Gullfoss adventure we had effectively finished the hot spots of the Golden Circle tour and so we decided to head off in search of some Viking ruins Drew had read about during our research on Iceland. It is at this point we should note that Iceland’s sites are not very well signposted, even the main tourist sites, so trying to find essentially a non-tourist site in the middle of nowhere up in the mid-lands proved impossible - who would have thought. So while we never found the Viking ruins we did end up having an adventure that day but one both of us would gladly hand back. This adventure consisted of accidentally heading off road and taking our little Hyundai on a hilly jeep track that was covered in ice and snow and had next to no visibility due the winds whipping snow and ice into the air around us. The little Hyundai went up a few notches in my book that day... and Drew’s as well even though he won’t admit it.
After our off-road adventure we thought it best to forgo the hidden Viking ruins and head back to Reykjavik for some dinner. Along the way we stopped many times for Drew to take pictures of the beautifully back-dropped winding roads and also more importantly to make friends with the gorgeous Icelandic horses who were much more photogenic and friendly than the roads.
DAY THREE NIGHT FOURr
During our Golden Circle drive that day we had scoped out a few safer places than our previous nights location to sit and stare aimlessly at the sky. But before we headed off on our Northern Light hunt we headed to Hamborgarabúllan the best burger place in Reykjavik for their cost saving offer of the century that included a burger, chips and a drink for $15AUD an absolute bargain for Iceland. After a deliciously greasy dinner we headed back towards Þingvellir National Park (a drive we now knew very well) and parked the car at a safe pull in zone near the lake. Once again the radar was saying our chance of seeing the lights was low but being the ever optimistic fools we are we sat and waited. Drew spent a lot of time in the car practicing his looking for the lights poses which was entertaining for about the first five minutes of his 20 minute act. It was quite a nice spot to watch and wait though as we also had the company of another car and its unidentified dark strangers who we communicated with through the flashing of our headlights. After two and a half hours of staring we gave up and headed back to Reykjavik. We are still wondering whether the Northern Lights actually exist or whether if you go out hunting long enough you do go crazy and imagine dancing lights in the sky… we will wait and see.
Here is one of Drew's great poses sorry it is blurry but the camera can't focus in pitch black….