Month: September 2016

The Golden Circle

You can get on a coach from Reykjavik and do the golden circle tour in a day or even just an afternoon. It takes in the big 3 sites on a loop – the mid Atlantic ridge tectonic plates, Geysir with the Geysers, and Gullfoss, a huge waterfall. Those coach trips are fine if you’re on that kind of trip. But this isn’t that kind of trip.

Day 2 on the golden circle and it was freezing. I put on a t-shirt, jumper, fleece and coat on my top half. Thermal leggings, waterproof trousers and 2 pairs of socks on my bottom half. A buff round my neck and a hat on top – I’m not joking when I said it was freezing.

I walked up to the Geyser park and it’s cool. Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes and fires a plume of steam around 25metres high. There are other bubbling hot pots, all surrounded by tourists with selfie sticks and tripods. And umbrellas. It didn’t take long until my tourist tolerance level was reached and I walked up the hill at the back of the park. I knew there were some forest walking trails not far away and could see a track down the otherside of the hill – I wondered if they’d meet up.

It started pouring with cold rain so I wanted to get down from the hill. It was a bit of a scramble and when there are bubbling hot pots in the area it’s best not to assume solid looking ground is going to be solid. I made it down though and started walking along the track when the sun came out. It was roasting hot so layers started coming off, I’d now have been better off in summer kit like I had been in the day before.

I saw a puddley stream on the track and it had bright green algae in it. I put my hand in – warm water. That was the start of my new game – when I saw any type of water I had to guess hot or cold before touching it. With glacier rivers next to geothermal springs, the game’s not as easy as it might sound.

Eventually the track brought me to the start of the forest trails and there were some paper maps in a holder. I took one and then sheltered under a tree whilst putting all of my layers back on. The forest was beautiful, I’d read and heard that there were a lack of trees in Iceland but it’s not something I’ve really noticed. In the space of a few days the country has turned from green to every shade of orange – very autumnal and the temperature ranges from summer to winter. I had my stove and some noodles to cook for lunch and found a little wooden shelter with a table and chair so stopped for a lunch break. The trails were poorly marked but there were forestry tracks so I followed them more than the map. I always have GPS running in my pocket as a safety backup so although I don’t have a map on it, I can at least see my track.

I knew there was a geocache in the area and also a geothermal pool so that was where I’d aim for after lunch. I popped up at the geocache completely unexpectedly – not being anywhere close to where I thought I was on the map! I signed the log book and headed to the geothermal pool. If you didn’t know, you’d walk past it thinking it was just a pond but it was hot bath water temperature. I had a long wallow and then boiled some water for hot chocolate whilst quickly trying to get some clothes on, the hardest part about the hot pools is getting out.

A kilometre along a track and I was back at the Geyser car park, back into the tourist bubble. I smiled at the thought of what was outside the bubble and having only seen 1 other person all day, my tolerance level had been restored enough to stand and watch Strokkur erupt a few more times, with my eyes rather than with my back to it smiling at a phone screen.

Ups and Downs Part 2

Of course a Down day is usually followed by an Up day where seemingly nothing can go wrong. Never a dull day!

The tourist trip I’d booked on was where you go inside a glacier. I’ve never seen a glacier let alone go inside one so I decided to spend the zillion Kroner to do it.

Glaciers aren’t the easiest beasts to get to. It was a 30minute 4×4 coach journey to Base Camp, then a 20min journey in the ice mobile to get to the tunnel entrance. The ice mobile was a converted Nato missile launcher, so high tech that the air pressure of the tyres can be changed whilst it’s moving – controlled by a phone app.

Going inside the glacier was fantastic as was the tour guide, although when you’re reminded that there’s 50metres of ice and snow on top of you a little unnerving.

I got back to Bertha and had earmarked somewhere to head for the night, I didn’t want to rush straight to Reykjavik but certainly didn’t want to detour off paved roads with the aforementioned less than ideal spare tyre. Wilson the wheel sat on my passenger seat and kept me company, I stopped 3 times during the 40miles to check the spare and it’s pressure.

It was a 2km detour to Borgarnes up a main road, acceptable. The first thing I saw was a supermarket and a huge services. Before I went to find somewhere to sleep for the night I popped to the supermarket – opposite the turning in was a tyre place. It was Sunday so it was closed but it meant Wilson could be fixed tomorrow without having to go straight to Reykjavik which was a huge relief as that was another 50miles on and there were detours I’d ideally like to make.

How could today get any better?! A whole roast chicken reduced to only half a zillion Kroner in the supermarket which improved my planned veggie curry no end, and a campsite on the waters edge with a glowing sunset alongside some friendly campervan neighbours. Definitely an Up day.