I got up by 5:00 am the next day. We had pre-booked our flybus Golden Circle Day Tour. We heard of a local supermarket, located on one of the back roads. We picked salmon subs for breakfast and lunch. Shopping here was cheaper than eating at Aktu Taktu. Besides, you can always buy food products and store it in the hostel (common) fridge. We waited for our shuttle to pick us up. At 9:00 am we were among the last to be picked up from our hostel door. All shuttles finally reach at the same meeting point. From here, we boarded another bus which took us on our Golden circle Tour.
As we made it through the maze of city roads to the outskirts, the fleeting scenery outside my window changed rapidly. Our first stop was scheduled at Thingvellir National Park. Instead, we made a pit-stop at Upplysingar. White pockets of steam bellowed out of the cracked earth. Due to Iceland geological location, geothermal energy is the best way to generate electricity. Superheated water runs through long chain of pipes and provides hot water directly in taps. The landscape was unlike anything we’ve seen earlier. Barren land with green mounds, jets of steam, and clear blue skies. It felt as though we were in another world – very different from our own. We regrouped and proceeded further to Thingvellir National Park. Our tour guide was a young Icelandic woman. Unlike other tour guides, she wasn’t the least bit touristy. From the rich and varied history of Iceland to the economic meltdown in 2010; she spoke in a steady stream of words. In all honesty, I don’t remember a lot of what she said, but it was informative and saved me time reading. Thingvellir National Park was brimming with tourist buses and tour groups. Our guide gave us a brief background of the park, showed us the separating tectonic plates and had a small Q&A session. From there onwards, we were on our own and had to regroup within an hour. We walked through the paved tar road – between rocky outcrops on either side – to the lush open countryside. When you come from a country of 1 billion people; solitude is hard to find, when you do find it – you refuse to let go. I wanted to pitch a tent here, run, and shout and scream. But all I did was jump – when no one looked. 🙂 In the distance, towering glaciers cut across the blue powder-puff clouded sky and pockets of water filled gaping holes between lush greenery. Algae grew below the water giving it shades of blue. Some tourists had thrown coins into the ponds, seemed like a waste of money, not to forget the pollution of a natural park. There were few travellers who had come on a self-drive trip. In hindsight, it makes more sense you discover Iceland on your own, at your own pace.
We were soon approaching lunch time and our bus proceeded to Gullfoss. In Icelandic, foss means waterfall and Gullfoss translates as Golden Falls – on a warm summer day the rays of the sun give it a golden sheen. At the parking lot, there are few log cabins which double up as refreshment and souvenir shops. If you brought your own food along, like us, you can choose a comfortable wooden bench to sit and enjoy your meal with the glacial view. We weren’t hungry, as yet, so we walked down to explore the waterfalls in close proximity. The path to the waterfalls is well chalked out, intermittent with steps and pathways. However, as you approach the waterfall, there is a narrow slippery stretch which runs parallel to a rock face. Wear your windcheater and your glares, to protect yourself from sprays of water. Although, I was wary of the depth below, I found courage when I saw elderly couples walk with relative ease. The depth of the crevice is 32 m (105 ft) and the force of the water is extraordinary here. On reaching the waterfall, you can take photo-ops with the gushing water as a backdrop. The water from the Hvítá is first broken into a three steps and further branches into two consecutive stages, before it plunges into the depth of the chasm below. It is only after you’ve climbed back to ground level, that you realise the intricate framework of the falls. We chose a secluded bench and munched on a salmon sub. Soon enough, our time was up and we had to head towards our next landmark.
Our next scheduled stop was at the Geysir. There were three or four Geysirs at a given site, but at that time, only one Geysir was active. A geysir would erupt after a time interval of 10 min (roughly). The tricky part is to wait, with bated breath, for it to erupt. A second late, and you’ve missed the shot and have to wait once again for the cycle to repeat itself. Choose a place, nearest to the perimeter of the geyser, to get the best shots. Basil managed to get a couple of good shots and I got a shoddy recording of it. But, if you just want to look at it and just admire nature’s wonderworks, you won’t be disappointed either. Our bus continued the journey along Iceland’s surreal countryside. We made a stop at a church. While some of us rushed to relieve ourselves at the loo, the rest proceeded to admire a log cabin and the simplicity of the church itself. The blue stain glass windows of the church let in sunlight and lit up the church naturally. The next stop was the Kerid Crator. Located at the apex of a mountain, the crater is a reminder of an active volcano. Currently, instead of molten magma, the crater was filled with turquoise-blue waters. We proceeded further to the Thermal Energy Production plant. By now, we had seen too much to really look around. There is an exhibition centre, if you’re interested. We munched another sub and waited for the bus to leave. We reached somewhere after 4 p.m. We picked up something for the evening, from the convenience store, and headed to our hostel. By 9:00 pm we were off to bed. This time, I chose to sleep on the upper bed, in the hope of getting some sleep.