If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a thousand pictures worth?

As of this very moment, Kathy has taken over 1,000 photographs. And I can’t blame her, it’s really quite an amazing place to see. But the woman is a machine (and so is her camera).

You know the saying you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? In some ways, today was kind of like that. We saw some outstanding places and things (and I’ll get to that later), but unlike yesterday’s small group in the super-Land Rover with the interesting tour guide from Iceland who was well read and an adventurer himself, today we had John (sadly, originally from Canada) who’s been a tour guide in Iceland for almost 50 years, and yet can’t string a story together to save his life. And instead of riding in the intimate jeep, we were on a huge charter bus with many people who couldn’t seem to follow the simplest of instructions…we will get off the bus here. We will take photos of this incredible thing, then we will walk down here and catch the bus at point B. How many people went back to where the bus let us out, and wondered where the bus went…more than I can count…

To be absolutely fair, if yesterday’s tour wasn’t included in our package, it would have cost over $200. Today’s tour, the same length and probably covering the same distances, was $78. You kind of get what you pay for.

The Golden Circle Tour is one of the most popular in Iceland, and really gives a good highlight of that particular region. We saw the Gullfoss Waterfall — incredibly amazing but with winds so high Kathy and I thought we might be blown right off our feet and into the waterfalls. And the full on protection between us and certain death in the falls — a flimsy rope barrier with a sign that said something like, “barrier is not secured”. Basically, don’t count on this, you’re on your own, buddy…

It's windy!

It’s windy!

We also went to the Geysir hot springs, which is the geyser that all other geysers are named for, but it doesn’t really go off with any regularity any more. The most active one is Strokkur, which regularly shoots up to 30 m in the air. And it’s not nice water — it’s water that smells like sulfur with a temperature between 80-100 degrees. It’s impressive, but gives no warning before it’s about to erupt. All I could think of were the first unsuspecting Vikings who came across these hot pots of water, possibly thinking they might be able to use the water for cooking or, after cooling it down a little, bathing, or something useful and then all of a sudden BANG, it shoots into the air! If you didn’t believe in trolls or little people or Norse gods before, you might just be converted after Satan himself spews forth from the earth. OR, you might be instantly boiled, in which case it would be the next Viking guy’s opportunity to figure out what the heckla was going on…(note the Icelandic reference from the last entry…10 points to those who were paying attention…)

Iceland May 2013 with Kathy Ward 108

Looks just like a nice bit of warm water…

Iceland May 2013 with Kathy Ward 110

Then BOOM! Geysir!

Oh, total non-sequitur… in Viking, a slave is called a thrall. So to be enthralled is to be enslaved… think about that the next time you’re captivated by something…okay…lingual geek-out finished….

Back to the day of on the bus/off the bus…We visited Thingvellir National Park which is the site of the oldest continuous parliament in the world… since 900 something. And there is still a Minister of Althing in Iceland, who is, I guess, in charge of this. We wouldn’t really know though, as we had the most vague travel guide in the world…. It’s all very lovely and we got to see it from on high. No sense letting the people on the bus get too close in case they muck everything up…

Iceland May 2013 with Kathy Ward 092

Thingvellir National Park. 

Our final stop of the day, after a quick jaunt to an inactive volcano crater and a really old church…but not the original church…then one that was built on a different site, after the older, larger, more impressive church burned down… was the geothermal plant. Call me a stick in the mud, but after 7 hours of taking in the sites, I just didn’t have it in me to go in, pay 600ISK for a tour, and pretend to enjoy wandering around a plant. I appreciate the green energy that is geothermal…but do I really care how it’s made…nope. But it was like we were doing something wrong, people gave us the evil eye. The annoying guy behind us who knew everything demanded to know why were we staying on the bus. But we protested by steadfastly staying on the bus. Well, after a while we did get off the bus, but only because we noticed a nice gift shop inside the geothermal plant main lobby…we will get off the but for a shop-portunity…

Speaking of shopping, it’s a good thing I’m not dying for one of these Icelandic sweaters we see everywhere. They are 100% wool and could not be more itchy. I can’t imagine how the Icelanders can stand wearing them. I said something to that effect to an Icelander, and he said, with a totally straight face, that Icelanders who were allergic to wool died off years ago. No doubt. I would be a scratchy, boily, mess. So not pretty. So not getting me a Viking husband in the time of the Sagas.

I will say, however, that I am totally in love with the geothermal system here. I will miss, more than anything, INSTANTANEOUS hot water, and INSTANTANEOUS cold water from any tap. It’s genius.

We finished off today by taking a cab into the centre of town and indulging in a little micro-brew pubbing in town. Icelanders make some very nice microbrews….but at 950 ISK ($8 a beer), they better be good!!!!

And now it’s 1 am. We are about to have our last Icelandic sleep (and I’m pleased to report it’s actually finally dark outside) and tomorrow we head for warm, healing geothermic waters of The Blue Lagoon before making our way to the airport and saying good bye to this amazing northern country.

The Blue Lagoon 1 The Blue Lagoon 2
It’s been a whirlwind trip. We’ve seen so many highlights and travelled such long distances in this young volcanic country. We’re exhausted, enthralled (there’s that word!) and still processing everything we’ve done and seen. Because as of right now, I think we’ve been here for something like 72 hours.

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