Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Entering the Land of Fire and Ice: Gullfoss and Geyser.

Earlier, at the parliament lake we had noticed a large cloud beginning to dominate the sky. Now we were driving towards it and it wouldn’t be long before the clear blue would be gone. We drove further and further up into the mountains until all the ground around us was covered in snow and ice. The sky had clouded over but it wasn’t as bad as I feared and couldn’t mask the beauty of our surroundings.

After a long drive we arrived at the Gullfoss waterfall. Here, the Hvita River gushes over a double drop to create a two level cascade. It was very cold and the powerful spray coming off the falls was freezing. Gullfoss, was one of the things I had come on the trip to see. Unfortunately, the steep path down to the falls was frozen and with only a rope barrier to hold onto. My girlfriend and I decided against getting to close.

We admired the falls from a distance for as long as the temperature would allow us before we retreated to a nearby restaurant. It was bugging me that from wherever we stood I couldn’t get a clear view into the valley. I was determined to see where the water was flowing so decided to do something stupid. Heading back to the falls I began to traverse the slippery slope down to it. My girlfriend almost lost her bag and decided to give up. Clinging on to the guide rope for dear life and losing my footing with every step I made it to the bottom. Looking down into the valley was amazing.

Getting back up the slippery slope was exhausting but in the end I made it. Our next destination was the Strokkur Geyser which erupts around every five minutes. Before entering the Geyser field we were warned that people have fallen into the boiling hot pools and to be very careful.

 Strokkur is an amazing site as it launches huge jets of water up into the air. Just before each launch a perfectly clear bubble of mineral water forms on its surface. The cold weather means that area around it is often icy and I almost slipped and lost my gloves into the thing. It's also normally surrounded by people trying to take pictures and you have to be quick to catch it.

It’s important to make sure you know which way the wind is blowing before you head towards Strokkur. The best thing to do is watch it erupt from a safe distance first. Otherwise you will end up getting soaked.

As well as Strokkur there are a number of other interesting pools in the Geyser fields. Most of these are boiling hot and contain different coloured water with one blue and one green pool being no more than a few centimetres apart. The different water colouration comes from the pools being formed from water coming from different depths under the ground.

We survived the Geyser field and headed back up into the mountains. After a short stop at the nearby geothermal energy plant, to see how Iceland harnesses the power of its surroundings, we headed back. This effectively brought an end to our journey in the land of fire and ice. In the morning we would be heading to the airport and back home. The snow fell in the night which gave Reykjavik a pretty white glow. It seemed a nice way to remember it.

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