Day 11. Friday 24 May.
1 AM, 4 AM…it’s light enough, maybe we get going? The constant light still confuses but 7 AM was OK. Today was the famous (not Pineapple) Golden Circle Day, taking in the foundation of Icelandic Parliament (10thcentury) at Pingvellir (excuse Roman alphabet), Geysir (self explanatory) and Gullfoss (big waterfall), albeit with hundreds (if not thousands) of our newest friends. We were joined by busload upon busload of others – what a change from the past few days in the west.
Yes, Pingvellir was impressive; a big, big beautiful lake and the site of the first Commonwealth of Iceland, a place where people gathered to have legal disputes settled, laws delivered, punishments delivered (capital – drownings, beheadings and hangings: take your pick – and fines)…as well as being the place where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet or rather push against each other, moving apart at 2 annually – as one tour group guide was heard to say ‘making Iceland slightly bigger each year’.
The demarcation canyon lines are very clear and the rift valley between is periodically flooded, subsides, etc. It’s also the summer residence of the Icelandic Prime Minister (and sadly in 1970 the then PM, his wife and grandson died in a house fire).
The church (another unpretentious building) had an important role in being the initial custodian of the measure of length, the ell (which corresponds to about 49 cm). The initial method, the distance between the tip of the fingers and the elbow, obviously allowed for too many variations, so a standard measure was determined, and this was ordered to be marked on the church wall. Other churches were required to copy this exactly to likewise mark the measure. The standard, however, remained in this location and was this was where disputes were settled.
And quite early, as we stood overlooking the canyon wall, there was a loud cry from a (Chinese) tourist “Hey, he’s a pickpocket! That guy just tried to take my wallet!” There was then a spurt of expletives and a cry to photograph the accused, call the police…. The accused and his companion just sidled off, denying any wrongdoing, while the ‘victim’ continued his outrage, explaining what he’d felt/observed…the tour guide was clearly shaken in his blurb and since there was no real evidence of a crime, the best he could offer was a promise to speak to staff at the Information Office. Meanwhile the Chinese guy continued to swear and sought sympathy from fellow tourists, ending with the comment that he had been targeted because he was ‘Asian’ …” Holy f…!”
We moved away, and sought a ‘quiet’ pathway down into the valley. It was a bit like being at Macchu Picchu, thought T. After a shortish, quietish walk admiring the space, taking in the birds and a waterfall (no champagne for us) we moved on.
Three birds of note today: the Golden Plover, the Greylag Goose and the White Wagtail. T remarked that it was a stupid name for the wagtail, until she saw it in flight – Ah, yes, that’s it.
We were tracking with the tour buses towards Geysir. But we managed to avoid most of them (apart from a small but loud group from North America): coffee happened at a hostel (Fawlty Towers) restaurant – it even looked the part inside and out.
And then, as we arrived at Geysir, there were the buses (and hundreds of cars). The steam was rising, the tourists crawled, zig-zagged, lined up beside the main geyser (guaranteed to ‘blow’ at 8 – 10 minute-intervals) and unapologetically pushed in front of other cameras to get that best shot.
And yes, the geyser performed as promised, although sometimes its performance didn’t live up to expectations. Just like real life!
Back over the other side, by contrast, a scene of serene rural beauty – not a tourist in sight.
As we walked towards the top of the bluff overlooking the geysers, we were intrigued by the sound of a Police siren in the distance, and then a car being pulled over, partially blocking the main access road. The situation continued for perhaps three quarters of an hour and was still ongoing as we left: the two police officers unhurriedly doing something in the back tailgate of the vehicle, the driver and passengers getting out in turn while a policeman or woman looked around. We left still not knowing what it was all about: filming another season of ‘Trapped’? A drug bust? Someone having a baby? A medical emergency? D had to restrain T from going over to ask.
Clouds threatened as we moved on toward Gullfoss (waterfall) and yep! There were the buses and cars – and the rain. But very impressive.
The ‘circle’ route home was more of an oval; having missed a vital turnoff, we ended ‘geographically misplaced’ at the harbourside in Reykjavik. T had a feeling that we were in familiar territory from Wednesday’s excursion (i.e going the wrong way) and the Friday rush-hour traffic added another element of interest. D was confident: ‘there’s the sun, that must be west, so we’re heading north, which is where we want to go.’ Wrong. But the driver was SO cool…just go around the roundabout (and the next one, and the next one….) and all will be well…and so it was. Did we mention that Reykjavik has more roundabouts than Canberra?
Safely back in Borgarnes, blue evening sky, glass of red…what’s the problem? Well, there is one – the red has run out.