We awakened to a gorgeous deep blue-skied sunny Tuesday. After breakfast we checked out of Hotel Island and began our drive out of Reykjavík, heading east to Route 1. We almost missed the turnoff to go toward Selfoss! The major highway markings are much subtler than we are accustomed to here in the US. Here, we would expect to see large overhead signs giving us perhaps a mile's advance warning - in Iceland, the signs are smaller and are located at the intersection or turnoff, but not noticeably before.
Our first stop was Hveragerði, also known as the "greenhouse village" or "hot springs garden." While the winters here reported to be milder than I had expected, they are also darker than at our latitude. Using greenhouses and geothermal energy, Icelanders grow most of the country's produce - including bananas and tropical fruit! We spent some time there with Jorde, a Spanish scientist from Barcelona, who managed a geothermal tourist stop. On its site were many different pools which reached varying temperatures - all quite hot - and had varying acid content, which then determined what kind of bacteria thrived there. Two of the pools were the sites of fatalities; one case was a man on horseback who fell from his horse in a blizzard around the turn of the century. What a terrible death!
Leaving Hveragerði, we left Route 1 and turned northeast, to Kerið, a 3000-year old crater, which is reported to be 185 feet deep. This was not to be missed, and was not well marked (we finally realized that we would have to be extremely sharp-sighted if we weren't to miss out on seeing things!). There is a small gravel parking area, just in front of what looks like a hill. We climbed to the top - an awesome sight! We hiked to the bottom and enjoyed the cool, crystal clear water.
Then we proceeded to Geysir, where we watched Strokker erupt. While it is not as impressive as Old Faithful, we saw it erupt three times within a 15-minute span. The geyser of all geysers, for which all others have been named, is also located here; but it has not erupted for many decades, due to tourists who poured gravel or soap into it, attempting to force its eruption.
Perhaps 5 minutes from Geysir is Gullfoss ("Golden Falls"), an incredible 2-level waterfall of the typical chocolate milk-colored water of glacial melt. We walked out as far as possible to the falls. There are few, if any, signs, ropes, or fences (in all of Iceland, either!) warning tourists not to get too close to the edge of the 100+ foot falls.
Turning west, we stopped at a gas station and bought cheese, crackers and soda for lunch - less expensive than yesterday, and quite portable.
After lunch we drove on to Þingvellir ("Parliament Plains"), the national park and site of the old Althing, which is said to be the oldest still-functioning parliament in the world. Viking settlers formed it in the year 930. What an incredible sight! The rift valley and the waterfalls are magnificent! We hiked and climbed in the rocks and generally enjoyed the warm sunshine.
Continuing west on Route 48, we found the waterfall Þorufoss, again not well marked, and again, beautiful. These falls can't be seen from the road, and until you get out of your vehicle and walk, you would have no idea they are there.
We drove along Hvalfjörður ("whale fjord") and took the tunnel beneath it to the other side, then went north to Borgarnes. We checked into Hotel Borgarnes at about 7 PM. The hotel was nothing special, but the rooms were neat and clean. We ate dinner at the hotel, where our waitress was from South Africa. A nice meal, although again nothing special. We met another pair of travelers who were "going our way," two British women Liz and Marie. We talked with them for a while before calling it a LONG day.
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