07 January 2014

Day 4 - Golden Circle Tour

I haven't been keeping up very well the past few days - I apologize to any readers! I'm currently in London, having arrived last night, and will now write about the past two days. 

Unfortunately the day of the Golden Circle Tour...I inadvertantly left my memory card for my camera back at the hostel. My excuse is I wasn't thinking straight after having a night with barely any sleep. This is where hostels can be not so good; they are a great way to meet people, but you have no control over who you share a room with. In my room was a mother and a son, and the son was awake playing video games and/or humming until 3am when I finally managed to fall asleep...and he was still awake when I woke up again at 7am! The first thing I did that morning was go down to reception and ask to switch rooms; even though I only had one more night, I really needed sleep. So I currently have no pictures, but will have some eventually, as a friend did the same tour, only in his own car rather than with a group, so saw the same things! Yay for making friends!

The Golden Circle is a loop of famous sights in Iceland; there actually isn't really a gold circle somewhere! The first stop of our day was Pingvellir and in North America - so I was back on the same continent as home! The North American and Eurasia plates meet up in Iceland, where it is pretty clear where one starts and the other ends, as the MidAtlantic Ridge is seen above the ground. There is a beautiful lake in the center of the meeting point, which is sinking at a rate of 2cm per year as each plate pulls apart from the other. We were there before the sun was fully risen, but it was really pretty. Then we walked from above the lake down to where the first Icelandic form of government met, in the 9th century. As we left the sight, we crossed back into Europe! Our guide, Greta, decided to drive the scenic route, which was basically a sheet of ice - but it was really pretty! She did stop once when we spotted some sheep! There were four, a mother and three babies, which she told us was unusual because all the sheep around rounded up in the autumn to spend the winter indoors. So she reported it to the park ranger and someone was heading out to get the sheep - its amazing they were able to survive this long outside, its so cold and the ground is mainly covered in ice. 

Our next stop was at Geysir - there is one specific geysir named Geysir, and its this one that all the others in the world got their name. Unfortunately that specific one is now dormant, but there were quie a few others in the same area, one of which spouted every three to five minutes. It felt like being on a different planet, with all the steam coming up from the ground. And it was also extremely windy once again, so after watching the more regular geysir spout twice, I headed in to lunch. 

A short drive away was Gulfoss, the Golden Waterfall. So earlier I saw the Black Waterfall, and now I've also seen the Golden one! It was a massive, two layered waterfall. The wind was blowing so hard that even being quite a ways away, I got spray from the water on my face. The reason Iceland has so many waterfalls is because it is a geologically young country, and the rivers haven't had time yet to wear away the rock. I also didn't realize how volcanically active Iceland is, plus Greta showed us a report that over the last two days there were over 20 earthquakes in the country, none higher than a 1.6 and they usually feel nothing from them. There is just a lot of activity going on below the surface of the Earth there. And some day Iceland will cease to exist, as the two tectonic plates will eventually pull apart and the country will sink down below sea level; hopefully that is millions of years in the future. 

We had a couple more quick stops for photos, one at another waterfall, and then we headed to my favorite part of the day - we got to feed the Icelandic horses! Greta had brought bread, and she knew of a farm where the horses were really friendly. As we pulled up, the farmer was there feeding them hay, but they immediately trotted over to see what goodies we had. It was really nice having the farmer there, as he explained they were all one family, and the mother horse was 31 and her name was Freya. There was one foal, who was adorable! And they ate right out of our hands, letting us pat their noses and feel their thick coats of fur. That was really special and I'm so glad we were able to do it! Plus I felt like a horse feeding expert, since I knew you had to hold your hand out flat - everyone was afraid of getting bit, and one girl had her mitten get pulled off her hand! 

Then it was back to Reykjavik. With the daylight hours being so short, there was no power plant visit, which I am perfectly fine with, as I'd much rather see the natural sights. It does make me want to come back in the summer though, just to see what everything is like in longer daylight plus to see what the landscape looks like, if it gets more green and things. 

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