Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iceland Highlights - Part 2

Day 3
Sunday was another day filled with planned tours.  We hopped on another bus and headed to see the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian techtonic plates.
This is looking down into the valley - at first we thought this impressive split in the rocks was the divide,  and maybe it was long ago, but this was cooled, solid, split rock - the valley is the whole lower area
From the rift valley, we drove to the Geysir area (that's how they spell it in Iceland; however, geyser is one of the few English words that comes from Icelandic).  The main spout in this area goes higher than Old Faithful of Yellowstone and does so, on average, every 7 minutes.  However, geysers can turn on and off due to earthquakes and other land movement, so this one only started erupting recently in the mid 2000s.  Before that it had been dormant for decades.

A non-erupting but steaming thermal pool in the foreground with the biggest geyser in the background
After seeing Geysir, we drove to a giant dual water fall called Gullfoss - the lower falls is around 20 meters high and the upper one is around 10.  What's amazing is that everything that is down wind of the walls, since it's cold, gets coated with ice from the mist.  So all the white on the land isn't snow, but more of a super heavy frost.
Note the people on the left-hand side for scale - this was a very pretty set of waterfalls and yet other than a parking lot and a coffee and gift shop, there was literally nothing around this area
Finally, from Gullfoss, we drove to where the road became impassable for the bus, impassable in Icelandic, not kidding is pronounced "O fart" [photo evidence below]
Click on the photo to zoom in - the road was gravel from here on out
Our bus stopped here and we waited for another mode of transportation to take us to our next destination

The off-road truck/bus un-heated giant thing! (Complete with Iceland flags)
This vehicle drove us on the impassable road for a while, where we stopped, put on snow suits and then drove again, further, up onto a glacier.  We were going snowmobiling!

That's me, on a snowmobile on a glacier in Iceland, wearing five layers on my torso and four pairs of pants - woohoo!
The view down the glacier - most of the light is from our headlights (it was pretty dark), but in the center you can see a sliver of sky below the cloud cover, lit up by the setting sun.
Even though we had already been touring around a lot, we had a nice dinner planned, but since we were running late, we didn't have a chance to go back to the hotel first.  Instead, we went straight to The Pearl restaurant on the top of a hill in Reykjavik, and had a buffet dinner where we tried a few new foods - moose, reindeer and whale (no puffin, though it is eaten in Iceland, it just wasn't on the menu).

Inside The Pearl under it's glass dome ceiling - the restaurant also rotates 
The outside of The Pearl during the day
Day 4
On day 4, since we didn't get back from dinner the night before until almost midnight, and because it was raining when we woke up, my sister and I slept in, then walked around our hotel checking out more of the neighborhood by daylight and doing some final souvenir and gift shopping.

Rainy day view from our room
After that we drove to the airport and waited for our five hour flight back to Boston.

Vik must mean village or something, because it was the ending of many of the town names
The awesome thing was, since there was a five hour difference between the locations of take off and touchdown, we arrived in the US remarkably soon after we left Reykjavik.  All in all, it was great to visit Iceland.  If I were to go back a second time, I'd see more of the north of the country (most of our tours went south) and try going in the summer when there would be lots more daylight.

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