The alarm went off at 6am and our day was starting again. Pitch black outside and you could hear the rain battering the window. It was clearly going to be a good day!
Breakfast at 6.30am so we could hit the road as soon as possible. With the very short window of daylight at this time of year (roughly between 9am and 5pm) we had planned to arrive at our first destination along with the sunrise, so we had the most time to enjoy all the amazing scenery. At breakfast I was greeted by scrambled eggs, hash browns (sauteed potatoes as they called it), maple bacon and sausages. The bacon was what I can only assume American bacon is like as it was thin and very crispy with a sweet flavour. The sausages were small chipolatas that were very dense and salty. Again, very different to the butchers sausages I am used to back home, but I still polished off a dozen!
Fueled up it was time to hit the road and head to the famous Golden Circle. This isn’t actually a circle but a route that encompasses all the main sights near Rekyjavik, including the national park and geysirs. I was a little worried about the drive as this was the first night time (early morning) drive I had done since we arrived and I knew we had to get on the Reykjavik dual carriageway before joining Route 1. It was actually not as stressful as I had imagined and I even succeeded in not getting lost. The directions to Þingvellir were very clear and before we knew it we were pulling up at Öxarárfoss which was to be our first destination. I’d like to pretend this was intentional but what actually happened was that we missed the turn off for the main entrance to Þingvellir and happened to see the sign showing a name ending in foss which we knew meant there was a waterfall nearby. What luck!
The car park (if you can call it that, more like a patch of tarmac) was completely empty and we had around 10-15 minutes there to sort ourselves out as the light started to get clear enough for us to trek out. Rather than slipping our waterproof trousers on while getting dressed in the nice, big, warm, hotel room, we had to try and get them on in the front seats of the car…not the best idea we’ve ever had! However these trousers, although cumbersome, turned out to be one of the best things we took with us! Scrambling around and the obligatory morning selfies completed we headed out to find the waterfall.
We walked (more like climbed) down a small crevice and into a valley with basalt columns lining each side. I have never been to a place that reminded more of The Lord of the Rings. As cold and rainy as it was it was very hard to resist the urge to charge down there like the fellowship chasing the orcs and the captured hobbits. There was a small sign explaining about the history of the area which, as you’d expect most Viking history to be, was very dark and the opposite of light-hearted fun. It was called dead man’s walk as this is where criminals were sent to be killed after the annual meeting of the clans in the National park; which, at the time, was their equivalent of the House of Parliament.
On that cheery note…we moved on down to the waterfall which seemed to come out of nowhere. It was amazing to see the sheer power and volume of water that was pouring down. There was a nice decked area for enjoying the waterfall and there was even a lower decking section that sat under the water level in case there were some people that felt the urge to get soaked in order to get the perfect picture. Needless to say I wasn’t in the mood for having wet feet at 9am in the morning so we stuck to the main decking area.
We then trailed back to the car and followed the long sweeping roads around the national park and on towards the geysirs; next stop Strokkur. This was the first time that we felt like there was a lot of people/tourists, compared to the relative solitude that we had become accustomed to so far. We still managed to get in to the restaurant and have a quick hot chocolate and a biscuit before heading out in the rain to see Strokkur.
The smell of sulphur was thick in the air and you could see plumes of steam rising off the ground in all directions. Walking along the footpath I realised just how well prepared we were. Someone walking around in plimsoles, no socks and no coat definitely didn’t do their research for the Icelandic weather. Most of the routes were under construction for a large extension but we had a good walk around the lower section and enjoyed a few explosions of energy coming from Strokkur. We even stood looking at Geysir for a while before I remembered it is no longer active. Clearly no one had told the big crowd that had congregated with their cameras out either.
Before we went any further we had to abate my constant appetite and so we stopped for a bit of lunch. We shared the soup of the day (soupadagsins) which was celery and a lava bread baguette with lamb. Both were delicious and definitely needed after being out in the rain! Generally all the food was very expensive in Iceland compared to the British counterpart, but I can easily say that the quality is miles apart. The best bit of our lunch was that the celery soup came with a free refill, so I had a second bowl all to myself. Unfortunately, the server wouldn’t let me have the second bowl as lamb stew so I could try both but it was still tasty all the same.
Next time I will finish the day with tales of Gullfoss, Christmas shops and a very tasty three course meal (of sorts).
Ciao for now!