Golden Circle, 2009

As we drove from Thingvellir towards Geysir, LS couldn't wait to use the thermal pool at our hotel. We passed rugged landscapes carpeted with a yellow moss and as we moved north, it became even drier and desert-like and more rocky, with sand on the ground. Eventually we passed some fertile fields with grass where cows or horses were grazing, and then another lake.

LS: What's this lake called?
Me: I think it's Laugarvatn.
LS: I thought that's the one we were at earlier?
Me: That was Thingvalavatn.
LS: They all sound the same, with the 'vatn'.
Me: That's because 'vatn' means lake.

We saw more horses and B asked, "Do you think the life of a horse is very boring?"

Waiting for Strokkur

We went to see the geysers near midnight. Strokkur was the regular one, 'erupting' every five to eight minutes. LS observed that just before the eruption a huge bubble would form, which looked a like a force field in a sci-fi movie. We tried taking pictures of that. You had to anticipate it coming. We would call out to one another when we thought it was going to go.

Three out of four times when one of us said "coming", Strokkur would fail to go off. Sometimes it went twice in a row. I made LS stand in the picture for scale. When Strokkur went up it was ten LSs high.

At 1am the sun was struggling to set. At 2am, it was still there. I didn't wait to see what happened after that.

Gulfoss and the drive to Hveravellir

According to Lonely Planet, Gulfoss is disappointing on overcast days. It didn't stop us from taking lots of pictures. Leaving Gulfoss, we decided to go to a place called Hveravellir to see the Langjokull glacier. We discovered that there was a thermal pool in Hveravellir. LS immediately perked up. Hot pools kept her interest levels high throughout the trip.

The drive took us through dry but changing landscape. At Hvitavatn, a man was fishing. LS found a quiet spot to 'relieve herself'. Just as we were leaving, the man appeared with a fish in hand. He flashed it at us and then disappeared back down to the river. When he came back, the fish was gone. He'd put it back.

After that point the road got rocky - 4WD only. LS drove. Expertly. We passed bodies of water we didn't know the names of. We kept thinking we were near when we weren't. The small signposts gave us false hopes. LK needed to use the toilet but there wasn't one. We gave her lots of suggestions, but she decided to hold it in. B began to worry about getting back, before we'd even arrived.

B: What is our cut-off time before turning back?
Me: We just need to get back before checkout tomorrow.

Arrival at Hveravellir

We reached Hveravellir at 7.45pm. LS and I ran in the rain to the service hut, where an old man at the counter told us that it was snowing in the morning. We asked him about the glacier. As it turned out, he was a glacier guide. The glacier was too far for us to get to now but there was a tour for the next day.

Glacier guide: Would you pay 9,900 crowns for a tour?
Me: Unfortunately, our schedule is fixed for tomorrow.
Glacier guide: Oh, no. I mean. Theoretically.
Me: Definitely.

We asked about the pool and the lady at the counter said it could get very hot and you had to push the hot water away. Puzzled, we went to the car.

The hot bath

The four of us deliberated about going in to the pool. B was concerned about the scalding hot water. We checked it out by walking over and dipping our hands in. There was a hot pipe and a cold pipe. The water from the hot pipe was 80 to 90 degrees Centigrade. A sign said that we must not move the cold pipe but we could move the hot pipe. We went back to the car and thought about it some more. B wasn't keen. Everyone else said go, we'd driven all the way here.

I led by example. Changed, walked to the pool. Put my foot in. Retrieved it immediately. Sat by the pool dipping my feet in and out. B and LK came to join me, and made the same dipping motions. A man in the nearby hut gestured at B from the window. He said the hot water was only on the surface, and you had to push it to cool it. That made some kind of sense. The three of us, squatting by the edge of the pool, began frantically pushing the hot water away.

A young, long-haired Frenchman appeared with his girlfriend. He jumped straight in without a thought. I saw it and slipped in with him. He must have underestimated the heat because he started hissing and going, "ahhh", and his chest turned pink. The girlfriend went in next and looked comfortable doing it. She reassured LS, LK and B that it would be all right. LS was the last to get in but within five minutes she was enjoying it like it was the most natural thing in the world. After a while I got up to explore the surrounding area and take pictures.

A bunch of Czechs was arriving just as I left. LK and LS later joined B and I for our walk. There were holes bubbling with steaming water, mini geysers and vents emitting a constant cool spray of sulphureous vapour. When we finished our walk and got back to the thermal pool area, there were 25 Czechs in it.

Queen of Rocky Roads

Got back to the service stop for coffee, then began the long drive back, at 10.35pm. Even in the dim light of the night, the moss was luminescent. The landscape was incredible. "Glow in the dark," I said. LS was an expert at driving on the gravel roads by now. I was impressed. B gave her the nickname Queen of Rocky Roads.

We were all tired when we got back. LS said it was because we'd gone swimming.

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