Iceland – The Golden Circle

We’re awake and the sun isn’t even up yet.

Not like that is a big feat in Iceland.

I mean, the sun isn’t up till nearly 11am.

Like, well done, get yourself a gold star, right?

It’s not light till nearly 11am, and then it is dark at 5. Surprisingly, though, the days dont feel like they are that much shorter. Come summer, I am told that you have sunlight pretty much all day.

That would be something worth seeing. The golden hours would probably last a lot longer than just the hour. That would be amazing.

We decide that for our first day, we should get the most tourist-y thing out of the way, and hit the golden circle. For those who don’t know, the Golden circle is a 240km loop, which encompasses a geyser, waterfall, mountains upon mountains and hot springs.

The guys on Couch surfing that we hooked in with have bailed down to Portugal to have a look at property, and so, instead of making us look for somewhere else to stay, they had decided to let us look after their place in Iceland while they are away. The only contingency is that we also have to look after their dog.

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It’s a Border Collie, which means that it is a very smart dog. That is the only down side to a Border Collie. This also explains the whole thing about having to barricade ourselves in our room last night. Smart dogs open easy doors. We take the dog with us, for two reasons, we want to win brownie points with the dog so it doesn’t do something spiteful, like eat our clothes while we are out another day. Secondly, because we figure we should since we are looking after Vald and Sara’s house for them.

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Kinda part and parcel sorta situation.

We begin the journey, and we work out really quickly that the 3 hours, 24 mins that it estimates for us to drive, is going to take a lot longer than just 3.5 hours. Largely because I keep having to (<- correct terminology) pull over and photograph the landscapes.

Each mountain has it’s own jaw dropping features, followed by the mountain range it inhabits. I keep thinking that I am not going to be coming back here any time soon, so I take every opportunity I can to stop and photograph the things that I want to photograph. Bec is understanding, and keeps hold of the dog, while I get the photos done.

Surprisingly, the dog doesn’t run off.

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We kept her on a leash the first few times that we pulled up, as we didn’t want to have to go running after her, but we soon learnt that she is smart, not disobedient, so the only other times we would leash her was when we were near a road. Other than that, she was switched on enough to head back to the car when she saw that she was going to be left behind.

We put her in the boot of the car, but we got sick of her trying to climb over the back seat when she got excited, so we lifted the head rests, so as to make a jail-like scenario. She’s got a bit of personality hey. While we are driving, she wont make a single peep, but the moment you start slowing down, even to turn a corner or slow for a speed bump, she made the assumption that we would be getting out of the car.

Unsurprisingly, whines of excitement emanated from the boot of the car, and she would jam her head between the head rests, to create as much of a physical presence as she could in the car.

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Not gonna work

It was cute for the first few hours.

…Hours.

The trip took hours.

We turned a lot of corners and slowed for a lot of speed bumps.

 

Hours…

 

It wasn’t cute any more.

We would take turns with who had to get out and entertain the dog. It was a good system, but because I was taking pictures half the time, Bec usually drew the short straw. So, when I say take turns, I would kinda just choose which turn I wanted to take, and Bec would pretend like everything is fine inside.

One thing I learnt really quickly, is how much of a tourist hot spot Iceland is. Even in winter. This is their off-season, and it still is pretty bloody busy along the Golden Circle. I mean, its a great spot to get a good feel for a variety of sights, and apparently, that is what the rest of the global travel population think also.

Our first stop (other than the previous 5 stops I had already made) was a bit of an accident. There is this one spot called Selfoss. Now, there was a turn off, which ran straight through the circle we are driving, toward Selfoss. Being the guy that I am, I was just like “Selfoss. Thats where we are going”.

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Our worthwhile detour

Turns out, that leaving the beaten track is definitely the way to go. We get about 10 mins down the road, and there is the beautiful little run down boat shed, which will serve just fine as my next photo. I leave Bec with the dog (naturally), and quickly run down to the water. Bec follows me down, but I didn’t even think to warn her of the icy rocks. She’s taking her steps intentionally, and then out of nowhere, her ass has superseded her feet as the primary means of balance.

She does not move.

This is not good.

I go to help her up, and she doesn’t look me in the eye, and tells me to no touch her. For those of you, not well versed in speaking ‘wife’, this means, don’t touch her. Unsurprisingly, I choose not to touch her.

More for my own sake than for hers.

She is a good sport though. She’s smiling and posing for a shot for me no less than a couple mins after the whole deal, but she is gonna be sore tomorrow. Post photo, we notice that there are nearly no cars on this road, so our herd mentality kicks in, and we decide to head back to the road before and keep following that.

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Post-Slip Photo

We have heard about Icelandic Horses, and how they are some sort of majestic beast and sort of the retarded cousin of the fabled unicorn. We see a whole herd of them chilling out by the fence line. Neither Bec, nor I are really horse people, but this is a novelty. I mean, they are between a pony and a horse and somewhere along the line, mated with a yak and developed this thick coat.

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It’s seriously thick.

We pull over and play with the horseys.

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They try to eat Bec’s scarf.

We leave.

Good story.

We pull up to our first official stop on the Golden Circle. We kinda just picked and chose the things we wanted to see anyway, so whatever.

We pull up to the Geyser.

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There are two main Geysers. The one that nobody cares about, and the one that everybody froths over. The one that nobody cares about, goes off every 80-120 mins. Naturally, nobody cares about that one. You reap what you sow in my books. Wanna be stingy, and only give us a show every hour or so, you get no love.

… except for the one guy who was standing there for 20 mins, holding his camera. I asked him “When does it go off?”
“80-120 mins”
“How long you been here?”
“20 mins”
“When you rekon it will go off next?”
“Maybe half an hour”

I can see that he is trying to be proud of his efforts and commitment, but he knows I am judging him. He still just stares right into my eyeballs, not flinching, just to drive home the fact that he is here for the long haul. I do the universal lift of the head and the raise of the eyebrows to simultaneously signal my understanding, surprise and acknowledgement.

Women need to marry men like this more often.

They are rare.

I am not one of them.

Just show me the water in the air so I can say I’ve seen it.

We walk over to the exciting geyser. There is a crowd of photographers and videographers, all set up on their tripods, waiting for the perfect shot. We take our soup over and watch alongside everyone else.

The Geyser goes off, and it is a mammoth eruption. So much so, that Bec spills her soup. She didn’t realise this till she went to go take a sip, and saw that there was a fair whack missing. We just evaded the scene, and watched as a few others were aware of the circumstance.

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The evidence

We decide to hang around for one more. This Geyser goes off ever 5 mins. This is why it’s the favourite. My persistent mate is still standing over by the geyser that nobody likes.

Good luck to him.

We watch one more, marginally anti-climatic eruption before we head on our way again. Our next major stop was this place called. Gullfoss water falls.

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Gullfoss

There are bulk humans, bulk tour guides, bulk selfie sticks and even more people struggling to walk on the icy boardwalk, while they wear things like Ugg boots. I’m not even kidding. Natural selection right? Luckily, for those who would fall prey to natural selection quickest, this is a very touristy place, so there are loads of rails and fences up. Being that it is winter, the lowest area, and also, the best vantage point is blocked off from the public.

This, combined with the masses upon masses of people was a bit of encouragement for us to see what we wanted, and then get on our way.

I’m not sure what it is about being with a huge crowd, but it kinda just turns me off the sights hey. I don’t really understand why. There is no real reason. I mean, its still going to be the same attraction, with or without the crowd there. But, there is just something about being somewhere that everyone else isn’t, and enjoying it on your own. I actually think that I enjoyed finding that boat shed more than the falls. I dunno ay.

People are weird.

I am weird.

We kinda just skip the things that don’t grab our attention straight away. For instance, a cathedral, which is better described as a big chapel. No point. There are heaps of them scattered around Iceland anyway. So, we pretty much just kept stopping at landscapes.

I mean, as well as I try, the camera does no justice to the real deal. There are so many times that I would be driving along, watching the landscape evolve as we pass it by. I would be watching this mountain for a good minute or so, and then all of a sudden, it would just hit man, I would say something to Bec like “Oh man. This is unreal”. This whole sense of awe and power just overwhelms you.

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There are petrol stations just on the side of the road, set against a looming snow-covered volcanic mountain. And it is everywhere you look. Oh! And there are no trees.

Anywhere.

I mean, I am sure that there are other countries with just as amazing landscapes, but I bet there would be trees covering or blocking the mountains. Here, there is nothing at all. Just raw, rugged, snow-dusted mountain ranges everywhere you look. And if you find yourself in a rare area of Iceland that is mountain-less, just hang on a couple minutes. It won’t last long before you find yourself under the shadow of another rocky behemoth.

I can’t tell you how many times I found myself with my eyes glued to the mountains as we drove past.

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Not a drawing

I was talking with Valdimar the other day, and he was telling me that when he grew up, the mountains were his playground, and they would spend their days as kids up in the mountains. That’s the kinda Childhood every kid should have a crack at. We continue to stop wherever our attention is fixed most. Sometimes, to take the scene in. Most of the time, though, it is to photograph the landscape. We continue to do this, stopping every 10-15 mins or so till we reach home.

Bec and I try to see who can talk the deepest.

You’ll be glad to know that Bec didn’t win that competition.

I am glad to know that Bec didn’t win that competition.

Today has been an incredible day of awe-inspiring landscapes and jaw-dropping sights. One, that everyone should do at least once.

 

Come back tomorrow,

Billy

 

 

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