Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Fire and Ice: Iceland's Golden Circle, Part Two

Saturday 5 August 2017. After leaving the Gullfoss waterfall we re-traced our steps a bit - or perhaps the coach re-traced it's tyre tracks might be more accurate.

We stopped at the geothermal area at Haukadalur, which was described on the tour as a Geyser park. It contains several geysers and hot springs including Strokkur (shown here) which erupts roughly every seven minutes, sending boiling water shooting up to 20 metres (65 feet) in height. This eruption was just after we entered the park - you can enter at either end of a set path.

The paths that you can walk are marked out by rope and iron posts and there are warning signs not to touch any water whether standing or flowing in small small streams from the pools.

It may have flowed over the ground quite a way but that water is still 80° centigrade or higher! Just looking at flowing water your mind plays tricks, telling you that of course it will be safe to touch. I didn't test my theory and suspect that I would have regretted it if I had!

We reach the first of the pools. There's a spot towards the right where the water is boiling. This must be directly above the vent or tunnel through which the water rises to the surface.

In the second pool it is very obvious where the vent is! It is a strange feeling to know you must be standing over a large lake of magma. Though, on saying that, I've climbed up Vesuvius and didn't give it a second thought! But here the ever-present steam and whiff of sulfur act as strong reminders. Incidentally for anyone screaming at the screen that I spelt sulphur wrong, I refer you to the decision of the Nomenclature Committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1992...

We reach the erupting Strokkur geyser just after its seven minutes start again! Phew! It does smell of sulfur and as we walk through the end of the mist of steam it gets very hot.

We walk round the ring of spectators until we are out of the path of the steam and I set the camera on video to capture the next eruption. Sadly, it is a smaller one than some we have seen, but still impressive.

As we move towards the far end of the path we presume that this area must have vents from closer to the reservoir of magma far below as there are several pools which are boiling away merrily.

Whilst not erupting on the same scale as the one just seen, this one does spurt out every now and then as the water gets super-heated. It is called Litli Geysir - "Little Geyser"! There are several people watching it and Fran overhears someone from another of the ship's coaches complaining, "Well I've been standing here longer than seven minutes and it's not done anything other than boil!"
"That's because you're standing at the wrong one," said Fran, pointing over her shoulder just as Strokkur shoots high into the air again.

We are close to the far end of the path now and lunch awaits us in a hotel at the far end. This part of the park is wreathed in steam from numerous ponds or craters in the ground.

The lunch is included with the tour and is delicious. A cream vegetable soup is followed by poached salmon as a main course. It is faultless. Water and tea or coffee are provided though when we were offered a beer or soft drink we both thought "Why not?" and I had a lager beer - Gull lager - and Fran had a bottle of Pepsi. We worked out the exchange rate later and found we had paid around 14 pounds for this. Hey - it was worth it and you have to remember that prices in such a remote place are going to be higher than your local supermarket!

Alongside the car park was a large souvenir shop and we had a look round and bought important things like fridge magnets...

There's one more site to visit on the Golden Circle tour and that will feature in the next article. It consists of the rift valley between two tectonic plates and the site of Iceland's first parliament around 800 AD.

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