Drive Through Iceland 6: Of Geysers and Waterfalls

This is In continuation of earlier blog DTI 5: Teething Troubles

Iceland 65% of Population in Red marked area (Courtesy-Amazing maps)

Iceland 65% of Population in Red marked area (Courtesy-Amazing maps)

Once out of the capital city, roads were completely isolated. Iceland is a sparsely populated country.  2.2 lakh people out of the 3.2, stay in the capital.  The rest are spread across an area of 1 lakh sq km. Get that? The population density is 1 person per 1 sq km. To put that in perspective, Mumbai’s population density is 30,000 per sq km!

Though there were just two-lane roads, an average speed of 90km/hr was easy. Lava fields spread on either side as far as the eyes could see. It was a pleasure to drive on highways and the main routes alike.  But, most of the time I drove on gravel roads – single roads with a lot of loose sand.

Iceland Driving5The information on the Internet had scared me into believing that driving in Iceland would be a tough task.  But I tell you; none of these were as bad as the roads leading to remote villages in India or even post-monsoon city roads!   As long as one does not venture on ‘F’ highland roads or if one sticks to driving on metal and gravel roads, even a medium size  regular vehicle is good enough.  These roads are like a highway drive for those of us used to driving on Indian roads.

As we lost quite a few hours resolving the GPS problem, we had to skip a volcano mountain on the way.   We reached Thingvellir National Park.  This is where the world’s first parliament started in 930AD.  Though there are just a symbolic benches on a brownish rock platborm at the site now, parlliament day is celebrated here every year.

Thingvellir, Iceland. World's first Parliament (Rock platform)

Thingvellir, Iceland. World’s first Parliament (Rock platform)

Thingvellir is also a geological wonder in the world.  There are tall natural-rock walls of the two continents.  One was the edge of American continent and the other was that of Euroasia.   There are tectonic plates of two continents – America and Europe – which could be seen at once.  We were walking in between the two walls.   Iceland is probably the only place above sea level where two major tectonic plates can be seen.

Tectonic Rift of two continents - America and Europe

Tectonic Rift of two continents – America and Europe

They have been drifting away from each other by half an inch every year. The boundaries of these plates are zones of tectonic activity, where volcanic eruptions tend to occur.

After a drive of another 60km to the East, we saw a large smoke-like jet blowing up at a distance of 8-10km.  It subsided in less than a minute.  We wondered if that was the geyser we were looking for.  After about 5 minutes, another jet erupted and settled. Yes, it was the world famous Strokkur Geysir.

Strokkur Geysir, Iceland - Throwing Boiling Water 35-40ft High, every 5-10 minutes

Strokkur Geysir, Iceland

The word ‘geyser’ seems to be derived from this Geysir at Strokkur.  It is a unique natural fountain in the world. The underground pressure is so high that at a frequency of 5-10 minutes, the geyser gushes boiling hot water to a height of 40 to 60 feet.  This has been constant for decades. There were many smaller natural geysers all around.  They were unfenced and we could walk around unrestrictedly. Ofcourse we had to keep ourselves away to ensure that we do get caught under the hot boiling water gushed out of the geysers.

I would have liked to watch  Strokkur Geysir for hours.  However, we forced ourselves to leave as we were looking forward to proceed to another beauty spot on the face of Iceland, Gulfoss waterfall

By evening it began to get cold. Iceland has sub-polar, oceanic climate.  It has cold winters and cool summers.  It was the month of August which is their peak summer.  At the peak of their summer, the temperature was near freezing point,  – 2 to 7degC!  It rains and shines alternating every 2-3 days.  We carried normal, warm as well as waterproof clothes with us.   At places, it was terribly windy, strong enough to blow away our car into one of the lava valleys.

Our next target was to visit Gulfoss waterfalls.  I read a lot about the beauty of Gulfoss, which was supposedly not too far from Strokkur.  We were disappointed when a professional guide at Strokkur told us that there was no waterfall, whatsoever, in the vicinity.

We took a U-turn.  But then I recollected that I had certainly seen pictures and read about the presence of Gulfoss waterfall in that area. I checked my notes. A little tinkering with Google maps confirmed the presence of a waterfall in that area.  We DSC04884 followed the map and after a drive of about 10-12km, suddenly, we spotted a beautiful site to our right, a wide spread gushing waterfall – the panoramic Gulfoss waterfall.  The rushing water dropped and flowed from one stage to another, in 3 stages.

It is difficult to describe its beauty.  It could be compared to that of Niagara in Canada/USA and Iguassu waterfalls in Brazil/Argentina!

After a satisfactory, even if hectic first day, we drove about 70 kilometers to reach our destination for the night by 7 PM. Though isolated, it was a nice, large, well-designed compact room – a double bed, a bunker bed and a fully equipped kitchen.

Had we returned from Strokkur directly without visiting Gulfoss waterfall, we would have missed a wonderful spot! Notes and planning for the win!

                                                                                                     To be contd……………

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

This entry was posted in Adventure travel, Driving, Fun, Will Power and tagged , , by badri. Bookmark the permalink.

About badri

As I approached 68 (2013), my son, Anand insisted that I had proven enough in my 45-year long career and it was time I took life a little easier; enjoy traveling (that I love) and social life. Yet, I somehow wanted to contribute positively and was exploring my options. My son-in-law, Navin suggested that I should write and share my experiences, “being a self-made man, you should tell the next generation how you overcame various obstacles to reach this position, in both, business and social circles.” He pointed out that while I was sharing my experiences with family and friends, as they approached me, a blog had the potential to take your voice to many, many more. He also insisted that I start mentoring youngsters who were new in their businesses. I was convinced. I offered my services pro bono, as part of a Guidance Program. Also, I started writing on this blog, bringing out figments from my memory as experiences that might be of value to the readers here. My daughter Meeta is sweet enough to spare her time to edit what I write. As a youngster, I thought one meal a day, one set of school uniform a year, a public place to study, lack of finance and basic shelter would keep me from achieving my dreams. To compensate, I started giving 110% of what was normally expected. Yes, 110% even in bad deeds! This worked. The very limitations started inspiring me in different phases of my life – meritorious results in studies; strength to shoulder family responsibilities; satisfied employers; establishing a successful business of my own; and in my adventure trips and other travel plans. Having done what I wanted to, I agreed it was time for me to expose myself! I felt, through this blog, I could and should share my expereinces. Hopefully, readers would find some bits useful and if not, they’d enjoy reading. Look forward to interact with you. Happy Reading, Badri Baldawa

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