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