Unlike yesterday I woke up this morning once again excited to hit the road. The only downside to my awakening was the realization that I only had two and half days left in this wondrous place. I was determined to make my last couple of days count, so I headed off onto the road after enjoying one of the quick Icelandic breakfasts I’d come to love so well. My first stop was Skogafoss, a waterfall that my hostess from the night before had recommended as a must see. To be honest, my first impression was less awestruck at the beauty of the waterfall and more confusion as to why there were people everywhere. However, I still greatly enjoyed the waterfall, although the stairs to the top were killer! I was starting to really get the hang of this whole “photography” thing, I felt, and it was a lot of fun to test out different ideas I had in presenting the beauty of Skogafoss. Imagine my delight when I found the perfect opportunity to catch the reflection of the waterfall in a puddle just as I was driving away! Overall, in spite of the glut of people that I was no longer accustomed to, I still had a fun time at this particular waterfall.
My next stop was to be Seljalandsfoss another popular waterfall in the area. This is where it really started to get crazy with the tourists. As I pulled into the parking lot several tour buses, vans, and other cars pulled up and began disgorging their occupants. I’m going to be totally honest here, there was a moment when I selfishly longed for the stillness in which I had experienced Dettifoss. These hordes of tourists reminded me of nothing so much as the zombies I’d seen in numerous horror movies, instead of brains they were after that perfect shot. Silly and hypocritical I know, after all, I was nothing more than another tourist, no different than any of them, but over the last week and a half I’d begun to forge a connection to this land and begun to think of it as mine. I was disgusted by the trash that was left behind by careless multitudes and wanted to tell them just how much they were missing out on in this beautiful country. Would they appreciate this (my) land as much as I had come to over the past days? What a rotten creature I was showing myself to be, right? Nevertheless I bit my fiery tongue and tried to enjoy the sights.
After Seljalandsfoss I was heading on towards the Gold Circle, what is often hailed as the essential Iceland to the people enjoying a brief layover in Iceland before flying off to other countries. When planning the trip I’d been undecided as to whether or not I would make an effort to see the sites on this part of the trip, mostly because I figured it would be easier to see this area than the others on subsequent trips. In the end I decided that I wanted to experience what people see most often when they only have a short time in this magical country. My first stop was to be Gulfoss, the “Golden Falls” I thoroughly enjoyed this waterfall, which is not terribly surprising I suppose, given my obvious penchant for water. All the same, perhaps because of the multitudes of people, I was still more impressed with Dettifoss or Godafoss. My pictures were not turning out the way I wanted them to either, although I wouldn’t argue that it might have been more my frustration with having to work around people to attempt to get the shot I wanted. At risk of sounding like a brat (again) I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t feeling a bit put out with all these people trampling about “my” Iceland. Hahaha
After a quick lunch in the café that was a part of the tourist shop at Gulfoss, which once again, did not disappoint, I headed towards the primal forces of Geysir. This was the original Geysir, for which all geysers are named. Being the complete nature foamer and nerd that I am, I was very excited to see this area of geothermal activity. Thankfully, somewhere along the way from Gulfoss to Geysir I had regained my composure and stopped being such an internal brat about the other people enjoying “my” Iceland. I found as I strolled around the area rife with bubbling water, sulfurous fogs, and the shooting Strokkur (unfortunately Geysir did not erupt when I was there, apparently it is now a rare event), that I actually enjoyed watching everyone else taking in the landscape. Almost as much as I enjoyed taking it in myself, but not quite!
I meandered about for awhile before heading off to Þingvellir for my last stop of the day. The sun sets earlier during October in Iceland and the light was fast waning, much to my dismay. Once I found Þingvellir I set out to explore the area. This was a spot of cultural and geological significance in Iceland, which pretty much meant that I was over the moon with excitement. Iceland’s first parliament had taken place here and it was also the place in which you could see two tectonic plates pulling apart, Iceland was growing something like three centimeters a year and this was the zero ground for that growth. Most of you probably would’ve laughed to see just how excited I was to see this area, I roamed around reading plaques and taking pictures like crazy. Trying to fit in as much as I could before the sun went down. The next time I come back, I’ll spend more time exploring, maybe even diving in the lake to see the action under water. It was truly a culmination of my day, or at least I thought so at the time!
The light finally dimmed enough that I thought it was time to head on my way, not to mention my stomach started reminding me that it was dinner time! So I headed to Selfoss and a hostel to spend the evening. Finding the hostel didn’t prove to be nearly as difficult as it had been the previous evening and before I knew it I was checking into my room. I’m going to geek out a bit here, but seriously it was awesome. The entire hostel was full of kids in their early teens. British teenagers. I felt like I was in the midst of Harry Potter movie with the trampling, yelling, and running around the hallways. There was even a kid named Harry and listening to them tear around made me want to read the series all over again. Anyways, Harry Potter movie awesomeness aside, I was starving and wanted to see the Northern Lights tonight so I walked down the road to a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a pretty amazing pizza for dinner.
At the hostel I took a quick shower and settled in for some reading while waiting for the right time to go out hunting for the Northern Lights. I was really hoping to catch them tonight as I’d missed them throughout my trip. Partly due to the weather that seemed to cloud over during the night wherever I happened to stay and partly due to my sheer exhaustion at the end of every day. But tonight was probably the last night I was going to have an easy chance to see them and I wanted to give it my best shot.
Finally it was late enough and I hit the road out of town, searching for the nebulous lights in the sky. Quite a bit later (maybe not, but it sure felt like it) I turned back after becoming engulfed in a thick bank of fog. Sadly enough it seemed like I was finally to be disappointed in something I had wished to see in Iceland, but it was getting late and I had an appointment for an all day ride in the morning so I headed home with a heavy heart. Then, as I drove, I caught sight of some lights through the fog. At first, thinking that it was just some house lights I kept driving. Then I realized that it was the lights! Quickly as I could I found a place to pull over and enjoy the show. My first Northern Lights and in Iceland of all places! It was my dad’s birthday, so I sent him a picture of the lights that I’d taken with my camera and then my phone. After squeeing my excitement to my parents and niece for a bit, I settled in to soak in the experience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Iceland really gave me everything I was looking for on this trip and much, much more. The Lights settled down after a time and so I headed home for the evening. My Harry Potter housemates had settled into their beds and so I fell asleep easily once more, to dream of waterfalls, rifts in the earth, Harry Potter, and dancing lights in the sky.
As always you will be able to find the rest of the pictures taken that day on Flickr in the Iceland – Day 11 album. Thanks for reading!