Driving along the south coast
Leaving behind a very unfortunate experience with horses we moved towards the end of our trip with only few intense days left in the south east corner of the country. Shortly after Vik and the intersection to Dyrhólaey we took a road leading to the beach of Reynisfjara. A strip of coarse black sand divides the sea from a magnificent formation of basaltic rocks, near perfect columns heaped together to form a cave called Halsanefshellir. On top of it the mossy slope homed hundreds of puffins, flying low over our heads in an incessant hunt for food. This is how unbelievable Icelandic nature is: basaltic formations topped by puffins, how could someone possibly come up with something like that?
“Have we arrived?” asked Martina
Reaching the hostel was pretty easy: few miles from Selfoss along the 36 until the sign pointing to the only building in sight.
“Yes I guess this is it…. but it looks rather abandoned”
She was right: the car park was deserted and the building had something ghastly to it. We arrived two hours early for the check in but we went in anyway, the door was opened.
“Hello!? Anyone?” Our voices bounced along the empty corridors and our steps echoed on the wooden floor. It was like all the occupants had ran away the day before. We decided to go back later and on our way out we stopped in front of a door opened to a small room containing a single bed, a tiny desk and a 6 feet wooden crucifix on the wall. “Where the hell did we end up to?”
Our arrival at the Ljósafossskóli Hostel hadn’t been quite promising but it turned out to be a great place where to spend two nights in the hottest part of Iceland. A former school converted to a hostel by a group of friendly volunteers, was very clean and comfortable with an incredibly rich breakfast. It was also the cheapest option in the area (cheap for the Icelandic standards) and perfectly located for the “Golden Circle” and a short drive from Reykjavik too. At these conditions we didn’t mind putting up with some slightly creepy catholic fervour.
The Golden Circle
As much as I hate this definition I concede to it out of convenience. It’s an area where some of the most impressive, and famous, natural features in the Country can be found, probably the highest concentration of awesomeness per square kilometre in Europe. It’s also conveniently close to Keflavik international airport and many companies are cashing in, exploiting mass tourism at the expenses of the quiet natural beauty. So this is probably where the “Golden” bit comes from.
After a little drive around the area we worried about the status of the Geysir park. How is it going to be? Would we be able to quietly stand there as much as we like and take in this powerful phenomenon? Or would we have to shuffle past it in a queue like it was a painting in a busy museum?
Tired and frustrated by the invasiveness of the snap-and-run tourism we laid down for a nap, not knowing that that would have been our best idea of the whole trip.
A night with the Geyser
One hour of deserted road and midnight sunset separated us from the Geysir park. When we got there only a handful of people were rambling in the twilight between the eerie hot water pools. At the entrance of the park, a purpose built hotel with restaurant and, obviously, a souvenir shop, was dark and innocuous. As we rightly guessed all buses retired by 6-7pm, herding their customers back to the rooms.
We wanted to postpone the moment to savour it but Strokkur soon claimed our attention: barely a couple of minutes in and an explosion came from the middle of the park, a column of boiling water and steam shot up in over 20 metres in the sky. We visited the other pools, amongst which stood our one of a supernatural turquoise blue and a frantically boiling “litli geysir“, but the main attraction was undoubtedly Strokkur, the great Geysir, bursting up every few minutes. We lost track of the time standing next to it, observing the heartbeat-like pulsing of its water and feeling the ominous deep booming from beneath our feet, trying to guess its next spouting. This was an incredible experience, shared with 5 or 6 other quiet and respectful people, spending the 2 hours long night in this dazzling geothermal field.
Can you see the moon over there?