Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Party Sunny – 54F

Distance from Grundarfjordur, Iceland to Reykjavik, Iceland: 132 Nautical Miles

A very nice day in the Capital of Iceland, Reykjavik…


Port Information:  Iceland is located near the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic at the junction of the American and European tectonic plates.  Iceland also contains a geothermal “hotspot” which contributes to the volcanic nature of the island.  Iceland was first populated in the ninth century by Irish Monks.  Norwegian Vikings then came in large numbers.  Iceland developed the oldest Parliament in the world, the Althing, in 934.  This body consisted of tribal chieftains and met twice a year in the Thingvellir area.  Christianity came to Iceland in 1000 AD and the country today is Lutheran.  Both Eirik the Red and his son, Leifur Eirikson (who discovered America) are from Iceland.

Iceland was part of Denmark until 1944 and became an independent nation in 1948.  The population of Iceland is approximately 322,000 with about 200,000 living in the capital, Reykjavik.  Iceland is part of the European Economic Council but is not a member of the EU. 

Per capita income (pre-2007) $56,000 – post 2007 - $44,000.

Ellen and I are both on tour today - Both on tour:  “Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss Waterfall”.

My guide is Helgi (guy) (which means “Holy One”.

Our tours starts with a brief trek through the city on our way to the highway.  I did find a familiar landmark as we left Reykjavik.

20140714_KFC maybe shark (Small)

The Colonel lives in Reykjavik

It seems that no matter where we go in Iceland, we see a golf course.  This was also the case in Reykjavik.

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Golf Course

20140714_the main highway (Small)

Entering the Main Highway

The countryside was dotted with numerous lava fields and geothermal vents.  I spotted a lot of steam rising in the distance – that would be our first stop – The Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant.  This plant is the second largest geothermal plant in the world (number 1 was not mentioned).  The plant appeared to be brand new.

20140714_Hellisheidi power plant (Small)

20140714_Hellisheidi Power plant 1 (Small)

Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant

Once inside the plant visitor area, we were given a short lecture on the workings of the plant.  Upstairs, there were multi-media presentations on the plant and how geothermal plants work.  The upper level also had both indoor and outdoor viewing areas affording access to the machinery and turbines that make up the facility.

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Plant Guide describes the Process

 20140714_ Hellisheidi power plant 2 (Small)   

 20140714_turbine Hellisheidi power plant (Small)

Above – turbines and other pieces of equipment

I spent a little time in the gift shop looking for caps but there were none.  I did come across a novel way to market some of the raw materials that are ubiquitous in this area (and all of Iceland).  Turn your lava and other volcanic materials into seasonings – lava salt, anyone?  I didn’t taste any of them although some of them did smell interesting.  Brilliant Marketing.

20140714_ Hellisheidi power plant salt (Small)

Volcanic Seasonings

As we left the plant for our next stop, we got great views of the geothermal vents in the area.  They look like fireplace smoke from a distance until you see that the steam is coming out of the ground.

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Geothermal Vents

Our next stop is Laugarfjall Hill, a geothermally active area, with numerous vents and pondsThe entrance to the field is marked by a stone inscribed with the word “Geysir”.  Geysir means “to gush” and its English equivalent, “geyser”, has come to represent any erupting steam vent.

20140714_Geysir viewing area (Small)

The area is home to the “Great Geysir” as well as the Strokkur Geysir.  

The “Great Geysir” is the most powerful geyser on the hill but it is also the least predictable.  I waited about 10 minutes for it to blow but it just bubbled and steamed.  It may be “Great” but it is not cooperative.  The lack of people around this geyser underscored its unreliability.

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The “Great Geysir”

I walked down the hill to see Strokkur.  This geyser is a bit like “Ol’ Faithful” in Yellowstone; Strokkur shoots steam into the air (60 feet or so) every 4-5 minutes.  You have to be patient and ignore the cramp in your hand as you wait for the geyser to blow.

The sequence below captures Strokkur at its best.

20140714_Stokkur geyser (Small) 20140714_geyser blow 1 (Small) 20140714_geyser blow 2 (Small) 20140714_geyser blow 3 (Small) 20140714_1geyser blow 4 (Small) 20140714_geyser blow 5 (Small) 20140714_geyser blow 6 (Small)

Ol’ Sort of Faithful

I got a little closer to the geyser to get some detail on how it erupts.  A blue hued bubble appears on the surface just before the eruption (second frame below).

 20140714_geyser never blew (Small)    20140714_Geyser 1 (Small) 20140714_104552Geyser 2 (Small)   

Another Strokkur Eruption

Other pools in the area were also interesting.  Many of them had a blue color to them – due to the dissolved silicates and other minerals.

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The Blue Pond (Around 10 feet across)

Earlier, the guide had indicated that we would be having lunch at the Hotel Geysir – right across the street – at around 1:15 AM.  As I made my way through the vent field to the exit, I came across a mini-geyser (so labeled).

20140714_Little Geyser (Small)

I walked the long path alongside steam vents of various sizes and crossed the street to the Hotel Geysir.  One of the hotel employees posed for the picture below.

20140714_Hotel Geyser lunch venue (Small)

I met up with Ellen in the Dining Room (her bus stopped here for lunch before going to see the Geysers).  The menu consisted of mushroom soup (very good), gefilte fish patties (made from cod) coated with salmon, roasted potatoes, and some assorted veggies.  Everything was served “Family Style” with a large tureen or plate placed on those pizza stands.  One person was elected to serve the table. 

The food was good but didn’t quite come up to the level of the previous lunch on an all day tour.  The plates containing the main course had only six pieces of fish for the eight passengers at the table so we asked for more.  The hotel staff was friendly and responded to requests (one passenger could not eat dairy so they whipped up a Minestrone Soup for her).  Coffee followed dinner.

Just outside the hotel, I found a statue of a troll, who was kind enough to take a picture with me.

 20140714_Geyser hotel troll (Small)

Me and the Troll

Our next stop was the Gullfoss Waterfall.  The plan was that the bus would drop us off at the gift shop entrance; then we would all walk down the stairs to the lower level. 

20140714_ Gullfoss Waterfall upper level (Small)

Gullfoss Waterfall Upper Level

From the lower level, you can walk all the way to the falls (quite a ways and uphill on the way back).  I gave it a try.

20140714_ Gullfoss Waterfall 2 (Small) 

My Destination – the Falls

 20140714_ Gullfoss Waterfall 3 (Small)

Half Way There

20140714_ Gullfoss Waterfall bottom (Small)

At the Falls – a View of the Gorge

The walk down and up was terrific – getting wet in the mist wasn’t cold – it was great.  I asked a passenger to get a picture of me after I returned (note the wet jacket).

20140714_Gullfoss Waterfall and me (Small) 

Me at Gullfoss Waterfall

The bus met us at the bottom level of the falls (this gave passengers with limited mobility to get a good look at the waterfall).

Our final stop is Thingvellir State Park.  This is the venue for most important National Events (1000 year anniversary of the Parliament, the advent of Christianity in Iceland, etc.). 

The bus took a more scenic route to the park following the shoreline of Iceland’s biggest lake – Thingvallavatn.  On the far side of the lake, which is just over 80 square km in area, you could see another geothermal power plant.

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Thingvallavatn Lake

Thingvellir State Park is almost right on the boundary of the European and American tectonic plates.  One of the edges of the boundary is the dark line in the low hills in the background (below).

20140714_tectonic plates boundary (Small)

20140714_approaching Thingvellir Natl Park (Small) 

Approaching Thingvellir State Park

The park was crawling with visitors and the weather couldn’t be nicer.  The driver handed out the most important item as we left the bus – a ticket that would get you into the washrooms for free.


I didn’t scan it in case I had to use in on the way out.  As it turned out, we met the bus in a totally different place in the park.

 20140714_Thingvellir Natl Park (Small)

20140714_ Thingvellir Natl Park lake 1 (Small)

Thingvellir State Park

The group followed Helgi to a view point, where he explained some history of the park.  From there we walked between two rock walls to the bus area (maybe a half mile).

 20140714_walking in the gorge Thingvellir Natl Par (Small)

20140714_waterfall Thingvellir Natl Park (Small)

Waterfall at the end of the path to the bus

The bus then headed back to Reykjavik for our final stop at Perlan (The Pearl).  Perlan is a storage facility for Reykjavik’s geothermal hot water.  The nearly 10 story tall structure also has a revolving restaurant on the top (you can’t access the elevator to the restaurant without a reservation), a gift shop, snack shop, and an outdoor viewing terrace.  The six hot water tanks (now five – one is a new museum), which support the dome each contain 4 million liters of water.

I couldn’t resist taking a shot of me in the mirror on the view deck.

20140714_mirror selfie viewing deck Pearl (Small) 

The terrace has some nice views of Reykjavik.

20140714_Reykjavik from The Pearl (Small) 20140714_Reykjavik 1 (Small) 

Reykjavik from Perlan

As we left Perlan, I took a picture of a very interesting sculpture – a dancing band with no instruments – the installation is called Dansleikur (Dance).

20140714_statues outside The Pearl (Small) 

On the way back to the ship, we went through the city – one important site was the house where Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1986 to discuss arms limitations.  The meeting ended up being a monumental failure. 

After dinner, we went to see Scott Harris, who has the distinction of being nominated best comic in Canada.  He was pretty funny once he got past all of the “Old” jokes and started interacting with the audience.

Tomorrow, a welcome day at sea after four straight ports in Iceland.

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