On the second full day of our holiday, we took a coach trip- which turned out to be a minibus- along one of the tourist trails to see some of the natural phenomena in the area.
At Pingvellir National Park we walked through a rift where the Eurasian and North American continental plates are separating. (I was a bit bamboozled about what we were actually walking on in that case and what was underneath :S. I didn't take Geography as an option at school!!)
We drove on to where a natural hot spring feeds into this lake. You can see in the picture below that the water at the edge of the lake was actually boiling, which again was a bit mind- boggling!. The chef from a nearby restaurant wraps and buries food in the hot sand and leaves it to cook.
This whole area is a geothermal region where heat from the earth's core is close to the surface. We went to the original hot water spout, Geysir which has been active for around 800 years. It spouts water up to 80 metres in the air.
I have to confess to being a little disappointed when we first arrived here. It felt a bit "theme- parky" with restaurants and a gift shop. There is a paved pathway leading up to the Geysir, which is roped off so that visitors form a circle around it, "oohing" and "ahhing" as it spouts and it felt as though the awesomeness of this as a naturally occurring wonder was a bit lost. However, from a particular view point, you can see the water broiling away, then bubbling up into a pressurized bubble before whooshing up in a huge spout. The deep depression in the ground then sucks the water back in. That really IS awesome!
These pools are HOT and the blue colour is due to dissolved silica.
The next stop was Gullfoss, a raging, powerful waterfall with rainbows forming in the spray. It was chilly here in spite of the sunshine and we quickly became soaked by the spray, but it was refreshing!
On the return journey we stopped at a much smaller waterfall which was interesting as a fish ladder had been created on the left to help the salmon return upriver to their spawning grounds.
Our final stop was at the edge of a dual carriageway (!) where thick (and I mean THICK) moss grows on the lava fields. It is like walking on a sheep's fleece. We were very careful to tread lightly as the moss takes hundreds of years to grow and the landscape can be scarred if it is damaged. The bus driver pointed out areas where people had picked out their names from the moss over forty years ago and they are still very visible.
More to come soon....