Golden circle

My final full day in Iceland was doing ‘the’ tour – the Golden circle.    I think the golden comes from one of the waterfalls appearing golden in certain sun conditions – sunshine I didn’t witness!  I have to say, I was at my limit to tours for this last one.  Three full days and one half day had been fantastic, but I was a little over the piling in and out of a minibus!  Say nothing for the weather being particularly unpleasant – a lot of wind, and intermittent rain (or water fall spray). I also didn’t ‘warm’ to my guide or bus mates as much as other days.  Though… I saw my Day 1 guide in the power plant hahaha! Extreme Iceland tour buses were everywhere all the time, so I’m not at all surprised!

The Hellisheidi geothermal plant – notice the rails – this is so they can slide the turbines and machinery out for servicing (once every four years, for three weeks of turbine cleaning… cause yes, I asked!)
The complex graphic of how they bore for hot (super hot, like 300C) ‘fluid’ – it’s still liquid due to the high pressure 2km underground.
One of four turbine bays – they just replicate. Thanks to Mitsubishi. There’s one turbine for water (rather than steam) and that’s Toshiba!
This is a cross section of the pipes used to send water to Reykjavik – super insulated so they only lose 1-2 C on the 27km journey to town. There’s no pump – gravity flow, and it takes 8hrs
Close up of the mineral wool insulation. They have 3000kms of pipeline and at peak, there’s 16,000 tons of water in an hour

I took a TON of notes (on my iPhone) on this short stop – I’m clearly pretty interested in renewables, which figures with my work.

Kerid crater form 6,500 years ago
It’s 7-14m deep
This was a little waterfall (Faxi I think), one of the stops our tour did, but clearly not every bus hauls through here. I loved that on the left is a fish ladder – can’t recall ever seeing one in real life.
Geysir – though not ACTUALLY the Geysir named that! It was super hard to get the burst of steam photographed without leaving my phone on the whole time, and this iPhone 4 battery discharges FAST!
I was intrigued by the colour of these 80-100C hot thermal pools around Geysir
It’s hard to capture in the photo – but some pools were quite clear and showed interesting rock forms
Epic Gulfoss waterfall
Wind swept and just a little cold from the spray!
Ugh – this was NEXT level – so often we were asked to pay for bathrooms, but putting in electronic payment systems!? I was keen to use up my change, but when I left, I watched two people jump the turnstiles… which certainly entered my mind. They weren’t even that clean for the AUD$2.65 I paid!
A poster with the waterfall in the snow – amazing!
Yep, I walked all along that track… It’s hard to capture the falls in one photograph, they were SO expansive
Such clear (and tasty!) water. So this part of the lake didn’t freeze, so in WWII, the British thought it was special water and put it in their radiators. It did in fact freeze
The cold and wind makes for clear air
At this stage, most of the group were cursing our energetic 67 year old tour guide – this isn’t a set spot to visit, but as he said, it’s too pretty to miss. He was right.
It is not amazing? Not as large as others, but pretty blue tinges into a rocky valley shown in the previous photo
This pool was bath water temperature, and the scene of baptisms when Iceland converted to Christianity – there was a time under Danish rule where they were asked to be Lutheran. My fact recollection is hazy here… poor student! Lake Laugarvatn – Vígðalaug pool
There are six rocks – some sort of symbolism
The baptism pool drains to this amazing lake.
This was the site of the parliament, formed in 930AD in the open air!! They only gathered in summer (understandably!)

The place is pretty interesting, so I found a wiki link for you. I cannot fathom how in days gone by, they knew what days to gather… I mean, long nights and days of all sunlight must have made calendar usage a little more challenging, right?

This walking path between the cliffs at Þingvellir called Almannagja canyon
Oh, so this is where they drowned women. Put them in a bag, and held them down. They axed off men’s heads, lest you think men weren’t also killed as punishment.

This is the area where the two tectonic plates meet, and you can snorkel between them – in dry suits.  There are people from previous tours who’d done it, and others who were signed up to do it.  I think it sounds like MADNESS to get in that freezing water, but it looks utterly gorgeous, so I can see why!  Interesting, this is something I didn’t read about prior to my trip, but the work counsellor mentioned it.  He’s a smart fellow!

The trip has been fantastic.  I’ll admit, last year’s Euro trip, whilst a bucket load warmer, wasn’t quite as enjoyable.  I think the reasons this has been more successful is in part due to my home life being different, but also, I was much better planned.  I booked things in, I felt like I used my time well.  I have many clear memories in Russia and Romania of long lazy hours in the hotel rooms.  I know I’m not a 4 full days in a row tour girl for Iceland, but I know a few here and there really contextualise the things I’m seeing.  Of course the quality of the guide makes a HUGE difference, as does those you’re with – and those two factors are luck of the drawer!  Hostels are great as a solo traveller as they are largely social – unless you a German Next Top Model… yeah, two rather anti social pretty girls for two nights in Iceland!  Speaking of, I changed hostels after my overnight tour, as it was more cost effective, but thankfully (and unexpectedly) closer to town:

The models were top buckets in the background, the foreground top bunk became mine
Four more of the bunks – there was a total of 12, but it was a huge room, and light and airy but great curtains for the short dark nights.

I was up at 2.15am to get a bus to the airport for a 5.55am flight to Frankfurt.  At least it was light by about 3.30am, so that made it seem less strange…

If you wanted to do this tour, here’s the link, I highly recommend Extreme Iceland (even though they don’t pay me!)