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From Reykjavik to Stykkisholmur

These trips tend to cover a lot of ground quickly. The first day we arrived in the airport, then toured the city, met up for dinner, and had a meeting in which everyone introduced themselves and we talked about the trip.

On the second day we did all this:

We put our suitcases out before breakfast at the hotel so they could be loaded onto the bus for us. We then rode from Reykjavik to Stykkisholmur with a wide range of stops, and plenty to see out the windows.

The countryside, particularly near Reykjavik, was covered in blooming Alaskan lupine. The lupine had been brought in just in the last few years as a form of erosion control. It took a little too well, and is now acting like a typical invasive species. Although it does crowd out native species, it mostly covers the black rock that had before held a more austere beauty.

We then went over or under, or around a series of fjords. At one point (Borga Fyord?) we were underground at highway speeds for around five minutes while talking about the tons of water overhead and the question of whether or not trolls might have contributed to the problems involved in building the tunnel. Though the road was comfortably clear and dry and well enough lit, I was still very glad to see the light at the end.

Our guide pointed out that Icelandic sheep are as independence minded at their owners. They spread out in tiny groups – generally a mother and her two or three lambs.

Horses, of which there are many, tend to spread in loose herds. To me this simply comes from the lack of natural predators in Iceland. The Vikings brought the sheep and horses with them. They didn’t bring cougars or wolves.

For quite a few miles we traveled next to raised pipes. These are hot water pipes running from geothermal areas to nearby towns. They are used for heating, and power. The pipes will often have bike paths laid on top. The heat from the pipes melts off snow and ice so people can bicycle year round.

We stopped off at Hraunfossar first, then a few minutes further down the road ducked in for a walk through Snorri Sturluson’s pool. Soon after that it was back off the bus for Deildartunguhver thermal area.

Deildartunguhver thermal area holds the record as the highest flow of any hot spring in Europe at 50 gallons of boiling water per second. It’s been utilized for central heating since 1925. The pipes used to pump the water to Akranes – a mere 36 miles away – were built in 1979-1981. It takes 24 hours to get there. In that time the temperature starts at 212 deg F. and arrives at 170 deg F.

It was raining when we reached Deildartunguhver. We got off the bus, wandered for maybe ten minutes, then all got right back on the bus.

It was pretty close to lunch time when we reached the Settlement Center in Borgarnes. Our guide herded us through a small tourist shop into an oddly connected restaurant. It was like the shop had thick walls, but an odd take on roofing and the restaurant walls were covered in exterior siding with racks of items for sale butting up against them. To reach it, we went up a wooden staircase that reminded me of one I took down from my old house. From inside, I looked through a window at a waterfall that seemed to be part of the store.

The Settlement Center was just a self guided tour using headphones and a little mp3 player type device. A word of warning, should you somehow end up taking the tour. Don’t try to fast forward. I ended up scrolling through various languages and was unable to get the tour going again, so missed most of it.

The displays included a model of the Viking ships that colonized the country; a life size prow set in the floor in front of a projected image of ocean that rocked with the waves; a conference table sized model of Greenland with buttons you could press to see where which settler ended up; and a life size plastic replica of people encased in ice.

Essentially the story runs like this:

In the year 860 a couple of different Vikings on separate trips drifted off course and found the place. One called it Snowland. The other tried to name it after himself. It wasn’t until ten years later than someone deliberately went there. He saw the glaciers, and named it Iceland. About 4 years later, the first settlement got set up. This was done by Ingólfur Arnarson, by the way.

About that time, 400 Viking lords decided they didn’t like how things were going in Norway, so they grabbed their families and slaves, stopped off in England long enough to grab some more wives and slaves, and ran off the Iceland.

As soon as they arrived, they spread out. Each lord set up his or her household somewhere within a few miles of the shore and as far from others as they could get. Kind of like the sheep. They stayed scattered for a long time.

After taking the tour, we had a little time to wander around the area. There was an interesting, bell-shaped pile of rocks that I took for a monument, an arching bridge, and the usual gorgeous combination of volcanoes, greenery, and water.

We stopped off at a little rest area with these odd tables and chairs so we could admire the way you can actually see old lava flows roll over one another. Check out the different shades below. You can trace the flow back to an exploded crater than is lower than the spills from the neighboring cone that the flow ran over the top of.

From here it was off to Helgafell, and then on to the hotel with a quick drive through Stykkisholmur.

So yeah. So far I’ve only covered one day of the trip.

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