What a day. We sure did not want to get up in the middle of the night (7 AM) after having a bit too much wine the night before at our six-course dinner extravaganza at Sushisamba. But we forced ourselves and after a quick breakfast at home, we set out to our pick up spot at Reykjavik Centrum Hotel where we got into our Reykjavik Excursions bus. On the schedule for today was a day trip to the Golden Circle, a popular route that includes three of Iceland’s most popular sights: Geysir geothermal field, where, according to our brochure “hot springs are in abundance, geysirs explode, and pools of mud bubble”, Gullfoss, the most impressive waterfall in Iceland, and Thingvellir National Park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Just driving out of the city feels like an adventure. It was raining, with some snow flakes mixed in for good measure, and there was ice everywhere when we left Reykjavík. In Iceland, the saying goes that if you don’t like the weather you just have to wait five minutes, and sure enough, after a few minutes, the rain stopped and the sky cleared somewhat. It was still fairly dark but the landscape of snow-covered lava fields was mesmerizing.
We soon made it to Thingvellir National Park where we got to see where two teutonic plates meet and new land is created. The landscape was truly breath-taking.
We then proceeded to Geysir geothermal field, where we got to walk by pools of boiling hot water bubbling away. Up the hill there was a particular geyser that erupts every few minutes. Alan and I stood there, camera at the ready waiting for it to erupt. Despite expecting it, when it erupted I was barely able to take a picture since I jumped back at the sudden violence of the eruption. It was my first experience seeing a geyser! We then walked down to the restaurant attached to the local souvenir shop. I had a traditional Icelandic lamb soup that was incredibly tasty and meaty for a touristy restaurant. It definitely seemed like it was cooked on premises with fresh ingredients.
From there we went on to see Gullfoss, the Icelandic Niagara Falls, which in fact was way more impressive than Niagara Falls. Perhaps because a great deal of care was put into keeping manmade structures to a minimum around the falls. It was impressive, especially covered in ice and snow. After watching with incredulity tourists take unnecessary risks by following an icy path that was closed off because of the weather to get closer to the falls, we made our way to the bus. As soon as we got to the parking lot, a wicked wind storm began, with winds that must had been in excess of 80Km/hour. Since the parking lot was covered in ice, most people could not brace themselves against the wind and ended up sliding across the parking lot. One couple from our bus were blown past the bus and had to go around the back. We watched one guy across the parking lot unable to reach his car end up on his hand and knees and crawl across.
After everyone made it back to the bus, we continued to the last spot of the day trip: a visit to the thermal baths at a local spa. We arrived right when the local baker was ready to dig up some rugbrød, rye bread baked in the boiling mud by the hot springs. The bread was dense, with the consistency of cake. It was sweet from the long, slow baking, and simply delicious with some butter. The moistness reminded me of Brazilian couscous – a steamed cornmeal loaf popular in the north and notheastern region of Brazil. After we ate some of the bread we made our way to the hot pools – series of naturally hot pools that varied from 32 C to 40 C. We also sat for a bit in the steam rooms – wooden shacks built on top of the boiling hot springs. It wasa perfect day.
We were so tired by the time we got home that we finished the day by grabbing a quick dinner at the local middle eastern shack at the corner of our street. I chose a fish plate and what a surprise! The fish was very fresh and melted in the mouth and was served with a very tasty Syrian rice and a simple salad. I’ll definitely be back to Mandi.