Steam, democracy and a horse or two

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August 16th 2012
Published: August 19th 2012
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Off on a two day bus tour of the south of Iceland. First stop is in the mountain range outside of Reykjavik, where there are yet more steam vents – literally hundreds of them. They are used for power, but they are also used to pipe hot water to Reykjavík for heating and bathing. Most Icelanders’ hot water is piped straight out of the ground. Even travelling dozens of kilometers it is still scaldingly hot!

Next is Þingvellir ('ll' is prnounced 'tl', and the letter þ is a soft "th". So it's prnounced thingvetlir.

þingvellir is a special place for two reasons. It has been the home of Icelandic democracy since the 900's, the original parliament, where it remained until almost 1800. It is also the point at which the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates drift apart. You can literally see the edges between the two plates. It makes for some amazing land formations.

Next stop Gullfoss. Iceland has no shortage of amazing waterfalls and this is the most visited and most accessible. Loud. Wet. Amazing.

And so we continue on to the original Geysir. An Icelandic word that has moved into English. There is a hole in the ground that used to erupt regularly called Geysir. But it stopped erupting a decade ago thanks to the actions of an earthquake, and has since been replaced by Strokkur, which blows once or twice every seven minutes. The hole in the ground fills with water after each eruption and waxes and wanes, surging up and down, and then gives this almighty burp and water flies 20-30 metres into the sky. It is amazing to watch. Don’t leave the path because you may break through the crust and be boiled alive. Seriously.

Groan – our next stop is an Icelandic horse farm and tomato greenhouse. It was not difficult to contain my enthusiasm however I have to confess they were great tours.

Icelandic horses are special. Their blood lines are pure; no horses have been imported into Iceland for a thousand years, nor will they ever. Once a horse leaves Iceland it can never return. Whilst I am not sure exactly what horses “do” in modern Iceland, they are everywhere. They are shorter than a normal horse, with a big fluffy mane. They are incredibly good natured, licking you like a dog. And they do 5 different gaits. Most western horses do a walk, a trot and a canter. Icelandic horses also do a tölt and a pace; and amazingly they don’t need to be taught to do them; they somehow just know. These gaits are unique to Iceland and are very clever because the front legs are moving at a different rate to the back legs. They are incredibly smooth – the rider does not move up and down which means he doesn’t spill his beer.

Behind the horse farm was a tomato greenhouse. The Icelandic government is keen to reduce reliance on food imports and offers big subsidies to farmers who want to invest in growing local. They have plenty of energy to provide warmth and light, and keep the acres of greenhouses growing all year round. Who knew growing tomatoes could be so scientific. Again, a short, sharp and interesting tour that displays their unique adaptation to their northern environment, which we would never have done had we been self-travellers as opposed to being on a tour.

The night is spent in the pretty town of Selfoss. It sits next to the Hvita river (white river) (the same river that flows over Gullfoss waterfall). Not a huge amount to report from Selfoss! nice lady at the library allowed me some free internet (because the so-called wi-i in the hotel was very much not-fi).

Additional photos below
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19th August 2012

Alex thinks That the blue lagoon is a beach. He doesn't believe me that the LAGOON is warm.
20th August 2012

Thanks so much for sharing
Wonderful script/commentary accompanied by beaut pics! Continue to enjoy, & I look forward to the full story on your return. Cheeers, Nan

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