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Published: November 20th 2008
Less than a week after returning from sunny Ecuador I'm heading to a place significantly colder - Iceland. Although it was certainly cold (our first couple of days anyway) I can't agree with the naming of the country at all as I had to wait until we say actual icebergs before I had seen any ice at all. Still, had a late night arrival in Reykjavik followed the next day by an early morning start to our tour stopping first at Thingvellir.
Thingvellir National Park, or 'Parliament Plains', is the site of the first Icleandic Parliament in 930 and the parliament created at that first meeting continued until 1789. The Law Council met every summer there as well as becoming a meeting place for traders. More interestingly (seeing as there are no remaining buildings to show where the Law Councils once met) is the fact that the National Park is the site of several fault lines from the continental shift.
I managed to actually walk straight down one of the canyons before realising what it was I was walking into! The continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults
which are traversing the region, the biggest one, Almannagjá, being a veritable canyon. This also causes the often-measurable earthquakes in the area.
Some of the rifts are full of surprisingly clear water. Absolutely stunning although surprisingly hard to capture on camara! One, Nikulásargjá, is better known as Peningagjá (coin fissure), as it is littered with coins at its bottom. After being bridged in 1907 for the arrival of King Frederick VII of Denmark, visitors began to throw coins in the fissure, a tradition based on European legends. Rather disturbingly, one such pool is named Drekkingarhylur (Drowningpool) where women found guilty of adultery were drowned.
The church at Thingvellir orginating from 1859, is believed to be situated on the spot where one of the first churches in Iceland was built around 1016 although we didn't have time to visit it.
A wonderful first trip is absolutly freezing. It literally was bitingly cold and not too comforting as apparently it's only going to get colder as we travel around the country!
Next on to Gullfoss (Golden Falls.) After seeing the waterfalls in so many pictures I was surprised it was still so stunning. The first thing you notice
of course was not the falls themselves but the roaring that could be heard the second you stepped off the bus. It was actually quite a walk to the falls themselves but we did manage to get photos from the top and the sun was obliging enough to peek out for long enough for us to get the rainbow shot!
Also managed to get out first photo of the famous Icelandic horse from one specimen who was only to happy to be admired and have his photo taken by dozens of admiring tourists. I'm afraid I'm going to have to show my ignorance and say that I can't really see all that much difference between Icelandic horses and any other reasonably small, stocky horse (not that I'd ever tell the guide that - she, like most Icelanders, seems inordinatley proud of them!)
Next we were off the see the geysers although we were quickly corrected as to calling them all geysers. The name geyser comes from Geysir, the name of an erupting spring at Haukadalur, Iceland; that name, in turn, comes from the Icelandic verb gjósa, "to gush". So only one in fact can actually correctly be termed
'geyser'. That one however, was not wanting to put on a show, nor has it for several years now.
Its rather more active companions were only too happy to though with one, Strokkur (The Butter Churn), erupting (for want of a better word) every few minutes. Amazing how quickly cramp can build up in your hand waiting for the damn thing to go off! Very impressive though if still none the wiser how they actually work.
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