Saturday, 28 July 2007

Iceland Continued

Where was I?

Ah yes, at the Althingi, looking at the beautiful rift valley and the site of Iceland's original parliament. Well, it was truly beautiful, and while I wasn't particularly interested in the pre-medieval machinations of Icelandic politics, I was quite inspired by the images in my mind of fur-clad folk making the long journey to this barren, windswept place in order to stay in little lodges, or booths, and have a good old barney about the state of the world today.

We spent a very pleasant hour and a half there before rejoining our taxi and motoring off to a lovely restaurant beside a lake for lunch. The most remarkable thing about this place was actually the sheer volume of midgies and blackflies lying in wait for us as we leapt from the car and beat a hasty path to the safety of the restaurant. I had to cover my face with my shirt in order to keep them from going up my nose and into my mouth. I thought Gemmill would be traumatised by them, but actually, being so much closer to the ground meant he barely noticed them. We adults, on the other hand, were sorely tormented and very glad to be inside.

Lunch was great. Icelandic food, so far, has not in any way been the disaster some guidebooks suggested. It's very fish oriented, and naturally so, but that is by no means a bad thing. Having said that, I ordered a smoked char salad which I found repulsive! Char is a salmon-coloured fish, but the smoking of it rendered it all but inedible to me, being like a cup of lapsang souchong with a fish boiled in it. However, Fisher thought it delicious - and so did Ma, which obviously means I am a freak and should just shut up and acknowledge my foolish fussiness.

After lunch we headed to Geysir where - you´ve guessed it! - there is a field full of geysirs. We had expected to swim in the lake beside the restaurant, but the midgies put an end to that notion. In retrospect I'm glad it did because we wouldn't have had as much time to spend at Geysir had we done so.

The barren rock of the field is interspersed with little pools where water bubbles at, in some places, near boiling point. We headed to one little pool where a crowd had gathered, and waited excitedly for the geysir to have its say. After several minutes of watching it suck and swell like a mini tide in the hole, a large blue bubble of water suddenly formed followed swiftly by a great spurt of water reaching some fifteen feet into the air like the spume of a massive whale. I couldn't help giving a whoop of joy - which nobody else seemed to think necessary, so I ended up looking a bit of a plonker ... but could I care less? I could not. Frankly, I'm a bit of a child when it comes to such things.

After witnessing the phenomenon once, we started walking up the hill and peering into other bubbling pools. The geysir spouted several times more, each time making me want to shriek and clap like a demented toddler (Gemmill was far more restrained, even a little nervous about the whole thing). Fisher got an excellent photograph of Sister and me doing one-two-three-and-awaaaay with Wrecker with the geysir erupting behind us. At the top of the hill we looked down over the whole geysir field, drinking in the sight of all those bubbling pools and the occasional expulsion of water and steam. On the way down again, Sister stopped at what looked like a very dull couple of still pools, whose only interest appeared to be the fact they were very, very hot indeed - but came back looking quite enchanted. When I took a look I found one of the pools to be the crystal clear turquoise of a Caribbean lagoon, clear as glass, with a tunnel vanishing deep into the hillside. I can stare into such things for hours, and longed to be able to dive in and follow the tunnel as deep as it would go, perhaps - as Pa told Gemmill - to find a sleeping dragon with golden scales curled around his treasure, as his breath heated the water around him to keep intruders at bay.

After the delights of Geysir we were supposed to head straight home, but our taxi driver - whose name was something like Haffi - took us on a road that allowed one more stop. This was at a volcanic crater, where long ago the rock had collapsed around the lava spout, plugging the hole and forming a crater which filled with ground water. An eerie green pool now fills the bottom, and the crater itself is quite other-worldly in appearance. It was no more than a fifteen minute leg-stretch, but extremely beautiful and, like everything I've seen in Iceland's countryside so far, deeply atmospheric. It all speaks of a world still forming, still nursing the incredible heat and power of its ancient creation, and ready to unleash it at any time. It's both unnerving and exhilarating. Seeing as I'm the sort who loves an environment that sneers at the insignificance of mankind, I'm really in my element.

Back in Reykjavik, the boys were fed with pizza, we, later, with shepherd's pie, and all were content. Fisher and I went for a short run in the park - about 2.5 miles only (I was utterly, totally knackered by it. Not very good) before supper, which helped with the holiday fatness I feel creeping upon me.

Yesterday was a town-based day. We went up the cathedral's - Hallgrimskirke's - great tower and got a beautiful overview of the city, which is very much more water-bound than'd realised. We also went for a swim at one of the city outdoor pools, which are heated to a reasonable 18 or 19 degrees, and I swam a kilometer, front crawl, for the first time. We suppered with Ma and Pa at a restaurant which served delicious fish dishes but took ages to serve us, and I finished the new Harry Potter.

That's almost me up to date now, save to mention the Settlement Museum we went to this morning, which'll have to cover at a later date.