Iceland summer 2014: The Golden Circle

Continuing from where I left off this morning: I went across to the airport to collect my car. It’s a black Hyundai i10, reg no RM H32 and instantly named, imaginatively, “RM”.

It was terrifying at first. I had to get RM from the airport across to the hotel to get my luggage and no amount of sitting stationary playing with the gearstick made it any less terrifying so I just had to try it out. It’s not so bad. I do keep knocking the door when I want to change gear and I keep forgetting the gearstick is as high and as far forward as it is and changing into second seems particularly tricky but actually, I did a lot better with the car than I did with the trolley at the supermarket later.

First I had no choice but to drive on the closest thing Iceland has to a motorway but I came off pretty quickly, heading south towards the Blue Lagoon and Grindavík. Then I followed the road that runs along the southern coast of Reykjanes, detoured to Grænavatn to reprogram the satnav and carried on up to Hveragerdi.
Many a time have I been through Hveragerdi but only once before have I stopped, on my very first morning of my very first trip, when we stopped to give the sunrise a chance to catch up with us. This time I wandered the shopping centre, had a good the crack between the continents which runs right under the building and is visible through a glass floor and then I went shopping.

After that I drove up through Hveragerdi towards the mountains in the hope of finding the hot springs area. I found a very hot hissing something but I was on the wrong side of a river that looked far too big and deep for paddling.

I’d taken the satnav down while I was shopping and I decided I didn’t need to put it back on just to drive to Laugarvatn. I followed the Ring Road almost to Selfoss then turned left at Ingolfsfjall and stopped a little way along for a picnic and to look at the view. On the horizon there were mountains – volcanoes actually, including Hekla, Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjalljökull and closer, a greyish glacial river joining a crystal clear blue fresh river. It was a bit breezy for a picnic but I ate anyway, took photos of the view and got my Icelandic sim working in my tablet.

While I was sailing along the road towards Laugarvatn I stopped first at a wooded picnic site in an actual bit of very rare Icelandic forest, which turned out to be the little place we’d been to looking for the Northern Lights on my first trip, and then at Kerid, once thought to be an explosion crater but now believed to just be where the sides of a scoria cone collapsed. Either way, it has steep red sides streaked with green vegetation and a pool of deep greenish-blue water in the bottom. It’s an unofficial part of the Golden Circle but currently involved in a dispute over access rights – the landowners are charging for entry but there’s a debate over whether that’s legal here. I handed over my 250kr and went to see.

I’ve been to Kerid a few times but I’ve only ever had a few minutes to take photos before moving on. This time I followed the path which leads right down into the bottom. You can walk right around the lake but it’s not a real path and it looked a bit unstable in places. Then you climb up the side and walk around the top. I took many many photos.

Next stop, since the weather was good, was Geysir. Another place I’ve been hurried through many times. I took my time enjoying the other hot springs and watched several Strokkur eruptions and wandered the shop looking at 66N jackets and extra-long socks and bought an I Love Iceland bag for those times when I just need to bring my wallet and phone with me and have no pockets.

Back at Laugarvatn it started to rain the moment my tent was up and I decided the best thing to do was go to Laugarvatn Fontana – ditto yet again not enough time previously.

I spent more than three hours in there. The middle pool felt hotter than usual and the two hot pools felt painfully hot. Several times I jumped in the coolest pool – a miniature swimming pool – just to cool down. It kept raining and every time it did, I retreated under cover. There’s not a lot at Fontana under cover. The view across the lake kept disappearing in cloud.

At last I had to get out at about quarter to ten – didn’t feel so late because it was still light, give or take the cloud. Soley conditioner is actually very good (because mineral-rich geothermal water is really bad for hair) and I dried my hair for once because soaking wet hair isn’t fun in a tent and then I cane home. There was still no sign of anyone to pay for camping. I dragged my food and electronics and so on into the tent and immediately decided I was just too tired to eat or read.

There’s something at this campsite that’s been making weird alien noises all night. I can only conclude it’s some kind of bird. It also rained all night but it feels warm and dry now, although I haven’t been outside yet.

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