Famous Geysir, namesake of all geysers: 23 meters deep and 120 degrees Celcius. Kabaam!
The Golden Circle beckons Dave and me out of hibernation. This circuit of landmarks encompasses Geysir zone, a geyser minefield the size of an airport; Gullfoss waterfall, a two-tiered glacial cataract and natural wonder; and Þingvelli national park, the only place in the world where you can easily see tectonic plates move.
I must first confess: we took a coach bus. Of course I wouldn’t normally indulge in travel means that provide comfort and convenience. If locals employ idiosyncratic vehicles or smelly animals, I say, grab jumper cables and stirrups and follow suit!
Reykjavik chills such principles into remission. Here, I hunt radiators with a crazed fervor normally reserved for pursuing chocolate.
A geyser minefield: water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink
Coach drivers obligingly warm vehicles to simulate Jamaican heatstroke. As windows steam, tourists press noses against heating vents like pink lichen. Sighs resonate as airways defrost. Dave, who’s English and built for grim weather, catches sunburn.
Here we go…
We arrive at Geysir geothermal region. This could easily be where NASA took its pictures of “Mars.” I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I can recognize a barren, steaming and craterous horizon when I see one.
“Hold your breath,” Dave advises. The mammoth geyser two meters ahead of us explodes.
Water launches upwards and I launch with it: shock jolts me a foot into the air. Geyser explosions, which can send boiling water up to 70m high, are now among the coolest things I have ever seen. The vat burps and discharges again. It thunders through the white sky like an inverted waterfall.
That accomplished, the geyser simmers. The hot spring churns and bubbles like a bewitched cauldron. The crowd stares hypnotically. Surely I’m not the only one humming the Macbeth witch chant,
“Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
I do hear some (fellow Americans, probably) cheer the geyser like it’s the home team,
“Spray baby, spray! This is the big one!”
A five-year old boy throws an ice block towards the geyser and I chuck a volcanic rock. We both miss, perhaps because we’re nervous about seeing these objects regurgitated at top speed.
Several explosions later, the cold ushers the group back to our heated chariot.
If your hat blows into the abyss, try an Arabic style.
We move to Gullfoss, the “Golden Waterfall.” Captain Ahab’s jaw would drop at this watery confusion. Thundering reverberations press my ears as the glacial river plummets 32 feet into a narrow 70-foot deep canyon.
My eyes squeeze shut. Between a tangible rumble and icy rain, I imagine the otherworldly falls crashing at my fingertips. I reopen my eyes and remember that the fall stands over fifty meters away.
One the way to the final stop, we brake for wild horses. Icelandic horses are a unique breed: Law prohibits the import of any steed onto the island, and once a horse leaves the country it may never return.
These horses are the only animals in the country to spend the winter outdoors. Their 4-inch thick coats inspire jealousy in tourists.