Iceland – moving inland

10 Jun
Caldera

The people give a sense of scale to the caldera

A caldera looks like it might be the crater of a volcano but it’s actually caused by land collapsing after a volcanic eruption. Wikipedia has a good description but Kerio is pretty impressive!

I took a few photos here, including ones of the information boards. The boards are really impressive and present at most of the sites of interest – they were all in Icelandic and English with other languages added occasionally.

We didn’t spend long here because we had a lot more to see and the next stop was at the visitor centre for Þingvellir (the “Þ” is pronounced “th”) This is important because it’s the site of the original Icelandic parliament but it’s geologically important because it effectively straddles the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can pretend to stand with feet on either side of the gap which makes it well worth a visit 🙂

The visitor centre is interesting and has good toilets (actually, all the public toilets in Iceland are good – there just aren’t very many of them!) but it also gives an excellent overview of the area. You used to be able to walk from the centre down into the valley but recently a crack has opened up which means that the path has been closed. There’s some rope lava here which you can see  in my photos (rope lava is also known by the Hawaiian name of pahoehoe) and a good model showing the area.

Waterfall at Þingvellir We got back on the coach to go a bit a further along the road and then had a pretty easy walk down into the valley. The weather had really improved and it was actually a really gorgeous day – not at all what you expect in Iceland (2 weeks before we went the temperature was about -10C!)

One of the Icelandic words you see often is “foss” – it means waterfall and you’ll see it often because there are lots of them – the one at Þingvellir isn’t the biggest but it’s quite impressive.

There are more information boards in the area where the parliament met including information about the punishments meted out for various crimes. Given the amount of water I suppose it’s not surprising that drowning was used as a form of execution although apparently only women were drowned. Men were beheaded, hung or burned at the stake.

The sunshine meant that our picnic lunch (provided by the Hotel Dyrholaey and pretty good) was in the sunshine next to the river. The river is absolutely crystal clear (which tells you that it’s not glacier melt – water from a glacier is always cloudy because of the rock flour it carries) but it’s spoiled by people throwing coins into it in spite of the pictogram signs everywhere saying “don’t throw coins”

After lunch we made our way to Geysir. The Great Geysir rarely erupts now but Strokkur goes off about every 10 minutes and is really good to watch (not quite sure why I bothered to upload my video clip – there are far more, far better ones on YouTube already!)

Gulfoss

Gulfoss with a touch of rainbow!

The next stop was Gulfoss – one of the biggest waterfalls and very spectacular.

The information board says that the average water flow is 109 m3/s but peaks at 2000; 1m3 of water weighs 1 tonne so that means that there can be 2 000 tonnes of water going over the fall very second! You start to realise just how destructive water can be with figures like that.

It was hard to get good photographs but I’ve put a few here and also uploaded a video (but, again, there are many more available!) I think the video gives an idea of how sunny it was but I should have included people to give an idea of the sheer size of the waterfall.

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