In bringing my week in Iceland to a close, my second last day was spent travelling around The Golden Circle, also known as Ring Road. A road well-travelled by locals and tourists, our first morning stop was Iceland greenhouse farming, and visiting the beautiful Friðheimar greenhouse, where tomatoes, cucumbers and other plants are grown with the aid of geothermal heat. As I learned, tomatoes are harvested every day of the year, despite the dark and cold winters. Iceland has ‘green electricity’ combined from hydro-electric and geothermal power stations. The heat is also largely from the ground, with 95 degree celsius hot water coming in from a borehole 200 metres away. Because so much sunlight is needed, their glass walls are only 4 mm thick, and therefore, 100,000 tons of hot water is used from the ground each year.
Further along the Ring Road, our next fascinating stop was the Geysir geothermal area where the Strokkur geyser shoots water up to 30 metres (98 ft.) into the air every 4-8 minutes in the middle of October-golden fields and mountains. Depending on which side of the circle you stood, you could easily get sprayed, and because of the spontaneity of the water bursting from the ground, crowds of people had their cameras poised, ready to snap away as fast as possible, followed by many cheers and laughter when the water surprised us every time, no matter how ready we were!
The tour continued with Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall (pictures below), created by the river Hvítá, roaring down into a crevice some 32 m (105 ft.) deep. While I have seen Niagara Falls many times, this water fall felt more natural and wild; surrounded by Icelandic fields for miles, and autumn bushes and trees lit up in ice-covered sun glare, I witnessed a rainbow that came out only for moments, long enough for me to feel the promise of such beautiful colours.
Next we saw Thingvellir National Park, where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart by a few centimetres per year. This created a beautiful stone pathway involving a 20 minute walk up, and a view of surrounding Icelandic fields and lakes lit by late afternoon sun. I’ve been told that in the way that nature miraculously cares for itself, and to off-set the tectonic plates pulling apart a little more each year, Iceland’s volcanoes (once deeply and historically feared) are what actually keeps Iceland from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. I’m not sure how, yet, but am planning to find out. Sometimes the things that seem scariest and most unpredictable in life, are the very things that come about to save us in the end.
Also, for those of you who saw my last blog post, and read about my loneliness for birds, I did see my first memorable bird today, who cheerfully greeted me as I left the greenhouse… a beautiful Icelandic chicken! 🙂
From here, my adventures in Scotland begin, where I am blessed to stay with my friends Kathy and Neil and their very sweet baby Chloe. Stay tuned for the sound of bag pipes and softly falling rain, where I pray the wind will always be at my back… and I will end with a beautiful Scottish saying that I hope will bless you:
It’s a lang road that’s no goat a turnin.’
Translation: Don’t lose heart in dark times, things can’t keep going in the same direction forever.