The Golden Circle, Iceland

We left around 9 AM with about a 2 hour drive ahead of us to get to our first stop on the Golden Circle.

The weather conditions, in true Iceland fashion, turned from good, to bad, to really bad all in under 30 minutes. The weather rapidly went from sideways rain to extremely strong winds, to snow, then back to rain  and continued that way until we got to our first destination; Geysir.

But before we could make it to Geysir (pronounced ‘Gay-Sir’ ) the road pictured below got smaller and smaller eventually to the point where two cars could not pass. On top of that, the road was covered with snow and ice, making the driving conditions less than optimal. I had to slow down my driving to about 15 MPH in order to have somewhat control of the car, though it still was sliding every which way regardless of how hard I tried to keep it straight. This was the sketchiest drive I had ever done at that point in my life, but little did I know Iceland had worse conditions to throw at me a few days later.

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Our path to The Golden Circle

 

Geysir

Not having had any breakfast we quickly munched on our Sour Cream & Onion Chips (a staple in our diet for our duration in Iceland) and got our layers on before we headed out on the paved path to view Geysir and the geothermal boiling water that ran all around it.

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We never actually say this Geysir go off

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DSCF0575Making our way through other tourists, we found a good spot and waited until we got to see it blow. There was no warning, so naturally I got scared when it happened and jumped and missed the shot the first time around. After waiting and watching it a few times, we realized it went off about every 4 minutes. It blew our mind to think that no one person or machine was making it happen; It was simply Nature.

We moved to a different vantage point where I got to capture a sequence of the Geysir going off which you can see in the slide show below. ∇∇

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Gulfoss

Gulfoss was the real star of our experience in The Golden Circle. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and after seeing it in person, it is obvious why. Its painful weather conditions seemed to be the appropriate price to pay in order to be able to experience the incredible beauty and power that was Gulfoss.

The waterfall(s) was enormous in size and the sheer amount of water that was flowing into it and from it, which seemed to be coming every direction.

 

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When we arrived, we knew the weather would be bad, but did not expect the severity of it all on top of the literal below freezing temperature. There were two places to park, a top level and a lower level, which coincided with the viewing areas and the vantage point you were afforded.

We parked on the lower level where the majority of my photos were taken. With the heavy rain and wind, we were all soaked and our fingers were numb. So after more photos, we went back to the car to dry off and ready our bodies for the upper level viewing area. We walked up the stair way and immediately begin to feel the weather grow harsher. Our faces began to lose feeling, just as our hands did earlier.

 

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Doing my best to smile and keep the rain, snow, and ice out of my eyes

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Below you can see me trying my best to take a selfie with Gulfoss in background but due to the wind, rain, and ice slapping me in the face, I was not successful in my endeavor.

From that top viewing area was about a 100 yard path to a higher point with a cliff where you could really see the true size and grandeur of Gulfoss, but due to the cold Anthony opted out and went back to the car as Suriel and I headed to the cliff side. DSCF0665DSCF0666DSCF0667DSCF0668DSCF0669DSCF0671DSCF0672DSCF0674

We finally made it to the cliff side where we could see the vast expanse that made Gulfoss what it is. At the same time as we were being awed by Gulfoss size and power we were also experiencing the harshest weather I, for one, have ever experienced in my life.

With 50 MPH winds sending rain, ice, snow,  dirt, and black sand mixed with pebbles in my face along with the constant water gathering on my lens, taking in focus photos was not the easiest.

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With all the wind, I couldn’t hold my face to the camera for longer than 5-10 seconds at a time.

 

The below video captures the intensity of the weather, as best a camera can. The sound you hear on the video is the wind and it is no exaggeration. The wind was that loud and strong. This was the first and only time in my life that I have had a problem walking against the wind.

The harsh weather made the experience that much better and memorable. The pain and cold we felt, and the face, toes, and fingers we didn’t, made this truly an intense yet awe–inspiring adventure.

The Drive Back

With the rough driving conditions on the way there, we were less than ecstatic about the drive back to Anthony’s apartment in Reykjavik.  But lucky for us our drive back felt like we were taking a completely different route. The rain was minimal and with most of the snow having melt away, the moss covered land began to reveal itself – Something that was not visible whatsoever on our initial drive there. With the departure of the snow and fog and the sun’s rays peaking out and highlighting everything – lakes, mountains, and red brush were visible across what we thought earlier was a barren landscape. Again, and what would become a reoccurring theme, Iceland was showing us its vastness and with that, its sublimity.

I got no photos of the landscape this time around as I was too busy taking it all in; But even if i did get photos of it, they wouldn’t have communicated Iceland’s beauty. Somethings are just better left in memory.

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But I did get the opportunity to capture the beauty of some Icelandic Horses. As we drove back we saw a few on the side of the highway and we had to stop. This breed of horse is specific to Iceland and something that was on my list to see.

It was raining when we stopped the car on the side of the highway to see the horses so they were soaked, but they seemed not to mind. They were amazingly calm and tranquil, showing no fear towards us. They were short, as you can see in the below pictures but what was most remarkable was the thickness of their hair. Never in my life have I felt hair that thick.

Check out the portraits I got of them, as they may be my favorite pictures I took on this whole trip.

 

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Þingvellir

With seeing Icelandic Horses and the weather slightly clearing up, we seemed to get a second wind and decided to take a quick stop at Þingvellir (Thingvellir). This national park is known for being the home of Iceland’s 10th – 18th century Parliament though we never saw this portion of it.

We didn’t really know what to expect when we drove into the national park as it was unplanned, but as we entered we spotted a waterfall on our right side in the distance. We drove and parked at the first lot we saw and started on another adventure.

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Apparently the whole park sits in a huge valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates and the giant rock wall that guided the trail we were on seemed to support that notion.DSCF0757

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When he wasn’t falling asleep in cars, Suriel had a thing for climbing up and down everything he saw.

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The hike to the waterfall was about a mile along the aforementioned rock wall that looked like something from Game of Thrones.  We got lucky on our way there with the sun peaking out intermittently, though the temperature never seemed to let up above 35 degrees.

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After taking a bunch of shots of the waterfall and messing around with the settings my camera battery started blinking red and at the same time huge snowflakes started to fall on us. And within about 3 minutes, the snow started coming down heavy and the sun retreated behind the clouds again as we hurriedly set up the tripod, took a group shot and started on our way back to the car.

With the wind suddenly picking up and it mixing with the huge snowflakes coming down, our faces again began getting smacked with snow to the point where it physically hurt. The weather was taking no mercy on us today, and as the trip went on we learned it wouldn’t let up.

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“Mask on
Fuck it, mask off”

We finally made it to the car and put the heater and seat warmers on full blast and made our way back to Anthony’s apartment. This was only the beginning of our adventure in the Land of Fire & Ice.

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