Before it was time to fly back home, I took part in one last full-day excursion out of Iceland´s capital towards the geysers of Bláskógabyggð, about 1 1/2 hours west of Reykjavik. The forecasted storm was not as heavy at we had expected it to be, but it brought tons and tons of rain and heavy winds with it. And if you had not seen a geyser in real life like me before, there was nothing more exhilarating than seeing it blow while being soaked from the rain.
The drive towards the hot spring area took us over the endless expanse of the Western land. While the rain was running down the windows of the bus as if someone was taking a shower, it made it hard to recognize anything that passed outside as the bus rushed down the empty highway.
We made a quick halt at a farm breeding Icelandic horses, but it was still pouring down and I remember feeling completely sorry for the animals to have to stand outside in the rain while I was rushing for a steaming hot cafe latte.
Icelandic horses are apparently well-known to be long-lived and hardy, sovereign of their rather small size compared to other races. Strict regulations do not allow any importation of foreign horses into Iceland and animals, who had left the country once are not allowed to return. All in favor to protect the race from outside epidemics and illnesses that the horses would not survive.
Little time later, we found ourselves on the road again. The rain continued to obscure the view and so I tried to take a little nap before reaching the next stop.
Kerið is a volcanic crater measuring around 270 meters x 170 meters x 55 meters, a so-called caldera filled with magically glowing aquamarine water. The crater is about 3,000 years old and was formed by a massive volcanic eruption. Kerið is believed to have originally been a cone volcano which magma reserve had completely been emptied out during the eruption, causing the crater to form.
Well, I am not a scientist and I had never been a bright light in chemistry or physics, but seeing this natural beauty in real life was quite an experience.
Always having been involved in art classes, I was truly amazed by the array of colors that the crater consisted of. The aquamarine water was a looker itself. Even on this grey day, it shined like if someone had installed lighting underneath the even surface. Magic! And in combination with the red rocks and the greens grouping around, a piece of art.
Next, we finally made our way towards the hot spring area where the mighty Strokkur geyser was waiting for us.
The geothermal field is believed to have a surface area of approximately 3 km². Most of the springs are aligned along a 100m wide strip of land running in the same direction as the tectonic lines in the area, from south to southwest.
The strip is 500m long and culminates near what once was the seat of the lords of Haukadalur.
The area became active more than 1000 years ago and comprises more than a dozen hot water blow holes.
Although the largest geyser in this area is less active these days, it did lend its name to hot springs all over the world. It was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans.
But the great Geyser is not the only geyser in the Geyser hot spring area. The most active geyser in the area is called Strokkur. It sprouts hot water as high as 30 meters into the air every few minutes or so.
The geysers in Haukadalur are situated in an active geothermal area. Due to underground plumbing system ground water comes into contact with hot bedrock and heats up, building pressure.
When the water has reached peak temperature and pressure, it sprouts out from the geyser, often up to 30m into the air. Experiencing this strength and power of this “eruption” is truly a remarkable experience.
I found the lucidity of the boiling hot water absolutely fascinating. It looked so inviting to simply step in to take a warm bath (particularly on a rainy day like this one), but as harmless at it looked, this water is so hot that you would suffer severe scalds if ever getting in contact with it!
That is also the reason why the eruption of a geyser should always be enjoyed from a secure distance. Even though it may not look dangerous at all.
Strokkur itself was first mentioned in 1789, after an earthquake helped to unblock the conduit of the geyser. Its activity fluctuated throughout the 19th century; in 1815 its height was estimated to have been as much as 60 metres.
It continued to erupt until the turn of the 20th century, until another earthquake blocked the conduit again.
In 1963, locals cleaned out the blocked conduit through the bottom of the basin, and the geyser has been regularly erupting ever since.
Simply amazing! It is such an adventure to stand on the side and watch the bubbles slowly emerge from the bottom of the rock tube. With every minute you can literally watch the pressure building up with the geyser then suddenly exploding without a prior warning.
While it had started to rain again, I had to wrap the camera and the flashlight somewhere in between me and my rain coat. The challenge was to take photos of the emerging fountain without exposing it too much to the rain. Well, it got all wet afterwards and I was scared for a moment that I had ruined it, but talking about the images that I was able to capture, definitely worth it, don´t you think?
Wonderful, simply wonderful. Every time I see man-made water fountains such as the massive ones in Dubai or in front of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, I think how astonishing the imitating technique behind them is, but how fake and boring they appear in direct comparison to real nature.
Of course, they might reach higher into the air, but standing close to a real geyser and waiting outside the water hole for a natural eruption is so much more fun! You will have to experience this one for yourself.
After a steaming hot lunch at the Geyser center and a little time to warm up, we continued along the Golden Circle towards Gullfoss waterfall, another must see cascade in Iceland.
Unfortunately, the wind and rain had gained so much strength again, that I did not dare to take another step outside for the remains of the trip. I was too scared to finally ruin the camera and my clothes were still soaked.
Wearing jeans during outdoor excursions like this one proved to be the most stupid thing that I could have done, and for any future trip I would only bring functional clothes with me. This I had learned.
Everyone who took the chance to get a sneak peek of the massive falls through the misty air returned completely disappointed to the bus. The view was so limited that you could literally only suspect the fall in the grey because of the tremendous thunder.
Another highlight that I missed was a walk through the sharp canyon of Almannagjá at Thingvellir National Park.