We’d woken up to find that it had been snowing overnight. Could this be the wonderful snowy Iceland we’d seen pictures of? Unfortunately not. It hadn’t settled and it had stopped snowing. Only the cars had the remanence of the night’s snowfall. But it did look cool.
Well today was the last full day in Iceland and that meant the last surprise for Stef. The Golden Circle trip had been spoken about by everyone. It included seeing ƥingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Falls and the Strokkur geyser. As it was the final trip I’d arranged and they had been getting better by the day, I couldn’t disappoint. We’d also be driving a snowmobile across a glacier!
We had a little bit of a lay in today as the coach picked us up at 0830am. We were up, ready and headed to the shop to get some brekkie. But it was the weekend and nothing was open! Luckily, at the Reykjavik Excursion bus station was a small shop so we filled our bellies before we left for the Circle in a slightly different coach than we had previously. This thing was a beast. I assumed it was 4×4 because of the day’s activities…I wasn’t wrong.
We headed west out of Reykjavik for our first stop, the ƥingvellir National Park, a designated world heritage site. It’s where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. Quite impressive. The further we travelled, the more the terrain changed. Although the snow hadn’t settled in town, it sure had here. It wasn’t deep, but it was snow and looked great. The guide stated that she did the tour yesterday and the scenery was completely different as a result. It was well timed.
We pulled into the ƥingvellir National Park and exited the coach. We went to a vantage point and could see for miles. Nothing but lakes, trees and grass as far as the eyes could see….apart from the odd church. Obviously.
We left the view behind and started having a walk through the tectonic plates. Yeah that’s right – through the frigging plates of the Earth! You couldn’t feel the Earth ripping them apart, but it was obvious it had been happening. It was quite handy that when it pulled apart, it left a smooth tarmac path for people to walk on.
Up next was the Geysir geothermal area. It was only a short drive away and you could see the smoke far in the distance long before you arrived. It was quite a large area. Steam was coming out of every nook and cranny. It was like being on another planet. There is a massive Geyser there called “Geysir”, however, we never saw that. Sometimes it goes years without erupting. I didn’t fancy waiting around.
Here’s something you might not have known – The English word Geyser derives from “Geysir” which comes from the Icelandic verb Geysa – “To Gush”.
After walking around, looking at the little geysers and feeling the 80-100 degree water, we made it to the Strokkur geyser. Sure, it wasn’t the almighty Old Faithful of Yellowstone National Park, USA, but it was still impressive, shooting the water about 30m in the air. It looked even better when you looked at it from afar. It resembled a little water nuclear explosion. Quite impressive.
Back on the coach and it was time for the highlight of the day. The snowmobiles!
It was about an hour’s drive and we headed deep into the Langjokul glacier, which is the second largest glacier in Iceland. It was so remote with only one road and nothing for miles. You really needed 4×4 as not only the terrain was all over the place, but it was also covered in snow. Luckily, we had the Super Coach! There were signs everywhere to warn you about the conditions, however, it didn’t stop idiots from trying it in their 2 wheeled rentals. How stupid they must have felt getting stuck in the gravel. Luckily we were there to take their photo!
After winding in and out, up and down, we made it to base camp at the top of the mountain. We were handed some heavy duty overalls, waterproof shoes, masks, helmets and gloves. This was serious. After signing our lives away on the disclaimer, we all jumped on an even meaner coach with even bigger wheels.
It was another 20 minutes of even worse roads. We were flying around in our seats but it was the only way to the glacier. In the distance, we could see the snowmobiles. My heart started pumping faster, the adrenalin was kicking in, I couldn’t wait!
After landing on the glacier, we all huddled around for our new guide to show us the ropes. Luckily, the controls were the same as the quad bikes from the other day. Steering was a bit different as instead of the wheels, it was 2 small skis. Turning wasn’t going to be easy! Looking around the glacier revealed some major issues. One of them being massive holes scattered about the place. We were told it was nothing to worry about, they just appear sometimes. What??? This being the reason for the two biggest rules of the day – stay in single file and DO NOT overtake.
It was an hour’s journey there and back. Stef didn’t want to drive the massive snowmobile first so I jumped on and she sat behind me. We all head off in single file. There was one big problem. The couple at the front (behind the guide) were absolutely useless. They kept tipping the vehicle, crashing it into the snow and were slow. Luckily, they soon got removed from the front and let us experts cruise ahead. As it had snowed recently, the snow was a bit thicker. It made it a little bit more of a challenge but it was fun. We saw quite a few couples tip the vehicles as they tried to maneuver over ridges. We nearly went over once but I’m a professional and handled it well (it had nothing to do with the guide helping me).
These things would shift. The quadbikes went about 35mph. Within seconds, these bad boys were up to 45mph with a hell of a lot more power to give. It was scary but kept the blood pumping. Looking around at the landscape was breath-taking. It was just white as far as the eye could see. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. We eventually made it to the check point for a little rest. It was tough work driving the snowmobiles. Steering them was on another level. You just turned the handlebars and hoped it would turn!
The views from the checkpoint were like another planet. White. White everywhere! The snow was so soft, it felt like powder. Stef took this as a perfect time to launch a snowball in my face. It was a nice way to cool down. With all the padding, I was sweating my nads off!
It was time to head back which meant it was Stef’s turn to tame the beast. However, she didn’t want to. To be honest, I don’t blame her. She saw the problems other people were having. Wise girl.
On the way back, in single file, some douchebag over took me at speed. It wasn’t a race. We weren’t on a time table. It was just pure idiotic. He cut in front of me and when we started to slow down, he turned and gave a smug smile at me. What a douche. We started to gather speed again and he pumped on the gas. But douche by name, douche by nature. He failed to see the snowmobile in front of him stop. He must have been going about 20mph. BANG! He flipped the one in front around. His missus on the back of his went right into the back of his helmet. They were open front helmets so it must have hurt. I slowed down and flagged a guide. The idiot looked at me and it was my time for the smug smile. It felt good. Real good.
We got back to base camp and the damage to the girlfriend was made apparent. She had a swollen lip. And when I say swollen, I MEAN swollen. It was ginormous. She was not happy with him. They sat away from each other on the way back. At least there was free, unlimited ice that she could put on it!
Next up was the Gullfoss waterfall. It wasn’t just the one fall, it was built up of quite a few. It’s one of the most popular sights in Iceland and it did not disappoint.
We made it back to the hotel and we were knackered and starving. It was the last night so we wanted something special. After walking around for what felt like hours, we found a little restaurant in what I can only explain as basement. It didn’t look much from the outside, but it was friendly looking on the inside and more importantly, it had whale on the menu! So to continue the trend of weird and wonderful delights, I tucked into a tasty bit of Mink Whale. It wasn’t how I imaged it. Although it’s not a fish, I thought it would resemble it slightly but it was more like a bit of beef. Tasty, yet a bit stringy. I would have it again. Anyone know where they sell it in London?