Total distance covered: 270 km | 168 miles
A quick night’s nap on the plane, (turning our clocks ahead 4 hours), in addition to anticipation and adrenalin – we’re ready for our first day’s adventure!
We picked up our 16-year old rental car from SAD Cars (by far the cheapest rental around) hoping I had made the right decision to pinch pennies. SAD Cars wasn’t kidding when they said “Our cars have experience, but are very well maintained“. Experience in this case = age.
We took in our first Icelandic lava field as we drove from the Keflavik Airport towards Reykjavik : GREY. Not much vegetation. Incredible texture. Rugged. STARK. All the eye could see- ROCK, hardened lava, and a bit of grey lichen. This condition was unlike anything I have seen before. Steam clouds billowed from the southwest in the direction of the Svartsengi Power Plant which is used to heat the Blue Lagoon (Bláa Lónið) [I’ll get back to this hot spot!]. It all felt very other worldly…
Þingvellir was top priority. Geologically, historically, and culturally this is a location of great national importance. Listed as a World Heritage Site, Þingvellir is physically stunning, geologically remarkable, and marks an important convergence place for Icelandic people. It is pretty incredible that in the year 930 when the parliament (Alþingi) first commenced, it was at this site – this site, where two tectonic plates (the North American & Eurasian) are separating, creating a rift valley and marking the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This Provides evidence that people of this continent have been in touch with their unique ground from the very beginning. Stunning basalt walls tower above as you descend into the gap of these two plates – I found it impossible not to consider my own size in comparison to this enormous, growing landscape. From 930 to 1798 Icelandic people, in particular all Chieftains, would journey – a few days, or a few weeks, for an annual two-week assembly to discuss issues of national politics and law. In the large panorama below, the flagpole visible near the center of the photo indicates where the Lögberg (Law Rock) was located. This natural rock platform was the focal point of the assembly. Today, important events are still held in this space (a National Park since 1930) – perhaps a lesson to be learned, continuing to make history and give significance in/to an important landscape in a National Park.
There is much more to discuss on this site – I will get back to this topic in the near future.
Nesjavellir Power Plant like Þingvellir is located in the Hengill volcanic area adjacent to Þingvallavatn (Iceland’s largest natural lake). While no tour or information was provided at the Plant, I poked around as much as I felt comfortable. I saw two men diligently going about their work, both focused on the task at hand and another worker looking down from a window as I got in position to take pictures of the massive pipelines. I felt neither welcomed nor discouraged.
Transmission lines and huge pipes were distributing energy from this plant. Nesjavellier is a combination heat and power plant (CHP) which means it produces both electricity and hot water. The pipes themselves were stunning: shiny metallic lines standing out on the tree-less horizon. Formally opening operation in 1990, this station currently has 26 bore holes, not all of which are operable. Something I find particularly fascinating is the depth at which these holes are drilled: between 3,280 ft. and 7,218 ft. (whoa!).
A great resource is the Nesjavellier Power Plant Brochure http://www.or.is/media/PDF/Nesjavellir_Enska.pdf
We headed for Borjarnes, where we were due to spend the night. Along the way we discovered a waterfall, ðrufuss (where we were pleasantly surprised to find blueberries and another blacker berry…edible?), and Fossarrett, another small waterfall next to stone remnants, currently a starting point for numerous hikes. We also observed large metal pipelines running alongside the major roadway (Route 1 / The Ring Rd.).
After a meal of wolf fish (a delicate tasting white fish) at the Settlement Center we were more than ready for sleep.