Geysir to Þorlakshöfn
After leaving the campsite we went down to the Hotel Geysir which runs the campsite for a swim in their hot spring-fed pool and a dip or rather a wallow in the hot tub. Both were brilliant, especially after days of either no showers or fairly poor ones. Although we stayed in the water for well over an hour and a half, our skin did not assume prune texture. The water felt almost greasy on the skin and certainly there was a strong sulphur smell to it. Steam seeped up through the decking around the pool and with the hot springs of Geysir and Strokkur just across the road, no doubt the water hadn't had to come far.
We checked out a few more waterfalls, none as impressive as Gullfoss but pretty good nonetheless. It is amazing how close you can get to the streaming, turbulent and powerful current - you can easily stand just a metre or so from the water as it careers over the edge. We visited Skáholt, a small village with some excavations of houses from medieval times. They weren't much more than outlines of small rock walls, but the church that overlooked them was superb. It was technically a cathedral, being the seat of a Bishop, but really quite small. Inside was a sublimely serene interior - none of the fancy overblown baroque of other European cathedrals. The walls were white with simple lighting; the stained glass was modern but beautiful; no pews but light-timbered chairs with rush seats; and a stunning mosaic behind the altar that actually looked like a modern woven tapestry until you approached it. The pulpit was very old with painted panels and an altar to the side was also some centuries old.
After stopping to look at a volcanic crater lake called Kerið almost on the main road, we turned off on the tourist track to see Þingvellir. (The 'Þ' is pronounced 'th' as in 'thing'. Oh, and the 'ð' is also 'th' but hard as in 'there'.) This is where the first settlers in Iceland convened to make a formal government structure - the AlÞingi or general assembly was formed around 930 CE and was the first parliament in the world. We drove around Iceland's biggest lake to get there entering the National Park in the northern parts. Here we saw huge rifts in the ground, sometimes with holes between the rocks that seemed to go down a very long way. There were storms and rain showers all around giving a wonderful light to the area.
We knew we had reached Þingvellir when we saw coaches and cars filling several car parks. We walked along a track that took us up to a viewing point on the top of a steep cliff. This cliff was actually another rift. We were standing on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge! So we had come across the eastern rift marking the boundary of the European Plate over a rift valley and up over the higher western rift and onto the American Plate. Awesome geology! From the top of the western rift we had an extensive view over the whole area. With the afternoon light shining through the rain and storms in the distance and with no wind to ruffle the lake's water, we both thought it was one of the most beautiful vistas we have ever seen anywhere.
As the rain moved our way, we headed off to find the next campsite. We found a lovely setting by a small lake but when we stepped out of the van, small midgy things came at us in clouds. Time to move on. Nothing is too far away here, if there is a road that is, so we settled into the next campsite without any arthropod invasion to annoy us.