Saturday, January 7, 2017

Iceland is getting bigger

Þingvellir National Park is situated in a place where two tectonic plates are slowly (2cm a year) drifting apart, and this tectonic activity leads to some pretty cool looking terrain. Giant rifts are formed by the earth settling and the park is built up around one of the bigger chasms. The area is also hugely important for Icelandic culture and history, as it used to be a gathering place where laws were read and punishments decided (it still is politically important). The history of Iceland is pretty dark and raw if you go poking around why certain areas of the park have names that translate to drowning pool and gallows rock.

Let's run off some of that energy

Wide paths without many people

Frosty water from a frosty foss


So we decided to put on our studded shoes and go for a run. There weren't too many trails to choose from and the day wasn't as bright and cheerful as we might have hoped, but any day with a foss is a good day. We started from a very empty parking lot, and soon discovered why, the trail down into the chasm from our spot wasn't maintained for winter use and thus covered in sheets of ice. No problem for us though, so we had the first little bit of exploring by ourselves. Pretty soon we met the crowds coming from the visitor's center, and that was a bit less fun, as we had to slow down to a crawl in order to get past that section.

The flag flies behind the "law rock"


On the edge of the rift


Once we dropped down out of the rift, we were pretty much on our own again. We swung past the place where snorkel and scuba tours head into the lake, to get a view out over the lake and to observe the tours. We had thought about doing a snorkeling tour, but as there aren't really very many fish and the water is only 2 degrees C (the snorkelers had lots of gear on), it seemed like something we could afford to miss.

The few species of fish that live in this lake were trapped when the land rose up


We then headed off into the hinterlands of the park, across barren scrub covered lava fields to check out some old farmsteads. Again, these trails were not winterized, and we had the run of the place to ourselves. The sun was tantalizingly peeking out from behind clouds, from time to time, but never really to stay.

Pretty lonely place to farm
Linné provides some much appreciated color

A little blue, over the hills and far away


After the park, we headed back towards the coast, stopping by a bakery along the way for some pizza swirls (think cinnamon bun, but pizza) and coffee. We cooked dinner in our AirBnB and then, since this is our last night in Iceland, we took a gamble on the weather service and jumped in the car to drive to the end of the Reykjanes pennisula (15 minutes away) to search out some northern lights. The clouds did part directly overhead, as predicted by the weather service, but the clouds to the north were still obscuring any potential light show for the night.
 
The lighthouse provided the only pretty lights for us




Now it is off to bed, as we head to the airport at 4:30.

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