Day 4: Friday 17 August 2012

Another nice, leisurely breakfast this morning after another good night’s sleep, if a disturbed once at around 4 o’clock by Emma climbing up from under the back of the bed, across the pillow and trying to get out the window. It is important to remember that Emma, in this instance, is a cat – if named after t’other Emma.

Drífa and Kjartan arrived shortly after breakfast for our day out doing the Golden Circle – a trip that Reykjavik Excursions charge £100 each for the tour that has no admission charges and only involves a few hours of driving. This way we get to see some famous sights but hopefully in the company of less tourists, and we get to spend some time with the family.

The journey starts with a pitstop at a bakery at Mossfellsbaer – I say bakery but it was more a deli-come-chocolatier at an out-of-town retail park. And then we head off away from the N1 inland to Þingvellir.

I have been to Þingvellir just once before at the end of my 2002 holiday in the north. Then, the visitor centre was brand new, but the day was heavy rain and thick, low cloud. The place was completely different. In fact it took me ages to realise that where we were today in the bright, clear sunshine in the rising heat, was the same place.

Þingvellir, seat of Iceland’s first government is on a large fissure in the ground – a massive cliff that runs through the ground. To the east you are standing on the Eurasian plate and to the west you are standing on the American plate – and this is the only place where the great mid-Atlantic ridge is visible above sea level. It’s weird to think that just a few hundred metres in either direction and where we are standing would be the bottom of the ocean.

From Þingvellir we head on to Pengingagjá or the Chasm of Coins – deep pool in a fissure of rock where we toss coins in to make a wish. Some one it seems has made a wish on an old credit card – a new maybe to term ‘loose change’.

As we drive onwards and up to Geysir we can see the great icecap of Landjokull beyond the mountains. The great Geysir – father to all geysirs in the world has been long dormant but his smaller brother Strokkur is reliably active and does its thing every five minutes or so and see it spurt several times in the time that we are there. Watching water gurgle and splutter before activity. The water, always at least 80–100°C of naturally hot water starts off almost serenely quiet and eerily blue before slowly rising and falling, with ever increasing difference in water level, faster and faster, until whoosh it gushes out in one huge fountain leaving a gaping chasm beneath, back into which the spilt water is sucked.

We have our lunch, bought earlier at a picnic table within sight of Geysir. And after lunch we move on to Gulfoss – Europe’s largest waterfall. It’s not far but I do realise that in my novel I have relocated it closer to Reykjavik – so much so that Ben, a state of shock and upset is able to drive out of Reykjavik to face his fears at Gulfoss. Again in contrast to the low cloud and persistent rain of ten years ago, today it is warm and sunny and a rainbow – could it be the Bifrost – lingers long over the waterfall which is stunningly beautiful.

On the drive back to Reykjavik, Kjartan and Drífa take us by way of the hillside location on the edge of a lake where last June they got married. It is indeed a fantastic and beautiful spot to get married.

Just between Snorrabraut, the indoor swimming pool and the back of Hallsgrimkirkur we find the new location of Cheap Jeep but unfortunately the man there, like before on the phone, is worrying laid back about things. There’s no jeep for us as our vehicle has been dropped off at Keflavik and it won’t be ready for an hour maybe. He takes our phone number though and says he will call when it is ready for collection. We leave again, without jeep wondering if he will or not and what our vehicle will look like when it does…

…it’s not long after we’ve finished dinner and Emma and I settle down with Janet in the lounge to read and write our journals and talk that the man phones us in characteristically laid back fashion to say it will be ready in 20 minutes. Drifa comes back to the house and takes us back down into Reykjavik to collect our jeep. A Blue Daewoo which is fully functioning, automatic, and cheap by merit only by being old and having a slightly peculiar door handle to the back door.

As it begins now to get dark I catch up with writing these pages and think about repacking my rucksack for the round Iceland road trip ahead of us. For bedtime reading tonight, further to something that Kjartan said, I will make a start on Halldór Laxness’ Independent People.

Day 5: Reykjavik to Brautaholt…