The Golden Circle and Drawing on Tables in 101 Reykjavik

An Icelandic Saga Part Two: Chapter Eight

Day 15. 20 August 2002

Tuesday. Awaking from a warm, good night’s sleep we breakfast in the hut, pack our bags once more and head off on the road once more. At the loneliest signpost we turn right – 73km to Reykjavik.

We journey on through cold dessert on a road, that deteriorates so dramatically that even the sheep are no longer interested in it. We weave our way past glaciers, glacial lakes (though nothing to compare to last year’s Jökulsarlon adventure), down past hills streaked in whit, grey, green, brown and blue.

After two hours we emerge out of the highlands onto a paved road once more, and from there arrive at the first stop of the famous Golden Circle: Gullfoss. Walking down from the car at the top, it is like approaching a version of Dettifoss that has been surrounded by green and lush vegetation. The path is flat and even with a hand rails – everything is made easy for large numbers of visitors even on a day of thick, grey cloud and rain, like it is today. We stand above the waterfall, gazing upon Gullfoss, a waterfall that has water that has come, like us, out of the highlands.

It is a large and magnificent waterfall, indeed, and the lush setting, and white, foaming water is certainly alluring, yet I find myself missing the sheer power and brutal energy of Dettifoss, which I have a peculiar fondness for. Perhaps this is because for two weeks we were not just tourists but that it was our waterfall.

In lowering cloud, and an onslaught of cold rain, our windows steam up as we make for Geysir. Surrounded by hotels, and giftshops with curbstones and streetlights this area of geothermal activity and steaming, bubbling, sulphurous pools lacks the mystery and secrecy of Haverarond – and dramatic as the great Geysir is, it feels somewhat as an anti-climax to everything else that we have seen and have experienced.

Journeying for one last half hour on mountain roads we head or &Thorn;ingvellir and see the brand new multimedia exhibition centre and peer through driving rain at the lake and the North Atlantic Ridge. Forced back into the bus by inclement weather we make the last drive to Reykjavik and our first taste of civilisation in two weeks. We are not accustomed to it.

Unloading the trailer outside of Snorres Guesthouse, we discover that the driving rain has got in under the tarpaulin. Our packs are wet – some sodden, one’s at the bottom sitting in a pool of water. I am lucky, with my most of my pack dry, but others have to make use of driers and Laundromat round the corner. Inside the guesthouse, we break off into rooms; Claude to a small room on an upper floor with Summer and Melissa; myself to a room at the back overlooking the garden with Jenny, Phuong and Alex; and the others to a room at the front. We shower and change into fresh clothes, and resort our bags ready for the flight tomorrow.

Half an hour late and we are striking out again into town. Recalling Chas’ tour of last year I take Jenny, Alex, Victoria, Claire and Phuong to see the harbour, the sculptures along the harbour wall, and the only steam engine in Iceland on its ten metre length of track. We cut back into the old town, and wander leisurely back up the main street, taking in a 7-11 and a couple of bookstores, browsing in the boutique windows.

I direct them towards the café-bar in the basement of the building on the corner of Laugavega and Suđagardur. This was where a year ago I had my first pint of Egils beer in Iceland, and it has become etched on my mind with its leather sofa’s and wall painted with the backdrop of a wall of books. A year on, I find it again, and take a new gang of volunteers there.

At around eight-thirty we rendezvous with Chas and Sara and the rest of the gang at Pasta Basta for our last nights meal. After ordering, whilst waiting for our food, there are crayons provided on every table; our drawings inevitably had a Jökulsarglfur Footpath Repair Team twist to them, with minkie whales and puffins featuring along with catchphrases from the holiday. By the time coffee came, the tablecloths were covered…

By way of thanks for a great holiday we each contribute IKR 500 to pay for Chas and Sara’s meals – the evening was all but over. We had just time for one drink more at a downtown bar before we head home to catch four hours of sleep before morning.

Day 16. 21 August 2002

Wednesday. Our last day. Departure day. I wake by the sound of two alarm clocks at 4am in the unaccustomed dark of a Reykjavik night. We pack and throw our bags downstairs and onto the dark Reykjavik street corner outside of Snorres. An elderly man, suited with a case not a rucksack is surprised and way by our arrival and probably a little cautious as the blacked-out van with trailor in tow arrives at 5am to take us to the airport.

Check-in is quick and straight forward – we pass through passport control, leaving our leader and host to go home and get some well-earned rest. In the hour remaining before boarding at Gate 28 we mooch around in the Duty Free, spending our last Kronor.

At seven-thirty we board the Icelandair flight FI450, take our seats, and … the Icelandic Saga of 2002 is over.

Further Reading:
Skaftafell National Park [Iceland 2001]
Western Fjörds and Reykjavik [Iceland 2004]