An early morning pick up and we were on our way to see some of Iceland’s stunning scenery. Our first stop was a UNESCO world heritage site – Pingvellir National Park. This park is home to Iceland’s largest natural lake and is where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and drift apart. Iceland is the worlds youngest country. Situated over the slowly spreading Atlantic ridge, it was formed 18 million years ago and is still growing at about 2 cm per year. The deformation in the rocks as well as the rifts we saw were amazing. We crossed from the North American to the Eurasian plate as we left the Park. This is one of the two places on earth where you can walk from one tectonic plate to another. Our walk into the park included a deep valley created millions of years ago by the spreading continents. This is where the first Icelandic parliaments were held, beginning in 930 AD. The Icelandic peoples would come together for two weeks each year at this site until the 1700’s when parliament was moved to its current location in Reykjavik.
Gullfoss waterfall was our next stop. An original plan to dam the river for hydroelectric power in 1907 was thwarted by the daughter of the farmer who owned the land the waterfall was located on. She is now honoured as Iceland’s first environmentalist. The waterfall was stunning. Guard ropes were a bit lacking and some folks taking selfies just about took an unexpected plunge – but it all worked out.
Iceland’s geothermal power is evident wherever you look here. One of the main Geysers – at the Stokkur hot spring – put on an impressive show for us. Our guide warned us not to stand downwind of the geyser, some other folks did and got a warm sulphur shower.
Iceland is self sufficient in power, between hydro-thermal. geothermal and some solar. Greenhouses powered by geothermal heat are used to grow peppers, lettuce, other warm weather crops, as well as housing the only banana plantation in Europe. Who knew 😀 Root vegetables and hay are grown out in the fields, the hay is baled in round bales with the plastic covering – as we do. An interesting touch is some of the baling plastic is pink. That colour costs the farmers a bit more but the extra spent is donated to breast cancer research. The plan is to introduce blue plastic next year for prostate cancer research.
A final thoughtful touch are pipes that carry hot water under the sidewalks and walkways of Reykjavik, keeping snow and ice from building up in the winters.
The land itself here is mostly barren. Iceland was forested when the first people arrived here. Between logging, goats and pigs, as well as way too many sheep the land became quickly depleted. The Icelanders recognized the problems occurring with the environment and implemented changes which included drastically reducing the goat and pig populations, as well as controlling sheep numbers and planting trees. The mountains are craggy black rocks, often covered with brilliant green moss, huge boulders and dwarf northern trees. The day was alternating sun, mist and rain. Perfect conditions for a changing landscape and in keeping with the feeling emanating from the countryside.
A good day. We are looking forward to exploring the south coast tomorrow.