It was already light by the time I set off, and the conditions weren't too bad. It can be a pretty quick drive if you set your mind to it, even sticking to the speed limit (I have been known to go a little above...). I didn't plan to stop anywhere en route - I just wanted to get to my destination as quickly as possible. I was staying at Geysir Hestar, the lovely horse farm/guesthouse just next to Geysir, in the Golden Circle area. Of course I had to stop at a couple of places, and the first one I reached was my favourite tree which still looked rather dull.
The winds were picking up, so I headed on, very keen to avoid getting caught in the storm as it picked up. The stretch of road from Vík to Seljalandsfoss is notorious for fierce winds coming down from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and whenever there's very high winds this seems to be the worst stretch. I was early enough to avoid it, but didn't stop at all along the way. It was a long, dull drive, with patchy rain and some wind, but I had managed to beat the storm's arrival. I turned off the main road and headed up into the Golden Circle area and arrived at the horse farm, a couple of miles east of Geysir, at 1.30pm - on schedule! I guess the time I spent stopping was made up for by going a touch over 90kmph. It was great to be back there, and I had fond memories of my stay a couple of years earlier, when I'd chatted for ages to the lovely Swedish owner. She wasn't there on this occasion, but I was greeted instead by a couple of enthusiastic young girls who showed me my room. It was so nice to have arrived safely, having avoided the worst of the storm, and now I was able to just relax, drink tea and go through the week's photos, while the storm raged outside (it wasn't actually that bad there). I also organised horse-riding for the following morning - finally I would get to ride an Icelandic horse and experience the tölt gait! I watched the clouds pass through during the afternoon, with patches of brightness and the Strokkur geyser erupting in the distance from time to time. I chatted to a talkative English woman who was there with her daughter and husband - they had camped in the nearby field the previous night but had decided to move inside tonight.
I arrived at Gullfoss at 6.45am and parked in the lower car-park. I was delighted to find that no-one else was there yet; I had the place to myself. I don't know why I find that so special; perhaps because it's such a rarity these days in Iceland. It felt a bit like the first time I was there, back in 2002, desolate and powerful.
I wandered down the path to the falls, which is shut if I ever visit in winter. The spray was pretty full-on in places, so I had to wipe off the lens after every shot, which was a little annoying. There was quite thick cloud cover, but I still hoped for a little colour as the sun rose. The sky began to lighten, but the clouds didn't change much.
I wandered back up the hill as a couple of women arrived - two people didn't manage to ruin my solitude.
I walked up the steps and along towards the viewing platform.
I returned along the rim and down the steps towards the car. A few people had now started arriving - not surprising given that it was 9am - this seemed to be the time the tours started. I stopped to take the last few photos of the falls before heading back to the guesthouse for breakfast.
We set off from the farm and walked along a track at the side of the road for a bit before crossing over a bridge and heading off away from the road. It was quite blissful, not too cold, a bit of sun coming and going, no rain, and not much wind. We trotted a little and then got up a notch into the tölt, the funny-looking trot where the horse lifts its front legs up. We walked along some boggy tracks and reached a small river, which the horses crossed with ease. We carried on, chatting about travelling - Freya had worked on horse farms in many exciting places but was heading back to university the following year; a nice gap year activity!
We soon reached a massive wide section of river, and Freya instructed me to lift my legs a little, as the horses would get up to their thighs in the deep water. As we crossed I had the weirdest sensation of being dragged by the current and it felt as if we were walking in the wrong direction. We made it to the other side, and I was glad I'd worn my wellies, as my feet were dry as a result. Soon after the river we stopped for a bit, getting off the horses to give them a rest and to enjoy the view. I took a couple of photos and instructed Freya how to use the back-button focusing so I could actually get a couple of shots of me. There was rain in the distance, but it stayed dry for us.
Freya got a phone call and was asked by one of the other girls back at the farm if we wanted waffles upon our return. Er, obviously! We continued on, mixing walking and tölting and eventually reached the farm. The last stretch of driveway, up a slight slope, was another opportunity for the horses to run on their approach to the farm, and off they went. We rode side by side, to avoid being hit by stones flying up. It was exhilarating.
|Skuggi - what a joy to ride! Still sweaty after the gallop up the driveway.|
Once off the horse I went into the farm building and was greeted by the other girl with fresh coffee, a pot of strawberry jam, whipped cream, and freshly-made waffles - all very tasty. It was such a lovely place and the horse-riding was fantastic - I will definitely return. And then it was time to head back towards Reykjavík. The only stop I had planned on the way was to watch the eruption at Geysir a few times. It's never just a few times, though, as it's totally mesmerising! I watched quite a few eruptions, from both sides that you can now stand - seems to change each time I'm there. The blue bubble did not fail to impress.
I never plan much for my last day - a leisurely breakfast, and then just getting to the airport without having to get up too early, dropping off the rental car (and hoping for no damage - still managed that every time so far, in spite of the incident where a bit was hanging down!), having a delicious last lunch in the airport restaurant, and picking up some more tasty Borg beer and some chocolate-covered licorice. No pizza-stealing incidents at the airport on this occasion - just some scrummy arctic char, washed down by a Borg IPA on tap. From my window seat on the plane I saw the desolate wastes of the Reykjanes peninsula disappear beneath me and a wonderful intense sunset before darkness took over. Back in March 2019!!
|My crazy long drive on Day 8!|
|A much shorter route on Day 9|