So this is where it ends. The minibus pulls to an open field of straw yellow encroaching upon shores strewn with ancient lava, and Snaefellsjokull volcano and glacier dominate the horizon. The turistas all run down the paths at it like some great white Pied Piper, as if they had a shot at reaching its foothills in the 35 minutes we were given.
They do not reach it.
I shrug, pull the camera out, make peace with the fact that there are too many garishly bright jacketed foreigners in the field of view. I take the picture. Snaefellsjokull is a Mt Shasta wannabe.
In the west of Iceland, a very Nordically named area of Bifrost-hmmm, sounds familiar–we mixed band of motley travelers climbed a winding set of wooden stairs until we hit the rim of Grábrók crater, whereby we were promptly greeted with a smashing gust of wind that literally bent some o’ the littler folk over, and the bigger of us became shaking kites in our parkas, leaning hard against the wind as we took one step, then another along the narrow rim. But the views speak for themselves, and loudly. This particular image above was taken from the gravel rim of the crater out to the surrounding area. Fall colors indeed…hellaciously beautiful. Then, of course, everyone dashed around and back down the steps lest they be blow into the depths of the crater. Spoilsports. Live a little!
Námafjall geothermal area, Northeast Iceland, vents steaming out of every crease in the land, indigo and blue bubbling mud ponds and bathes. That pile of rocks in the forefront–there were many–was hissing like a snake and the gusts were so hard, the steam blew out sideways and not up. An overwhelming stench of sulfur. Just over that steaming red Martian looking hill lies the Mývatn Nature Baths….an unevenly heated 1 acre pool that the locals hit up cheerfully and have since the time of the Vikings, knowing the entire place could go up any time this angry earth feels like it, but hey…hot spring plus cool pool plunge equals “less inflammation,” so say the locals.
Deceptive, I was, tagging this picture with things like “waterfall” when, in fact, it’s clearly L’il House On the Prairie. But my point–and I do have one–is that sometimes when you’re visiting Iceland focused on waterfalls, you should turn around a bit a look behind you. The waterfall in this case was Seljalandsfoss in southern Iceland, the infamous falling water you can walk behind. I waited my turn in a long muddy line of tourists dressed in bright unnatural hues and and getting soaked. When I walked behind the falls, I looked out and saw this lonely farmhouse, looking like an obscured 19th century oil painting beyond the moving water. And I saw the odd, tall grass. And in the very far distance I saw glaciers and knew I wasn’t in Kansas.
The third pillar of Iceland’s Golden Circle is Geysir, pronounced “geezer”, for those who care about old cranky dudes, which apparently the old Norse do. Although the major geysers were spouting off every 8-14 minutes, it was the littler pools that were far more interesting to me. These quietly bubbling, steaming beautiful aquamarine ponds were liquid glass situated above craggy red rocks and reeking of sulfur. You could see all the way into the jagged crevices that fed them. The landscape behind them was vast, and we had an hour of sun and dramatic clouds floating over for good images. Lovely stuff.
The bus travels through the winding glen above Rannock More, on our way to Glencoe, where our driver cheerfully sits on a granite rock and tells us another tragedy in Scottish history, a rather horrific massacre in 1692. Let’s just say, invoking “highland Hospitality” would give these village folks more than a moment’s pause.
In any case, the Ice Age carved beautiful miracles here, grooved green slopes beneath the continuing blue skies. If you look closely you’ll see the triple tier waterfall midway up the slope, and the folks who live in that white house at the foothills near a creek at the end of a windy dirt road…wait, do I need to say more? It’s a fairytale land, so I’ll let it lie.
I talked to Chef Michael from Brigadoon, and indicated I’d like to take another crack at climbing the monolithic whale tail on Paris Hill. Hoping he can come with me, as he’s done it several times before, and it’ll help me to see how before I tackle it. We’ll see. In the meantime, here’s a sample of the gorgeous south coast views of Saba from Paris Hill. I’d like to especially thank the foreground yucca for acting like a mini-sunrise accent to the picture when only minutes before, that seemingly innocent sunny plant’s serrated edges had ripped a variety of tiny holes in my calves when I came over the ridge to the summit. Flora dualism or have I finally reached a point where I’m anthropomorphizing Saba’s durable vegetation as a lame cover for poor hiking skills? I’ll leave that opinion to you, dear readers. Cheers and have a great day!