9 September 2008

Chapter 04: Strokkur Geyser

Continued from Chapter 03

I was going to cover Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir National Park in one post, but there are so many images to show and things to write about that I've decided to split them up into 3 separate entries.

The three attractions are covered in a bus excursion called The Golden Circle Route which can be taken from Reykjavik, however we decided to rent a car and do our own thing - important when there are darling children to consider.

For our whole 4 day visit to the capital, Reykjavik was covered in grey cloud which cooled things down a little from the 27°C heatwave that the city had experienced in the days before our arrival. Occasionally the sun would filter through and make everything look bright and sparkly but it didn't last for long.

When we left Reykjavik, heading for Strokkur Geyser in the Haukadalur Valley, it started to rain, but we had rented the car and were determined to get out and see some of the countryside even if we were going to get wet.

We drove through some interesting scenery, spotting renown Icelandic Horses in green paddocks, old lava fields carpeted in moss and lichen and geothermal areas spewing columns of steam and gas into the air.

Our little car climbed up the mountain pass and we finally got high enough to meet the clouds, through which we drove for quite some distance. Drivers were very well behaved and no one attempted anything stupid.

As we got to the other side of the mountains, the road drops quite steeply down the other side, but it's a great driving road with lots of sweeping curves and good cambers. Surprisingly, the rain and clouds cleared away and we were now driving under a brilliant blue sky and warm yellow sun. This was better!

Most of the attractions that we visited in Iceland weren't great distances from the carparks and Strokkur's eruptions were clearly visible as we came within a couple of kilometers of the geothermal area. The site is free to enter - we didn't once have to pay admission fees to see any of the attractions that we visited, except at the Blue Lagoon to enter the pools.

Wherever the mineralised water has touched the earth, the colours and patterns are amazing.

Strokkur is the smaller of 2 famous geysers within this area. About 400m away from Strokkur lies its bigger brother - Geysir - which hasn't erupted for some time. Geysir's eruptions, more than those of Strokkur's, are affected by earthquakes. In 2000, an earthquake revived it and there were 8 eruptions per day up to 60m high. By 2003, this was down to 3 times per day and today Geysir's crater sits dormant.

On the other hand, Strokkur is a lively character. It erupts approximately every 6 minutes sending boiling water into the air for 20m. Gathering around Strokkur is fun, mingling with the hordes of other tourists who have poured out of their buses. Everyone watches closely to try to anticipate the next eruption so that they can capture it with one of the hundreds of cameras pointed towards the geyser.

The geyser hole is like a living, breathing entity. It sucks in water, pushes it out, swirls it around and releases air bubbles in a never-ending cycle.

Occasionally it sets off a mini eruption which has everyone oohing and aahing in synchronicity with a hundred camera clicks.

Before bursting upwards, an enormous air bubble protrudes from the hole before breaking through the water's surface.

By watching it over the course of a few eruptions, I could tell when it was about to blow a major plume. All the water in the pool would be sucked down the hole and it would be quiet for about 2 seconds, until hell broke loose and the water would be hurled back into the air, drenching those who had been foolhardy enough to stand downwind.

The kids got soaked - deliberately so, I might add. They soon learned that it wasn't fun to be wet in an air temperature of 15°C once the warm water had cooled on their skin and clothing.

Further up the slope there were a couple of deep, very hot water pools to gather around. The colours were amazing and the water was very clear in one pool and milky blue in the other.

The boys amused themselves by fishing out coins tossed in by tourists until big, bad M told them off!

Lots of people were climbing the Laugarfjall hill (behind the geothermal area) which from the top gave great views over the geysers and the surrounding countryside.

We spent about an hour at the Haukadalur Valley site before continuing with our journey.

Next post: Gullfoss


Keefieboy said...


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What an interesting post. I was expecting ice and snow, but in summer there seems to be lots of unexpected natural phenonema.

nzm said...

Keefie: thanks!

Wendy: Lots of Iceland reminded me of New Zealand, except that it was a bit cooler. There were still patches of snow around, but mostly on the higher ground. I'll have pics of snow when I get to post about the West Fjords which is where we went after Reykjavik.

MamaDuck said...

Wow. And you describe it so well.

nzm said...

Thank you!