The landscape was more mountainous now with deep black fissures and verdant green moss and lichen, which was a sure sign that the air was clean and free of industrial pollutants. The black granite mountains were capped with generous amounts of snow and below the frost line the ice was dripping down the side like gloss paint dribbling messily down the side of a pot.
Eventually we reached Gullfoss, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The wide river Hvítá rushes southward and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three step staircase and then abruptly plunges in two stages into a crevice thirty-two metres deep. The crevice is about twenty metres wide, and is at right angles to the flow of the river which results in a dramatic water plunge and an atmosphere full of hanging water mist.
As we followed the path from the car park to the falls we encountered ice for the first time where the mist had frozen and provided a treacherous surface on the path that went down to the crevice below. In the gorge there was a spectacular close up view of the wall of white water that was surging with enormous force into the ravine and falling with a great boiling roar into the crevice below. We were getting wet from the spray so we renegotiated the treacherous path back to the top and went into the café at the car park for soup and a roll at a very expensive £10 a bowl! Actually it was very good traditional Icelandic lamb soup that was more of a broth which we tried to use as good reason to convince ourselves that this was value for money, which of course it just wasn’t.
We didn’t stop long because there was still a lot to do and with only short daylight hours we had to keep moving to be sure of completing our planned itinerary. Our next destination was the Þingvellir national park and there was a choice to be made on how best to get there. A paved road that was a much longer journey or a more direct route using a gravel road instead so we chose the second option.
This was about a fifteen-kilometre track full of potholes and deep ruts and many times along the way I regretted the decision for fear of damaging the car but we persevered and eventually emerged back onto a paved road and we carried on with a sigh of relief. The road clung to the side of the picturesque lake Þingvallavatn that looked mean and moody under the heavy grey skies and whilst we would have preferred sunshine this greyness seemed strangely appropriate to the location.
It was getting late when we arrived Þingvellir and although the sun was poking through again the light was beginning to fade on the site of the historic Icelandic National Assembly that was set up in 930 and remains the spiritual home of Iceland. There were few visitors and the site had an eerie beauty, ringed by mountains with deep lava chasms, cobalt rocks and water falls with impatient water cascading down the black boulders and shattering into a thousand droplets of fine mist as it collided with the unforgiving rocks.
On 17th June 1944 thousands of Icelanders flocked to this place for the historic foundation of the modern independent republic of Iceland. We walked past great fissures in the landscape, the famous Almannagjá is the biggest of them, and is evidence that here the tectonic plates of Europe and America meet and are in continual conflict as they are drifting slowly apart.
By the time we got back to the car it was dark and we returned to Reykjavik in anticipation of being reunited with the lost luggage. I parked the car and we went into the hotel but the helpful desk clerk had some bad news for us. OMG, no bag! This didn’t make Kim very happy at all and by some irrational twist of feminine logic it appeared that it is was all my fault now as well.
After sharing out the available clothes we walked out into the City again in search of a restaurant and a nice evening meal. We found a hospitable Icelandic restaurant and we ordered seafood pasta and red wine and as we were past worrying about the cost of living in Reykjavik we thoroughly enjoyed it. After dinner we walked back past the Cathedral and Leif Erikisson and there was some sleety snow falling and we became optimistic about the possibility of snowfall over night and white streets and icy conditions in the morning.