Start As You Mean To Go On : The Aurora Borealis, part 2

Sunday morning, and time to rescue the trip after the let down of the night before. Life is a choice between what you will and won’t accept, and I was not going to start my fourth decade by accepting a vaguely disappointing tour as ‘good enough’.

sunrise over reykjavik

We wanted to see a bit of the Icelandic landscape, so we book ourselves on a Golden Circle Tour. This promised us waterfalls, geysirs, and national parks (with tectonic plates!). Truth be told I’m not a big fan of coach trips, but needs must, and it’s what we could afford, so off we went.

touring the golden circle

Iceland is fairly empty, so it wasn’t long before we were out of Reykjavik and into the wilds.

seeing the sights

iceland landscape 3

iceland landscape 2

iceland landscape 1

Iceland is run on geothermal power pretty much. Well you would if you had such an abundance of energy at your disposal. We went past the local power plant, with it’s geothermal vents,

geothermal vent 2

geothermal vent 3

geothermal vent 1

and zig-zag pipeline on wheels, that expands and contracts throughout the day, and so has to be that shape (and mobile) to stop it from breaking.

bendy pipeline

Oddly enough, the further in we went, the less snowy it got.

cabin by the lake

And we even got to see some of the legendary icepos! (albeit, from a distance).

icepos in the distance

First stop on the tour was the original Geysir (the one after which all other geysers are named).

thermal pools

Unfortunately it’s no longer active, after the land shifted and changed the underground plumbing.

the original geyser

But there’s another geyser next to it that goes off every 5-10 minutes, so you don’t miss out.

geyser

geyser eruption

Plus there’s plenty of other pools and streams around about that are interesting in their own right. They’re either full of colour,

colourful flows

(the photo doesn’t do it justice), or amazingly clear,

clear waters

or just strange and other-worldy!

steaming streams

I tried to get a headstand with the geyser, but it was tough getting the timing right, as you can see.

geyser headstand fail 1

geyser headstand fail 2

geyser headstand fail 3

geyser headstand fail 4

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun,

an old geyser, and his girlfriend

and that was just the first part of the tour.

Next we hit up the Gullfoss waterfall, a whopper of a falls if ever there was one!

gulfoss

over the edge

lieblings by the water

This time I did manage to get a headstand shot which I was pleased with.

70. gulfoss headstand

And we got to see some more of the amazing local landscape.

distant mountains 1

distant mountains 2

distant mountains 3

distant mountains 4

Iceland really is another world.

And that wasn’t the end of it! Our final stop was to be the Pingvellir National Park.

Pingvellir is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, or rather bid each other a fond farwell, as they are constantly separating, making Iceland one of the few countries that is growing by inches year in and year out.

This is the North American plate,

the north american plate

plate face

and you can walk the divide, which is interesting, but not that impressive to look at,

walking the divide

until you get to the end, where you can watch the sun set over the lake, a truly rewarding sight.

sunset in the wilds 4

sunset in the wilds 1

sunset in the wilds 2

sunset in the wilds 5

sunset in the wilds 3

And the sun going down marked the end of the tour. We hopped back on the bus to take the one hour drive back to Reykjavik.

On the way back we looked up at the clear skies and lamented. What a shame we hadn’t booked the Northern Lights Tour for that night. We were bound to see something. Such a pity to go home without getting a proper display. Of course, the answer was obvious! Do another tour!

The minute we got back to the hotel we booked a coach tour with the same company we’d just been out with, Reykjavik Excursions. Yes it meant more money, but at a third of the price of the 4×4 tour it was worth the risk. We went out for a quick curry, then soon we were back at the hotel preparing ourselves for another night out in the cold staring up at the sky.

I wasn’t going to be caught out this time. I wore my new wooly jumper, and yoga pants beneath my jeans for that extra layer of insulation. I also had my pockets full of what I consider to be essential aurora watching kit; camera, gorilla tripod, spare memory card, iPod containing Sigur Ros tunes, and cranberry chocolate.

aurora watching kit

We were picked up by the coach at our hotel, and after a stop off at the bus station to collect a few more people, we headed out of town.

Our first stop was not the most salubrious; basically a lay-by off the main road. We stood around for about half an hour waiting for something to happen,

aurora tour no. 2

but unfortunately no joy (and the nearly full moon didn’t help either).

by the light of the moon

Pretty soon we were back on the coach and off to the same car park where we’d ended our Golden Circle tour. Expectations were low, and people were slow, until someone exclaimed “It’s happening, right now, behind us!”, then the mad dash for the door began.

And not without just cause either. For the next hour we were treated to a full display right across the sky, which is much easier to show you than tell you about, so here it is.

aurora 2.1

aurora 2.2

aurora 2.3

aurora 2.4

aurora 2.5

aurora 2.6

aurora 2.7

aurora 2.8

aurora 2.9

aurora 2.10

aurora 2.11

aurora 2.12

aurora 2.13

aurora 2.14

aurora 2.15

aurora 2.16

aurora 2.17

aurora 2.18

aurora 2.19

And if you can make it out, here’s us getting our aurora on. 😉

lena and the aurora 1

lena and the aurora 2

me and the aurora

lena and me, under the aurora skies

I was very satisfied with that display. At least I now felt justified in saying I’ve seen the Northern Lights. Definitely got our money’s worth, and the coach experience wasn’t as diabolical as I thought it would be. We also got back in plenty of time to get a good night’s kip, which is always nice.

Our last day in Reykjavik we took it easy. Just wandered about a bit, seeing what we could see. We went up the cathedral tower and a got a good look at the city,

capturing the city

reykjavik bay

reykjavik

colourful construction

reykjavik boulevard

fosshotel baron

as well as some close ups of the cathedral clock.

getting the shot

inside the cathderal clock

light fingered

We also did a good bit of shopping and eating,

heart garden lentil burger

ending up back at the Laundromat Cafe,

the laundromat cafe

the laundromat, reykjavik

the laundromat lives up to it's name

to try their veggie burger (of course, lol),

laundromat veggie burger

and a local treat called Sorer

sorer

which I couldn’t pronounce properly (apparently) and which tasted somewhere between a chocolate mousse and a coconut macaroon; ie: delicious!

We ended our final day in Iceland with a stroll along the water-front to our hotel,

reykjavik port by night

reykjavik concert hall

before hitting the hay early. We had an early flight out, so much so in fact we thought we might see some more aurora before we left. But, alas, no luck. Instead this was out parting view of Reykjavik.

early morning reykjavik

We had a great time in Iceland. Saw pretty much everything we wanted to see. I had hoped to get closer to some icepos along the way, but instead we had to settle for this picture of a poster at the airport, lol.

icepos!

We both definitely want to go back in the summer, not only to experience the midnight sun, but to see the landscape at it’s best (ie: more green, less barren). That being said, Iceland any time of year is worth the trip. Just 3 hours from the UK, and not that expensive to get to, give it a go if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.

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