Photo diary: Iceland day 6

June 9, 2012

Sunday morning we got up early and walked across town to take a van to a bus that took us to a farm 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik for a horseback ride.

I somehow thought we were going to ride horses out onto a lava field, some forbidding Icelandic landscape not reachable by motor vehicles. But no, we had a plenty trot on a beautiful day along a creek until we got to a scenic spot to rest and take pictures before turning around.

I’d only been on a horse once before. Icelandic horses are smaller than most, carefully bred for farming purposes. Once they leave the island for any reason, they’re not allowed back, lest they communicate diseases from abroad.

One of the most prevalent and colorful flowers on view in Iceland is indeed an invasive species — the purple lupins, which somehow found their way here from Alaska.

Back at the farm, we had an hour for lunch — our hosts served yummy soup and bread for a very modest fee. Our group included a dozen swimmers and a few other people, including two American engineering students currently at university in Sweden. Mike has such a striking face that I asked permission to photograph him.

Then a gigantic tour bus pulled up with another 20 people onboard, and we set off for the Golden Circle tour — a somewhat corny but obligatory tourist ritual that takes you around to the equivalent of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. First stop was Þingvellir, which we got to view from a different perspective from our trip on Friday — here we were looking across the Continental Divide from the North American side, from the top of the Lögberg.

Next stop: Gullfoss (Golden Falls), with its ever-present rainbow

Some of us brought our own colors to add to the landscape

The other obligatory tourist attraction is Geysir, where the temperature from geothermal pools underground periodically send gigantic gushers of water into the air. (This is where we get the English word geyser.) What’s funny, though, is that the main sight you see here is tourists standing around with their cameras cocked for 10-15-20 minutes at a time, waiting to capture the two-second eruption when it happens.

I feel a little funny saying this, but I went to Iceland excited to see unprecedentedly exotic lunar-like landscapes, but even the most impressive sights reminded me of Montana, South Dakota, and the American southwest.

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