Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monday, September 17

Our room service breakfast arrives at 7:20AM just as we are docking
and we go ashore to meet our Hertz driver right on time at 8:30AM. The agency is located near the regional airport and we are there in about 20 minutes. As Dick walks up to the counter, he realizes that he has left his wallet with driver’s license and credit cards in the safe in our room. Recovering quickly, Carolyn produces her license and signs the rental paperwork. She protests quietly that she can’t (does not want to) drive a stick shift but Dick says she can at least get it off the lot before he takes over. We have a small 4-wheel drive Toyota something. It is diesel and has a 6-speed transmission. Once we are in the car, we realize that the people cannot see who is driving so Dick takes over and we return to the ship for his license and credit cards.

By 9:30AM we are off and heading East out A36 toward Thingvellir, a national park where the Alting Assembly met from 982 until 1798. This was the first parliament in the world.

The weather is cold and blustery but not too bad. The landscape is one of barren, rolling hills with a significant sheep and horse population. The sheep are short and very shaggy. 
Most are white but there are some that are coal black. Jack observes that it takes white sheep and black sheep to make gray wool! Smart aleck Bear! The horses are a bit woolly looking and smaller than what we are used to. These are Icelandic Horses, a breed that dates back to the Vikings and the strain is pure.  It is illegal to import any other breed to the island.  They also graze cattle, sheep and horses in the same field.
We are reminded of high mountain valleys in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. The park is located on the fault line where the North American and Eurasian plates collided and this has caused a rift. Interesting to see.

There are a number of trails down the rift and over to a water fall, but it a little frigid due to the wind so we pass on the walking.
There is a large lake in the middle of the park and we nearly circle it before heading over to Geysir where we stop for a very expensive lunch. We split a hamburger along with two bags of potato chips for $12. The chips were lunch sack size for $2 each and the hamburger was the smallest size you can get at McDonald’s. We drank a bottle of water from the ship instead of springing for some other type of drink.
 This is the location of the original geysir and the source of the name applied to geysers worldwide. It is still blowing a gale so we pass on the walk out to and among the geysers and head for a famous waterfall named Gullfoss.

Here we are somewhat higher and it is really cold. The waterfall is not that impressive, even though supposedly more water flows over the falls than at Niagara, but we walk out to take pictures and are grateful when we are back in the car.

Our next stop is Skaholt. This church and collection of buildings was the center of Icelandic religion for centuries. The church here was known as the Mother Church and the original one was built in 1200. There is not much here now and it is off season so the small interpretive center is closed. We get some good photos of the surrounding countryside and head on down to Selfoss.

From here we had planned to drive along the coast to the Blue Lagoon but the GPS is set to avoid unpaved roads even though the rental map says we can drive this way. We decide we have seen enough. So, we head toward Reykjavik through some very hostile looking land

and stumble on the Hverageroi Hydrothermal Power Plant. We turn in and take the $10 tour of the visitor center. There are some well done films and schematics of the plant and its functions and it is interesting to see; worth the time and money.

We do learn that 95% of all the homes and businesses in Iceland get their heating and hot water from hydrothermal sources. Hot water heat is used in the buildings. For this people are charged $70 a month. At the gift shop, Carolyn finds a little ceramic troll made from clay brought up from the eruption of the volcano in 2010 and some nice glass Christmas ornaments made from the volcanic sand. The troll is $35 and the ornaments are equally expensive! Oh, well. Only here once.

Back in Reykjavik we see the impressive modern church,
gas up the car and turn it in. We share a ride back to the ship with some people staying at a local Hilton. They have just come in from a nine day Great Circle drive of the entire island! We have been impressed with the roads and the lack of traffic. Everybody speaks English so such a drive and its logistics would be easy to do. That might be worth considering for some future adventure. We are also collectors of interesting street signs and we see one of the best yet!
You can;t drive your tractor in downtown during rush hour!

Going through getting on the ship, the sack with the troll is dropped and the sound of it hitting the ground is not good. Sure enough, the little guy is shattered. Carolyn is crushed. Being the great husband that he is, Dick gets on the cell phone and calls the gift shop to try to get another one shipped home. The shop lady instead volunteers to bring a replacement to the ship as she is coming into Reykjavik and will be in the area of the ship around 7:30PM. Fortunately, we do not sail until 10PM. She takes the credit card information and says she will deliver it to security with our name and suite number on the package. Dick goes down and gives the head of the security detail a heads-up and we get ready for dinner and have a cocktail on our balcony while enjoying the view.
Upon returning to our room after dinner, the troll is there along with a deck of playing cards depicting the power plant. How nice is that? We have the lady’s business card and plan to send her a gift from Texas for her kindness.

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