Iceland: Day 1

April 11, 2015

I remember the bright light streaming through the back seat window as we left the airport. I surveyed the foreign landscape from my crowded spot in the back seat. At home the countryside is a gradient of rolling wheat fields and still evergreen forests that eventually ascend to massive, powerful mountains. The scene outside my window was completely new and quite bizarre. Rocks. Moss. That was all I could see for miles and I was intrigued.
Travelling to Iceland happened in a flurry as I had been shooting a wedding in Oklahoma the day before my departure. It’s no surprise the reality of my arrival didn’t really settle in until I was in the car. Ashley, Nathaly and myself flew in from Edmonton and met up with Andrew, Caleb and Seb who had been voyaging through Europe for a few weeks prior.

We had decided that instead of winding down from the flight we should seize the daylight and start exploring the area. Much to my delight the captivating moss fields began to change as we ventured on. I would see them open up from a level plane into deep chasms in flash as we sped by. Eventually the terrain become more hilly and instead of the pale yellow-green of the moss other tones began to emerge.
Krísuvík was our first stop. The ground was a peach colour mixed in with the black of volcanic rock that covers most of the island. Here and there the now familiar moss carpeted the hillside, but the most striking part of Krísuvík is the steam columns billowing from the ground. We were ecstatic as we roamed the hills unimpeded by trees or brush, spreading out past the boardwalks and paths to take in the views we had waited so long to see. From Krísuvík we drove to Kleifarvatn, a nearby lake. I descended the jagged scree to the beach and skipped stones for a few minutes, still a little surprised that this was all really happening. The water was such a gorgeous tone of blue. So still and so clear.
We piled back into the car and headed towards Geysir. Geysir is a massive geyser, go figure, located in south-western Iceland and on the Golden Circle circuit near Reykjavík. It is immensely powerful, in temperature, force and smell. As a matter of fact the smell of sulphur is just something you can't escape on the island. It's something I became accustomed to, unlike the smell of tens of thousands of dried fish heads we encountered en route to Geysir.

After the geysers we visited what has now become one of my favourite places on Earth – Gullfoss.  The sheer might of these falls is unreal. As we descended to the lookout mist from the hundred foot valley shot up and over us. The Hvítá river cascades over Gullfoss's enormous bank in three steps. The last drop is into a crevice that runs at an acute angle to the river, creating the illusion that the river has disappeared.

Before we left I convinced our group to step out near the cliff edge for a group shot. We trod cautiously forward, trying not to slip on the slick green grass. This put us directly under the spray of Gullfoss and within minutes we were drenched. A couple passed us and the girl took a spill into the muddy path, coating herself in wet mud as her boyfriend laughed in delight.
Our last stop that day was at Þingvellir National Park. We explored one of the chasms of lava rock I’d seen earlier on the way. It was a strange sensation walking along the moss covered boulders. The rocks had caved in on each other were held in place by the canyon wall. At certain points it was hard to say how deep the drop was under your feet.

Þingvellir is situated on a fault line between the Eurasian and North American plates. We saw a group of divers headed to Silfra to dive in a lake that straddles the line between the two. As we wandered down the path we wound up at Öxarárfoss. We stopped to take in the sights and snap some photos, enjoying the everlasting sunlight of the Icelandic summer before heading back to Reykjavík to rest.

Grasslands – A World Apart