We expect ice in Iceland. And where there’s ice, water follows—especially on land growing out of a thin spot in the earth’s crust, beneath which bubbles an endless supply of scorching magma. And then again, where water flows in sub-freezing air, we find more ice. It’s almost a closed loop.
Our first waterfall encounter was early in the morning on the north side of a miles-long ridge of snow-capped mountains. Seljalandsfoss (the “foss” means “falls,” so from here on I will drop the word falls.) actually drains the infamously unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull volcano which, when it erupted in March 2010, closed down European air travel for several days. As if poured from a tea spout, water sheets over the lip of the cliff that once marked the coastline. Plummeting 200 feet to the utterly flat land below, the water proclaims independence from the rocky wall behind it, where a treacherously icy, but well-worn path encircles the falls. Dear readers, you have no idea how convincingly that ice-encrusted path beckoned me. I had rubber boots, a warm coat, hat, gloves, and tripod. What I needed was cleats and an ice-axe. I practically crawled on all fours to get closer to the ice-covered basin of the falls. My hands were frozen into claws that could barely hold a camera. My friend waited patiently in the car as my self argued with my other self. Common sense seized me by the collar and hauled me away from guaranteed disaster. Perhaps if it had been afternoon and the sun were shining and no one was waiting . . .Barely back on the Ring road, which circles the island, we marveled at many more falls of all sizes and shapes, all draining the glaciers of the highlands. Skógafoss was one of the more spectacular falls, due in part to the long staircase that leads to the top. My friend counted the stairs. I just puffed my way up.
During our horseback tour, we explored the Gullfoss area which is a vast flat grassland that cracks in two where the Hvítá River cleaves the granite to reveal a history of multiple volcanic eruptions.This canyon and falls were nearly obliterated by the proposed construction of a hydroelectric dam in the early 1900’s. Thanks to the forward thinking activism of one of the daughters of the men involved in the project, the dam became a rare environmental controversy with a happy ending.
p style=”text-align:left;”>We squeezed in a quick flight to fjord area up north where on a cold, snowy and foggy day we saw Goðafoss, or Waterfall of the Gods, so named for the 10th Century law speaker who lobbied for Christianity by disposing of pagan deities in the ice-blue water.Perhaps in my next post I’ll talk about those charming little Icelandic Ponies!