Dateline: Monday 24th July, 2006Place: Kirkjubæjarklaustir
The 24th was a long day. We started later than I would've liked - the hire car was a little late arriving at the hotel, and there were a few other delays on top of that.
Our first stop was the bank near the hotel. This was an experience. I went in and started to wait for someone to serve me. There was one other customer (being serves) and about 10 staff. Three were on the desks, and the rest on specialised desks (investments, mortgages and the like). Nobody was serving me.
A member of staff walked to the cashier desks and sat down, tucking her tin of pilsner discretely behind the monitor of the computer. She had a chat to a guy who looked like the boss before doing so, tin in hand, and nothing was said. This astounded me.
Still, I didn't get served. I was beginning to get annoyed. Then a new customer came in and went to a machine and got a ticket. (The machine was obvious, but the signs were all in Icelandic - so it wasn't clear what the function of the machine was). They were seen straight away... it's like the deli aisle in a supermarket!
I got a ticket, and was seen within a minute or two. The whole experience was rather annoying though, when they're not exactly rushed off their feet, could they not have seen that I was waiting and acknowledged me?
We made our way out of Reykjavík in the direction of Keflavík, and then transferred to the 42 (this was a little tricky at the junction due to roadworks, but no real problem).
We were looking for the Seltún geothermal area, I don't know how but we went straight past it, and ended up turning right, stopping at a little place called Krýsuvíkurkirkja, or Krýsuví Church. This is a tiny little church (there is a geocache there, but I missed it, annoyingly). It has hills in one direction, and a plain leading to the sea in the other. Beautiful location.
The road continued to a dirt track, and we went along this for a short while, until N63°51.521 W22°07.512. At this point we saw a rocky outcrop covered with hundreds (if not thousands) of rock piles. People come to this place and balance rocks. This was not to the the last time we saw this in Iceland, and still don't quite know why it's so common. Not to be the odd ones out, we made our own tiny rock balance and headed back - this time to Seltún
Seltún itself is quite a small area, there are wooden walkways taking the visitor to the active area (past warning signs). The smell is something of rotten egg. Whilst it's a short visit, as a first experience of geothermal activity it's an interesting one. Around the walkways, steam emerges from the ground, causing pools to bubble and the ground to take on all sorts of white, yellow and red hues (and sometimes just boring old grey) as different minerals are brought to the surface.
As one enters, there are warning signs about the prospect of steam explosions - all adding to the atmosphere.
From Seltún we took the road south, then west. This was a gravel road, but was a pretty good road (the one slight issue was at the end, when what looked on the map like a crossroads was actually a pair of offset T junctions), and we soon joined Highway 1 heading through Selfoss - we stopped for a break as soon as we got to the main road, though! Our other stopping place for reasons other than sightseeing would (briefly) be Vík, íl Mýrdal and that was only to check that our Hotel, the Efri-Vík wasn't actually in Vík!
We stopped briefly at Seljalandfoss, a waterfall - we would stop here again on the way back, and at a place a little further on called Rúshellir. At Laufskálavarða there were more rock piles, this time there was an explanatory information board. In essence, if passing Laufskálavarða for the first time, legend has it that if you add to a rock pile then you are blessed with luck on the journey.
At Kirkjubæjarklaustir we were staying in a place called 'Efri-Vík'. This hotel was undergoing some building work when we were there, but that didn't bother us. Our 'room' was a little house away from the main building. We could park the car right next to the room - perfect. It was essentially a large room, with a small bathroom, and a ladder going up to a mezannine floor where two others could sleep. It was wood lined, and very cosy. There was even a small kitchen!
We ate at the hotel that evening. For what it was, this was an extremely expensive meal. It was perfectly nice, but it didn't represent value for money (even by Icelandic standards). The starter was herring on rye bread, followed by a lamb dish and finished with a chocolate cake. We each had a beer, and I tried a Brennivín, a local spirit. This burned my lips a little, but was perfectly okay if it's not allowed to touch the sides on the way down.
Back in the little house, we were out for the count pretty promptly.