Needed to get out in the country again, and Steinar from work had said how nice the area around Hengill and Nesjavellir, between Þingvellir and Hveragerðí. We took off under grey skies, and were soon cruising off across some flat empty moors. Much like a lot of the highland really. Then the mountains got closer, and all of a sudden we were in twists and turns, with tight valleys, and jagged mountains! It was great!
We went down the other side to have a look at the Nesjavellir hot water plant. This was pretty cool. You drive up a road beside a steaming creek, over which some maniac has constructed a ropes course, towards a jumble of shiny metal pipes venting steam at a great rate, and getting louder and louder the closer you get.
Really loud. Really really loud, and in find icelandic tradition, not fenced off at all. Doors are closed, but that's all you really need anyway. fences just make the place look untidy, and besides, then the sheep wouldn't be able to wander around the plant grazing.
We'd followed a pipe all the way from Reykjavík here, and there was another set of pipes heading off south, presumably for a bit of redundancy. Nesjavellir supplies almost all of the hot water for the capital area. There are about a dozen bore holes, some of them almost 2000m deep, where they reach water at 400 degrees C.
We followed a road out the back of the plant and up into the hills again. We'd planned on walking up to the top of Hengill, the highest point in the area, but it had started snowing and was quite windy, so we really didn't feel like it. Had a walk out to the lookout looking over the area, and then headed back along the scenic stretch earlier.
Found a nice spot there where we could do a nice loop walk, a few k, but not the 4 hour adventure that climbing Hengill would have been.
Some bright spark decided to fence the road side along here, so a rather humourous situation has arisen which places a walking track, and a sign indicating what is reachable along that track starting on the other side of a barbed wire fence, with no stile visible in either direction.
This walk turned out to be delightful. It was still snowing, but through a stroke of luck, this area we were walking in was out of the wind, so we just had a quiet, calm wilderness to ourselves, with great big fluffy snowflakes falling gently down.
Snowballs, camera experiments, and marvelling at the wintergrass. Then home again home again.
Icelandic winter grass is a name I've decided to give the strange vertical ice crystals that form here. Maybe ice grass would be a better name. The stuff is really neat. It seems to be something to do with wet dirt freezing, and either extruding the crystals up as the ice expands, or the dirt shrinking away below it as it freezes? Either way, it often has a layer of mud on top, then 3-5cm of vertical, clean ice crystals, super thin, all perfectly aligned, and with lots of air between them all. It makes a nice crunching sound as you walk across it. I've never noticed it anywhere else, but again, I've never lived in a proper winter country before. (Though given how common it is here, I feel that I _should_ have seen it somewhere in the US before)
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