England and Iceland - Day 8

9am sunrise on what would be my favorite day of the whole vacation.
Everything about Iceland was new.  It's the farthest north I've ever been, which meant we had short winter days.  This was taken before our tour was going to pick us up for the day, and it's just the view from behind our hotel.
We piled into a small tour bus, totaling about 15ish people, and we were all in for a day full of Icelandic scenery.  Here are some views just from the bus, as we made our way to the first stop.
Our tour guide, Gerta, was super informative!  She just talked talked talked while she drove us around Iceland.  She told us about growing up in Iceland, and tied in many local stories, customs, traditions...  She told us about the government there, the population, the natural landscape...  She seemed to know every volcano, geyser, field, and waterfall personally.  She even has a favorite stream there that she claims "always makes her thirsty because the water just looks so clean and cool."  We loved listening to her talk, and she was always able to answer our questions intelligently.  It made the whole day really awesome!
Our first stop involved tectonic plates- we were going to the location where the North American Plate was slowly taking over the European Plate- technically we were still in Europe the whole time, but it was cool to hear Gerta talking about being in North America over here, then headed back to Europe for our next stop.  These plates running into each other are the reason Iceland has so many active volcanoes.  And you can see the huge rock cliff of the North American Plate very easily in these pictures!

I'm standing on the N.American plate, looking out at "Europe".
See this rock ledge on the left (below)?  That's North America!
The whole landscape was like nothing I'd seen before, I loved it.
Looking out towards Europe
Standing on the North American Plate!
Dad interested in a sun dial.
Looking over the edge...
Gerta gave us an hour to slowly wander down between the two plates and then meet her by the church (the little thing you can see in some of these pictures).  I loved how much time she gave us at each stop- you better believe I used up every minute taking a million pictures!
Wide-angle selfie.
Matt and Beth did their own thing.  Mom at one point got cold and headed faster to the bus.  Dad stayed behind to be both subject and photographer with me at many points.  Thank you!
Caught up with Matt and Beth!
Clear water all the way to the bottom (where you can see many coins thrown in).  We were told this pool was very deep- 30m.  There was no way to really verify that...lol.  But considering we can't see the bottom at the end of the pier in VA and it's like 5 feet, this is still very clear water regardless of how deep!
We took a quick stop here.  Just a bathroom break and an opportunity for coffee or hot chocolate.
Next stop was just a quick view of a lake!  This gives you an idea of what we did all day:
Also it was windy everywhere.
At this stop, Gerta got really excited and said we usually can't see all the way to the volcano because its cloudy, so she wanted to let us get a picture of the volcano while it was visible.  I <3 her, she's a photographers dream.
Another driving shot.
Then we stopped for both lunch and geyser viewing!  We were told that the first description of a geyser in Europe was of The Great Geysir in Iceland, and geysir is derived from the Icelandic word "geysa" meaning "to gush".  So we actually get our word for geysers from this one.  She explained they only call that one geysir and that they have a different word for geysers in general.  (Think of it like if we called all deserts "Saharas", even though that's just the name of a specific desert- maybe a bad example, but the best one I can think of right now!)  Also don't try to make me remember that Icelandic word for geysers, haha!  The Great Geysir has actually stopped spewing water in recent years (all those plates shifting!), so we were seeing a couple different ones, with sulfur pools as well.  It was again very windy- you can see the evidence in ripples in the pools, as well as the steam from the hot water being blown immediately away.
Eruption!
I didn't know what to get for lunch, so I wandered around until I was just like, you know what?  Screw it.  I don't love fish, but I'm in Iceland!  So I got fish with potatoes and veggies.  The guy asked if I wanted the sauce on top.  I had no idea what it was but I said sure.  Hahaha, I still don't love fish, but I'm glad I went for it!
We piled back on the bus and headed to what ended up being my favorite stop.  A massive waterfall.  Half frozen, blue skies, teal water...  It was so beyond beautiful that I actually gasped outloud.
It was honestly the windiest I've ever experienced.  I was having to plant my feet around the railing to hold myself steady while taking pictures.  You can see in a lot of these that my hat is being blown sideways, my parka is blowing around me, any hair not secured in my hat was immediately uncontrollable.  It was crazy!
And I made a friend on our tour bus!  He was traveling by himself and had a canon camera like me.  I offered to take his picture once, and from then we were alternating taking pictures of each other at the stops.  It also allowed my family to not have to follow me around to every vantage point- this guy was already headed there to get a picture for himself!  Lol, it was a perfect trade.
Another view of the falls.
See the bus and all the little people?  Yeah, this waterfall was epic!
And like I said, windy...
Another view, lol
My new friend taking a family picture for us- we didn't want to block the waterfall too much!
And yet another view, lol.  Like I said, it was my favorite!
We stopped at another "small waterfall".  Anywhere else this would be considered a rather big one, but considering what we had just seen?  Yeah, it wasn't that big, haha.  Also, check out the salmon jump alongside it.
Then there were horses.  We stopped at a convenience store so Gerta could pick up some bread.  It was Saturday, and the owner said he wouldn't sell her the nice loaves of bread since people were in town for the weekend and needed it, but he would sell her some day-old stuff!  And hot dog buns, haha.  Gerta knows the owner of these horses and she loves stopping and saying hi to her horse friends whenever she can!
And then we fed them!
Sticking her tongue out.
Then it was back in the bus and back to the hotel.
We went to a more traditional Icelandic place for dinner that night.  The only picture I got was of our appetizer- an Icelandic flat bread with butter, cheese, and a red pepper slice on one, and salmon and cottage cheese on the other.  I tried the salmon one, but ate a slice of the cheese one, lol.
Then.

And then.  On our walk back to the hotel we looked up and could see stars.  We knew that was a good sign for seeing the Northern Lights tonight!  Mom and I crashed on our beds to read a little, while Matt, Beth and Dad grabbed a drink and headed outside to see what they could see.

Dad came back in about 10 minutes later and told us we really should come outside...  I stepped outside, saw a greenish cloud and knew what that meant!  I turned right back around, stole the key from dad, and grabbed my camera and tripod.

And then this.
Pardon the first few poorly set up shots.  I was still shaking from excitement, and afraid I would miss it, and still trying to get the right settings without missing the NORTHERN LIGHTS!  Lol
I figured blurry and bad were better than no pictures at all.  But luckily I calmed down enough to actually pay attention to what I was doing and figure everything out.
In my haste I had even forgotten to put on gloves, and my fingers were numb.
I went back inside during a lull in the lights.  Everyone else returned in to warm up, but I had prepared for this!  I put on gloves and bundled as much as I could.  Dad decided he could brave the cold with me and we saw some of the best yet!
The best way I can describe it is to think of a glowing, shape-shifting cloud.  But we were near a lot of light pollution since we still weren't really far from the city, and the rating for seeing the lights for the evening wasn't actually very high.  I'm sure we could have seen them much better in a less populated area, and maybe they would look really different from how I saw them.  But Dad and I loved watching the shift of the lights, and watching them glow brighter.
This is the same area I saw the pink glow of the sunrise in the morning.  What a gorgeous place!
I just am speechless.  I cannot believe we were in Iceland 2 nights and managed to see the Northern Lights one of those nights.  I stayed outside until about 11:30, I think, taking pictures.  I was so excited I barely felt the cold, and I think I was just refusing to feel it since I wanted these pictures so much, lol.

This was absolutely the best day of the whole vacation.  Iceland was gorgeous and I loved every minute of it, and seeing the Northern Lights at the end of it all was perfect!  I couldn't wait to show you guys all of these pictures!

Tomorrow we would fly home, but not before a quick trip to the Blue Lagoon!

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