The day saw us board the “vintage” bus that would become our second home for the next week; get our official race numbers and swag; see some sites and buy some very expensive beer.
Rise and shine
I didn’t get the best night’s sleep. The overnight wind made the flagpole outside my window clang all night. It wasn’t that loud, but once my mind focussed on it (joined by jet lag), I was doomed to not sleep properly.
Anyway, I was up and ready for breakfast in time for the opening of the buffet. It was the usual hotel-style food with a variety of hot and cold dishes including the standard mushy eggs and greasy sausages.
After breakfast I went for a quick wander “around the block” to get some fresh air and loosen up. I was feeling hard done by after my sleepless night. I was only gone for a few minutes, yet upon my return there was some bustle outside reception. There was a gaggle of black SUVs, police cars and motorcycles along with guys in darks suits with dark glasses and suspicious bulges in their jackets. Turns out not only did we have the Kazakstan football team and president in our hotel, but also some highfaluting american diplomat.
Anyway, enough of that excitement. It was now time to hit the road in our big bus of fun.
Hitting the road
We met in reception and headed out the back of the hotel to our waiting transport. It certainly was a long one and was c. 1987 by my reckoning; possibly older. At least inside it was clean and tidy.
The itinerary today was to see the classic Golden Circle of tourist attractions. Along the way we would do the formal “opening ceremony” of RunIceland during which we’d get all our swag and sign our lives away in case we dropped dead on the trails.
We drove for just over an hour and stopped at the historical site of Skálholt. While the RunIceland team setup the proceedings, we had the chance for a “fluid adjustment” break and photo op of the new and old churches.
RunIceland is on
We assembled around the bus in the parking lot and Giorgio got things going. He introduced each runner and they came forward to sign the waiver and collect their goody bag. Every time the runners clapped each individual, a local labrador that was patrolling the area went crazy and started barking. As there about 50 runners, he did a lot of barking…
After we all got our stuff, it was time to get back on the bus and head to Geysir.
This was one of the first places I visited back in 2004. I was therefore excited about seeing it again as I had fond memories.
Due to the increase in Iceland’s popularity, I was by now expecting to see more tourists. Sure enough, there were. Ho hum, well we’re part of the problem, right? We wandered about and stared into the various bubbling holes. Then it was time to take up position with the other gawkers and wait for Strokkur to erupt (the only one to actually erupt on a regular basis).
We headed to the gift store to find the restroom and avoid the tat on sale, then back to the bus.
The next stop was another of the big sites: Gullfoss. Again, this was far busier than my first visit. Back then, in July 2004, there were just a handful of tourists. Now, quite a few more. Again, we were of course part of the problem.
Steps led down to the classic view, and a few adventurous of us headed nearer to the wet zone. It was indeed very wet but exhilarating!
Lunch was in the gift shop restaurant, then we piled back on the bus.
Laugarvatn Fontana is a spar/resort that is a favorite of the locals. Considerably smaller than the Blue Lagoon, it had more of a chilled vibe.
I didn’t fancy indulging in bathing-suited shenanigans so I had a wander along the shore of the lake right adjacent to the spa. I found some bubbling pools which were giving off steam before retreating to the cafe for some juice and a long wait while everyone finished whatever one does in a hot spa (soak, mostly).
The last stop of the day was at Thingvellir, the “parliament plain” that is a national park. This is where the first leaders gathered to shout at each other agree on laws and rules.
This had been my first stop during my 2004 visit and thus one of the most memorable. We didn’t stop long this time. We were dropped at one point and walked to the wooden ‘lecture steps’ that are in place of small gatherings.
A quick chat from Giorgio, then we walked a short way up the path to main car park.
The clouds were rolling in ominously and so there was time for a quick photo op and toilet break. Yep, you can even pay for a wee with a credit card…
Hotel, dinner, bed
After a long day we boarded the bus one last time and returned to the hotel. Groups were forming to go and get food, but I wanted an early night so opted for a burger and pint from the bar.
Then I retired to my room to repack everything and try to sleep. Yep, try to get some sleep. It was going to be another tough one!