However, we weren’t about to let the clouds get in our way. Today was our the Golden Circle photo tour with Tony, the owner of Iceland Aurora. He’s another Englishman who fell in love with Iceland. It’s no wonder he has so many amazing pictures on his website; from his backyard hot tub he has an absolutely spectacular view of the aurora borealis.
We hopped into his superjeep and set off. Soon after leaving the main motorway, city became sweeping lava fields. White steam billowed from a distant geothermal power plant, where superheated water from underground is pumped up, used for power, and then provides hot water to nearby cities. From grass-fed meat to harnessing the land’s natural forces, it’s amazing that what we call “green” in the US – an exception to the rule – is just an Icelandic way of life.
The first stop is at a crater lake, Kerið, where red volcanic soil slopes down to mineral-rich, deep blue water (pictured above). There are no safety fences or other precautions here – the muddy path around the edge of the crater has been churned up by footsteps and is slick and sticky with recent rainfall.
I’m careful with my footsteps, the precariousness and a slight sense of vertigo overtaking me as I stare down. It’s difficult to imagine from this height, but Tony says that barges are sometimes floated in the crater lake, turning it into a concert ampitheater.
Back to the superjeep – thankfully less damp and chill than yesterday’s – where we take in more craggy volcanic landscape beyond the windows. Icelandic horses grazed in clusters along the road, shaking their shaggy manes from time to time. Tony’s sharp eyes spotted what we did not – one of the horses’ legs was stuck in a barbed wire fence. Pulling the car off to the side of the road, he turned around to look at us, worry lining his face.
“Do you mind if we make a quick detour? I can’t stand to see this.”
We definitely didn’t mind. It was a sad sight – the other horses in the herd gathered around the wounded one, as if to comfort him. He’d clearly tried to escape the fence, but had only succeeded in deepening the barbed wire’s hold on his leg.
Tony approached the horse cautiously, but he was skittish with pain and fear. This was enough to give him one more burst of energy, though, and he finally wrenched free of the fence, tottering just a few feet away, the other horses huddling close in concern.
Tony returned, shaking his head sadly, and the atmosphere in the superjeep was somber as we pulled away. He had time to see that the barbed wire had cut to the bone. Wounds such as those on a horse are rarely good news, and in this vast landscape there was nothing nearby to indicate whose horses they were, if anyone’s. There was nothing else we could do.
We stopped here to take pictures, and I forded the stream, thankful for my high boots, though I had more than one close call on the slick stones underfoot.
Victoriously splashing up to ground again, I trudged up the hillside, clambering over rocks and slick moss to get the best vantage point along the upper waterfall. It rushed down and over rocky ledges farther above, sweeping over craggy rocks, spraying my face and camera. Droplets beaded up in my eyelashes and down my face in rivulets – miniature waterfalls of their own – and I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, just for a moment, to take it all in.
Down below, Jason, John, and Audrey were taking pictures of the lower waterfall with a volcanic cone off in the distance. I joined them after another precarious stream crossing, failing miserably at keeping my feet from getting soaked this time, but thankfully avoiding a tumble into the icy waters.
Though we had moved on from the pasture with the Icelandic horses, some part of my mind was still there. Though it was no doubt naive, and though I knew it was the way of the world, I still hoped that he would somehow be okay.