Everybody wants to look at something beautiful and at the height of its powers, but what about the other stuff? Doesn’t it deserve a look-in? As so in life, so in tourism or so it seems at Geysir, one of the most popular tourist spots in Iceland and part of the famous Golden Circle tour. But is everyone looking at the wrong thing?
Lonely Old Geyser
Once upon a time there was a beautiful Icelandic geyser called Geysir. Her name meant ‘gush forth’ and that was what she did best. She was tall and powerful, a force to be reckoned with, a true wonder of nature, a performer of international repute. She was the first ever to be described in print, the first known to modern Europeans, the one from which all other geysers got their name. She was special.
She was so special that people would travel from all around the world around to watch her perform, to feel the force of her presence, to photograph and study her. She was so famous that the place where she lived became known as Geysir, despite the fact there were lots of other geysers and interesting things there. But none as fascinating, as sexy, as cool as Geysir herself. She was the star of the show. She could shoot jets of steam and water 170m up into the air. Well, at least in the 1840’s. She could erupt every 30 minutes. Well, at the start of the 20th century. She could be made to erupt by putting soap down her. Well, in the 1980’s, until environmentalists ruled that inappropriate. She could be forced to erupt on the Icelandic National day by authorised government geologists. Which just shows how important she was. And then one day she stopped.
There are other geysers at Geysir. Tiny ones like Litli geyser and 30 others smaller still, but no-one really talks about them. Strokkur’s the star now, a clear blue pool just 50 metres from old Geysir. Everyday from dawn until dusk coach-loads of people come to stand and stare, watch and wait, sigh and gasp as she spouts and sputters for their cameras. She’s different to Geysir, less temperamental, the ‘world’s most reliable geyser’, a gushing fountain, shooting jets of steam and boiling water 20 to 40 metres above their heads, every four to eight minutes. It’s perfect for the tourist lens and attention span; guaranteed three or more eruptions in 30 minutes and half an hour for coffee before you get back on the coach. No wonder she’s the star of the thousand Golden Circle tours that visit Geysir. No wonder so many tourists leave thinking Strokkur is Geysir.
And while the crowds all stand, coo and gasp at Strokkur, the real Geysir sits quietly 50 metres behind them, an old mineral encrusted vent, now just full of steaming water. What’s interesting about that? Who cares for her stories and achievements? Who wants to stand and watch that on the off chance of some change in sub terranean geology might force a performance? Who wants to visit a has been?
I do. The world is full of lonely old geysers who would love some human company, someone to talk to of old times, who will listen to how it used to be, who will make them feel alive again. Will you visit one you know?
This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We’re spending summer 2012 crossing Northern Europe by car and ferry to visit Iceland and The Faroes. We’re exploring the wilder parts of these adventure islands on mini biking expeditions, and researching and reporting on other attractions and activities on offer to adventure seeking families as we tour other parts of the islands by car. We’re grateful to DFDS Seaways and Smyril Line for their support in getting us and our vehicle to Europe and onto Iceland and The Faroes, enabling us to bring you this season of posts. And to Berghaus and Thule who have helped equip us for the journey. And to Go Iceland who equipped us with one of their 4WD fleet to enable us to venture out and bring you this story.
You can follow our progress LIVE on The Family Adventure Project Punkt and get some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of our journey.