[Unfortunately, I am still sans-camera, so my updates are dependent on others. All the photos in this post are by Stephanie Seeger.]
Saturday, six friends and I rented an SUV to drive to a sheep gathering/ roundup (réttir) an hour or so outside of Reykjavik. In the summer, all the sheep from different farms mix together on the good grazing land. In the autumn, they are are rounded up and sorted by the farmers. There were not a lot of tourists at this roundup, which was great, and it had a local festival atmosphere. A large number of the locals had ridden their horses to the roundup, so there were pens full of beautiful Icelandic horses and big piles of saddles everywhere. I’ve always wanted to be able to ride my horse as a mode of transportation, not just entertainment.
We were able to stand in the big circular pen as the sheep ran all around us. They would let a big group in, then the farmers, their families, and helpers would grab sheep based on numbered ear tags. It was very entertaining watch them grab a sheep by their ears or horns, straddle them to keep them from running away, and then walking them (with the sheep still between their legs) to the correct paddock. Many of the kids were eager to help, but clearly not strong enough to hold the sheep still, so their contribution was mostly to wrestle with the sheep until an adult took over (or more often until it ran away and they moved on to another conquest). Those that weren’t helping were chatting and drinking (yes, in the morning….welcome to Iceland) and generally having a great time. After all the sheep were sorted, a group of middle aged to older men gathered and started singing traditional a cappella songs.
After the sheep gathering, we stopped by the excavated foundations of a medieval longhouse at Stöng, then continued onto Hjálparfoss (Help Waterfall) and Háifoss (High Waterfall).
The rock formations (including basalt columns that had been shifted into all kinds of crazy angles and chevron folding- I thank my geologist friends for this new stone knowledge) at Hjálparfoss were amazing, but Háifoss took my breath away.
The river, Fossá, drops from a height of 122 meters (400 feet), making it the second highest waterfall in all of Iceland! Pictures do not do it justice. I’ve stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and it was magnificent, but even on a cloudy day this was one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. You could see a cloud of mist rising up out of the gorge (I don’t know if I’m using the correct word here) from the base of the falls, and the water was so many different colors that I can’t even begin to describe. The moss everywhere was particularly vibrant and multi-hued, as always.
And what would an Icelandic adventure be without a visit to an idyllic heitur pottur (natural, geothermal hot spring) to end the day? We visited a wonderful hot spring tucked back behind a hill on a gravel road. The changing room was a delightfully primitive shed with turf sides, and a gabled corrugated roof built overtop of a trickling stream of hot water and opening out onto one of two large pools.