After Myvatn, we drove 5 hours (400 km) straight to Borgarnes, a small town on a fjord north of Reykajvik. The landscape gradually changes from black mountains with lava gravel slopes to green meadows and trees.
In Borgarnes there is a terrific little museum, the Settlement House. It covers the first 60 years of Norse settlement starting about 870 AD. The many family histories include the saga of not-so-nice Egil, son of one of the first settlers, whose story of aggression intertwines 10th century Britain, Norway and Iceland. Egil is described as a "berserker" because of his volatile nature and crazed battle style. But hey, he was also a poet, which mellows the story a little. The museum tells the saga through narration on headphones as you view beautifully-constructed wood carvings, dioramas, and maps.
In the morning we drove from Borgarnes back to Reykjvik. We were travel-fatigued; we drove counter-clockwise around Iceland, a total of more than 1200 km. We stayed in the same hotel as earlier and used it as our base for the Golden Circle sights.
The next two day we drove back northward to the Golden Circle. It is an assemblage of natural landscapes and historic sites within an hour's drive of Reykjavik, and is all that many tourists have a chance to see. We were jaded, having seen them all. "Waterfall?" - we'd seen many Icelandic waterfalls. Rift zones with spectacular red and black rock pillars? Seen some of those too.
So walking out of the Visitor's Center at Thingvellir National Park, we were thinking the day would be routine and unexciting after seeing some very remarkable places elsewhere on the island. We were unprepared for the sight of our friends Judy and Elisha Lau, high school classmates of David's, who unbeknownst to us were in Iceland to visit their son Daniel who had taken a temporary job working in one of the mountaineering huts in a national park.
It was such a chance encounter too. Elisha and David saw each other on a short path outside the Visitor Center. If either of them changed their timing by 10-15 seconds, they would have missed each other. So - a jubilant reunion. We spent a golden day together visiting the Golden Circle sights and then a home-cooked meal at Daniel's apartment.
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