On to Gullfoss


Olive stays for a few days at Kárastadir. She sees no other visitors and wonders if maybe hardly any visitors come. However, she is told that she is early in the season and, soon, the Germans, Danes and Americans would start arriving. They´d do the usual round of Geyser, Gullfoss and Thingvella, then go home. Hearing that, she decides that she should visit Gullfoss and Geyser before the tourist hoards arrive.

The distance is 70 miles. She´ll have to make the trip by horse. Her guide, to her dismay at first, is the farmer´s thirteen year old son. It´s been arranged for them to stop overnight at a farm thirty miles away.

The day starts out fine but soon turns to drenching rain. (Sound familiar?) It’s obvious Olive isn’t all that impressed by Geyser. She’s more concerned that it is five o’clock and she hasn’t had anything to eat since breakfast at 8:30. She and Sigurdur stop at a farm and the farmer’s young wife provides them with “delicious home-made biscuits and little cakes”.

Off they go in a blinding rain. Sigurdur loses his way but they come across a local man and he points the way. Eventually, they reach the farm where they are to spend the night. “The farmer’s wife spoke a few words of English; she had big blue eyes and wonderful long plaits of corn-coloured hair.”

“My hostess helped me off with my dripping oil-skins and led me to my room. It was outside in a wooden outhouse. The farmer’s wife brought me four boiled eggs, quantities of black rye bread and butter and hot milk, after which I felt better and slept soundly in spite of the howling tempest outside and the torrents of rain beating against the window and on the corrugated iron roof of the shed.”

“The ride to Gullfoss and back would be about fifteen miles, but having come so far I could not turn back now, so I put on my oilskins over my riding clothes, donned my sou’wester and, after a good meal of coffee, stewed lamb, gravy and potatoes—green vegetables and fruit are unobtainable in Iceland—I felt ready for anything.”

They reach Gullfoss. Both she and Sigurdur are overawed by the falls. They stay at a different farm house on the way back. Olive has a bit of an adventure because the farmer’s wife goes with them. She is herding six horses. Olive gets to ride one and they all race together over some moorland. The farm wife’s destination is a spot where some labourers are working. Olive has lunch with them, tries out some Icelandic words and one of the labourers tries some English.

They reach Kárastadir around 7. P.m. A few days later she leaves Kárastadir with fond memories. She gets a ride on a freight lorry for the sum of 3 Krónur. “I had a seat by the driver in his little enclosed wooden box, and my luggage went on behind with several sacks, some scrap iron and three men; the latter were very jovial, they sang songs and handed round peppermints to all, including myself. There was also an attractive little puppy which I nursed on my lap.“

The kindness of Icelandic hosts is mentioned time and again in travel accounts that span more than a hundred years. That kindness is well captured b Olive‘s last words about her stay at Kárastadir.

“The farmer’s wife and some of her children came to the road to see me off. She gave me her photograph and some rosebuds off a little plant she had been trying to grow indoors; and, with a sweet smile, begged me by realistic signs to write to her from England. I was quite sad to say good-bye to her, for the whole family had been so kind and hospitable. They could not do enough for me, and nothing was too much trouble.”