A Whole Lotta Lava - Page 2

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Lava Light
Iceland's summer light begins a metamorphosis at about seven at night, burning more gold-red as the sun drifts toward the horizon. Green fields glow. Close hills turn deeper yellow; far-off mountains go from pale blue to heavenly purple, their glacier caps blushing faintly pink. All this intensifies as the sunset progresses, until at midnight every eyeful of Iceland is overflowing with color.

In our little Corolla, we leave peaceful Thingvellir and embark on what becomes the Perils of Iceland Tour. The dirt road snakes unadorned through steep, treeless hills. As the road grows more rudimentary, big, boxy vehicles rumble past like a sparse military invasion from the Moon. These are the most extreme of Icelandic vehicles, their tires chest-high. The only other vehicles around are steroidal trucks and butch 4X4 sedans, which all of Iceland seems to drive pell-mell into the stony, river-ripped interior on the weekends. I start to think we missed a sign that said "Corollas turn back."

We visit Geysir Park, a field of pitfalls: A hole filled with boiling water surges like a washing machine. Four pinholes sputter furiously. As I explore cautiously, a geyser rips, scaring shrieks from its ring of admirers, then returns moodily to its hole. Before I have a chance, a German tourist sticks his hand in pretty, blue pool and squeaks. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air like... well, a bit like rotten eggs. I notice the water also smells eggy. As in much of Iceland, it comes up from the violent ground preheated and needing no purification.

At ten o'clock, we emerge from the hills onto the long, green plain that runs south to the ocean. Unwilling to close our eyes on the unfolding beauty, we drive steadily east. Tractors work hay, and boys leap around a basketball net at midnight. When we finally camp near the white roar of a waterfall, the light is just graying.

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