Day 8: Tuesday 21 August 2012
Distance travelled: 251km (156 miles)
Another good breakfast from Vilborg to begin our second day in the north, before we head out for the high pass over the mountains, but this time past the turning for Husavik and on to Mývatn, arriving at its southwest corner, crossing the Laxa river to ‘midge lake’.
It’s an ethereal place with its irregular shape and little islands formed by the steam vents through an ancient lava lake that once formed under a massive glacier. More recent remnants of volcanic activity (still a very long time ago) can be seen in the rock formations of Dimmuborgir and the neighbouring ash crater of Hverafell which we climb and circumnavigate getting great views over the whole lake, Rekjaliđ and the dangerous peak of Krafla beyond (last eruption 1987 and with a magma chamber refilled).
We drive round towards the power station at Bjarnarflag where I discover with pleasure that the Blue Lagoon-styled nature baths are across the road from, and not actually on the site of, the lake where I swum 10 years ago. I don’t know if it is now completely forbidden but in all other respects the site is exactly as it was when we parked up our bus beside of the lake, and changed, men to one side and girls to the other. A bit further up the N1 and we stop at a viewing/picnic place with a fine sulphurous smell lingering and a view of steaming vents in the ground. Here we have our lunch.
After lunch we continue up and over the ridge to the bubbling, boiling sulphurous hot pools of Námafjall. If Hverafjall was like walking on the moon then exploring Námafjall is like taking a stroll across the surface of Mars. Steam vents from the ground, fizzes and pops at every turn, and great, gaping chasms of fractured ground that splurge and splutter mud continuingly. The place stinks – not unpleasantly – but unforgettably. The ground and the hillside is every shade of colour: primarily a rusty orange, the palette sweeps from smudges of dark green or red ochre, to bright, lime greens, virulent oranges, yellows, to purple and white. And still plants and flowers cling to life in places.
We head back over the ridge to the relative calm of Mývatn and after a quick stop at the information centre cum petrol station cum supermarket at Reykjalid. Across the other side of the lake we could see a storm brewing out over the mountains.
At the information centre we find out more about the Fuglasafn Bird Museum and decide to head over there in the hope that it will be the starting point for some Mývatn bird watching. In a beautiful location out in the middle of the lake, the building is of a circular stone construction with a grass roof. A pond that starts outside goes through the café/entrance area and into the ‘dead bird museum’ in the centre. At first, unsure of the dead museum aspect of it is actually really good for identifying what you might have seen and possibly more importantly what you might not have…
During our short time there sitting in the sun we see whooper swans, slavonian grebes, widgeons, and tufted ducks, but sadly no golden eyes.
On our way home we break our journey at Godafoss where a religious leaded is reputed to have renounced the Norse gods in favour of Christianality by throwing his statues into the waterfalls. It’s impressive but small in comparison to the falls that we shall see tomorrow…
By the time we reach the high pass this side of Akureyri we are in thick rain and we discover that our cheap jeep comes with the noisiest of windscreen wipers – so much so that it is worth letting the rain build up more than you would do normally in order to save on the noise. We feel lucky that one week into our two week holiday and we have not had any rain.
At about 6 o’clock we drive straight into Akureyri for dinner, parking at our usual spot by the Culture House and then walking almost out of town again to find our chosen restaurant under constant threat of rain and the heavens opening. Which they do, but thankfully not until we are safely inside the austere-on-the-outside-but-nice-on-the-inside Greifinn restaurant. We both opt for pizzas, myself for a saltfiske pizza of locally caught cod topping, and a light Viking to go on the side.
Back to Vilborg’s for one last time we have a long leisurely evening to just sit and be, and write our postcards.
Day 9: Akureyri to Egilsstađir…