After 4 days in Reykjavik, we were ready to head out to the next part of our adventure, but when Anders went to pick up the rental car, the guy there told him that we couldn't get to where we were going...not with a little Chevrolet, anyway. Katla, one of the largest and more-feared volcanoes in Iceland, had a bit of a tummy-rumble a couple of days prior, causing a glacial outburst of flash-flooding which took out a bridge and part of The Road. The ONLY road. So. Okay. We didn't want to pay the extra expense for a 4-wheel vehicle OR to be honest, get any closer to a volcano that was showing signs of unrest, so we headed to the tourist office and asked for help. Where should we go for 2 days? And can you help us find a place to stay tonight and tomorrow night?
We ended up driving 5+ hours northeast, sort of kitty-corner across Iceland. It was mountainous and desolate and stunningly beautiful. We stopped the car and looked at gorges, and waterfalls, and sheep. I marveled at how truly empty the landscape was and yet everywhere: signs of human habitation. Fields of cultivated grass, hundreds of thousands of hay bales, ubiquitous sheep & horses, a paucity of trees. Akureyri lies at the base of the Eyjafjordur fjord. We arrived in the evening, walked around a little bit, ate dinner and went to bed. Our plans were taking us right back out of town the next morning, another hour north to Mývatn Lake, which is surrounded by fascinating & beautiful things to see. We spent the day going from the bottom of the lake up around the right hand side, stopping at each site/sight and marveling anew at the wonders of nature.
First stop! Stakholstjörn rootless pseudo-craters. A whole string of these strangely-Octopus-sucker-shaped craters lie at the bottom end of the lake. You can walk various paths around and through them (but not on them, they're fragile). They weren't made by lava eruptions but by steam explosions.
Next stop: Dimmuborgir lava formations. A lovely walk through bizarrely twisted lava columns, walls, caves where the 13 Yule Lads of Iceland are said to live (they sleep in the caves in the summer and come out for Christmas).
After that, Anders and the kids climbed a huge crater. Hverfjäll is a huge tephra (tuff ring) crater, nearly a perfect circle of very barren black volcanic clasts and ash.
Cairn on Hverfjäll
Descending the crater. See the cars all the way at the end of that path? That's where I was resting & reading :) You can see the ring of another tephra crater in the distance.
Fourth Stop! The Grjótagjá lava cave which is reached by crawling down under a huge buckled ridge of rocks and upthrust earth that runs along the edge of the lake. It used to be used for bathing as the water is heated geothermally but the temperatures rose too high in the 70s and 80s to continue. The air and the cave stink of sulfur. A sign outside warned that "rocks have recently fallen from the ceiling and will do so again".
We blew off the famous Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik because everyone warned us that it was too touristy, too crowded, and too expensive. Instead, our next stop on the Mývatn tour was the Jardsbadsholar lagoon. Anders and Karin took a dip in the warm-to-hot water. It was nearly opaque, an unnatural light blue with a clay bottom. A huge tank on the side processed in the water, which is actually the natural run-off from a geothermal plant and a sign on the side showed the temperature in the tank as 100 degrees Celsius. Blistering!
We made one more stop on our round of the lake, but I think I will save it for tomorrow: Bubbling mud pots!
Also, look how beautiful my baby nephew, Sammo (hee! Samuel Otto, get it?) is!
(all Iceland photos copyright Anders Ek, Samuel Otto photo copyright John Slaughter)
Bu-bu-bubbling Belated Birthday Wishes to into_the_blue and fifona!