Monday, July 18, 2011

Iceland Chronicles - Part VI (Akureyri and Myvatn)

We woke up to an clear and beautiful day. We decided to have breakfast in a cafe/bookstore downtown (as this being a real city) that had internet access. After ignoring the prices, the place was nice, and everyone got their share of internet time. After that we went to the information center, where we got a map and instructions for the "classic" tour of Akureyri. We also learned that the bridge in the south was reopened (temporary bridge), and so now the uncertainty whether to complete the loop or not is over.

It was sunny and hot, and so we walked along the fjord. We bought ice-cream at a place recommended at the information center (quite ordinary soft ice-cream), and then walked up the hill toward the botanical gardens. This is one of Akureryi highlights.

The garden is supposed to represent all the plants growing in Iceland, and also had representation of plants from the rest of the world. It was nicely organized, but did not manage to grab our interest for too long.

From the garden we walked downhill toward the main church that overlooks the downtown and harbor area. It is a nice structure, which combines modern looking architecture with classic church layout.

Back to the information center, and into the car. We went to restock on groceries. We also made an important purchase. We had fruitless searches for a grill to make BBQ in the last few days. The stores carried charcoal, but no grills to burn them in. I decided to ask at the tourist information, and the lady their game me a name of a store and marked on the map where to find it. It turned out that the store was part of a Mall (gasp!) that had multitudes of stores, including even a smallish Apple store (double gasp!). I found a chinese weber look-a-like and bought it on sale. It is larger than what we needed, but that was the smallest they had.

Driving out of Akureyri, we started climbing up on the other side of the fjord and then inland along a valley. After about half an hour we reached Godafoss -- the God Waterfall. This is a mini-Niagra like horse-shoe shaped waterfall. The name stems from an historical event - when the icelandic parliament decided to make christianity the official religion, the leader (the "lawspeaker") decided to throw the pagan statues down this waterfall.

We hiked the short trail to the waterfall and observed it from its top. The place was very much a tourist attraction with three different tour buses stoping while we were there.

We continued along the ring road until we reached Myvatn. This is a lake on an active volcanic plateau. The whole area is shaped by repeated lava flows from eruptions of nearby volcanos (the latest occurring in 1980). We stopped for an overview that showed the multiple islands in the lake, and the different plums of different hot springs and steam vents.

Driving a bit along the road we reached a field of what can be described as bubbling mud pits. Very hot steam is reaching the surface and building up bubbling pools of mud. The smell of sulfur here was over powering, and it was hard to stay downwind of any of these plumes.

Next, was the active volcano Heklta. This mountain is not classic volcano shape, and each eruption found a different outlet. We visited the crater formed by one of the earlier eruptions. Now it is a steep round hole in the ground with a pool in the middle.

On the mountain there is a large geothermal plant with pipes running to various sites around the mountain. One of the guidebook writes that in instance drilling of a hole to insert pipes resulted in a minor volcanic eruption. That crater is now called "self-made hell".

We drove back to Myvatn and on its north shore. The area around the lake is a fresh lava field, with bumps and cracks that resemble a california highway after a major earthquake.

We continued with the highway toward Husavik, our next destination. About 20km before, we saw a campground (Heidarbaer) in scenic valley. Across from it were farms that use natural steam to heat hothouses. The camping here was cheaper than all the sites we been too so far, and very nice facility. They also had an outdoor heated pool, but we were too tired to go :-(

As the hours grew later a thick blanket of fog descendent on the area and we were in an eery white fluff.

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