Monday, August 24, 2015

Iceland Day 5: From Akureyri to Mývatn (or Craters of the Moon to Mars)

Goðafoss, or Waterfall of the Gods, was pretty but its history kept me from liking it as much as the foss we would see in the coming days. The sun was not in the ideal location for decent photographs (oh the high noon light that lasts for hours upon hours when the sun hardly sets near the Arctic Circle).

In retrospect, I wish we had more time to spend at the pseudo craters in Skútustaðagígar. This is the view from the pathway behind Hotel Gigur. This geological phenomenon was formed when lava flows ran over the wetlands. The impending gas explosions created the smooth craters. This was also the beginning of the invasion of the midges.

One of the most memorable formations of the entire trip were the lava pillars on the Höfdi peninsula near Kálfastrandavogar on Lake Mývatn. If you look closely in each of these two photographs, you can see midges buzzing the camera (er phone) and my face.

This is bird watching paradise (as is most of Iceland) but we were not too keen on staying outside amongst the insects so our walks here were, unfortunately, short.

The view from the parking area shows both a natural and human made rock formation. Rocks are omnipresent in Iceland and not just outdoors. Butter is served on pieces of lava, artwork is hung with magnets decorated by porous pebbles, and rock salt is sold at every tourist location.

We finally arrived at a midge free location at Dimmuborgir or "The Dark Fortress." I am sure Donna was tired of me exclaiming, "this looks like Craters of the Moon National Monument" at every other curve in the path but it is true (minus the vegetation).

We took the Church route (AKA Kirkjuhringurin), wandering through the lava for over an hour. A few hikers were present but these images are an indication on how crowded the area was for most of the walk.

Craters of the Moon! I do not lie.

Next up was Námaskarð or "Hell's Kitchen" named because of the volcanic activity (insert Yellowstone comparisons here).

There were a few more people and even a tour bus or two (a crowd!). The first thing I noticed was a woman walking up to a fumarole and running her hands over the steam. This close proximity to potentially dangerous situations became a theme. There are very few barriers in Iceland and when they are present, they are often ignored.

The boiling mud pots were as gray as ash and the sulfur infiltrated our nostrils.

Insert Mars comparisons here.

I took many photographs along the edges of the pool after immersion in the Mývatn Naturebaths. Little did I know that this would be the only time I would swim in Iceland. I am still trying to find the words for why this was not the experience I expected. Generally speaking, it was the weather. I was cold most of the trip and jumping into water (even if it was a geothermal bath) was not at the top of my list.

This was one of the busiest days in Iceland because there was so much to see (and art to make) and we had to return to our hotel all the way back in Akureyri. Fortunately, the days are long and there were no worries about missing the scenery because we were driving in the dark. We stopped at the Hótel Laxá which we saw on the horizon earlier in the day. The modernist architecture from the distance was intriguing but proved to be ominous and impersonal up close.

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