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27 September 2013 @ 01:47 am
Songs of Stone and Water - Day 8 in Iceland  
Fair warning - this is a HUGELY photo intensive post - this was probably the prettiest day of a gorgeous vacation, so I just could not help myself. Enjoy!


Considering the disappointment I had had with the museums the day before, I blew off the Akureyri museum in favor of having an outdoor day. In preparation, I picked up a tasty breakfast - Skyrrones - which as near as I can tell are scones made with sky instead of milk. Delicious!

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I hit the road early and started driving east, with the intent of having a day full of volcanoes and waterfalls. The scenery on the way was stunning as well and I was very much enjoying just watching the kilometers roll by.


I was merrily driving along when I reached the turn for Husavik (which has a whaling museum and a runestone, but was enough out of the way I did not plan on visiting) and realized that something was amiss. Sure enough, when I took out the map, I had somehow missed the Godafoss waterfall, which should have been right along the roadside. I suddenly remembered a little cafe with a prominent "souveniers" sign that I had passed about twenty minutes ago and had thought was a little odd, but didn't notice any obvious point of interest. Well, after the previous day's disappointment with Borg, this day I backtracked and this time successfully found Godafoss, which is often cited as being one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. I parked at the cafe before realizing that there was a car park closer to the falls, but the walk up to the main falls yielded some lovely views as well, so it was not an error I regretted.

The falls just downstream from Godafoss:
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Godafoss, beautiful even on an overcast day
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After enjoying the falls for a bit, I hit the road again toward Lake Myvatn, an area full of volcanoes and geothermal areas. There are a lot of hot springs and so it is also a resort area, although my schedule did not allow for me to stop long enough for a soak. I did take the detour off of Highway 1 to go around the lake and so enjoy the full range of scenery, though. So much of the land along the lake reminded me of Scotland, with the rocks and lakes being so prominent in the landscape. It makes me oddly happy to be in lands of stone and water.

Next up was Dimmbuborgir (literally "dark fortresses") an area of volcanic formations that looks like elven cities. Depending on the story you listen to, Dimmbuborgir is a portal to hell, a place inhabited by the hidden people, or the home of the Yule Lads - strange companions of Santa Claus who play tricks and leave small gifts for children in the days leading up to Christmas. Regardless of their supposed inhabitants, the area was lovely and the sun had come out enough for a stroll through the area to be really quite pleasant.

Look! There is a sun in Iceland!
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The "church"
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Next door to Dimmuborgir is Hverfjell, a dormant tephra cone volcano. I clambered up the side of it - the initial ascent was not too difficult, but the trail was a solid 60* incline or better by the end. Plus, it was getting pretty windy and beginning to rain by the time I made it to the top. After wandering a bit, I abandoned the plan of walking around the rim - between the strong wind and the slick surface, I was not certain I could stay on the path!

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I stopped in Myvatn to try some of the hverabraud (bread baked in a hot spring). I got a slice topped with butter and smoked char. The bread itself was a like a very dense rye and was a little more moist than I'd expected. The char was VERY heavily smoked and didn't have much flavor other than SMOKE. Considering how I like my Scotch, that's saying something.
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On the way out of town, I stopped at Hverir, a geothermal area that again trended more toward the hellish than the divine.
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A lot of the "mud" in the boiling pits is actually stone dissolved in sulfuric acid and superheated, so I stayed well on the sanctioned side of the ropes, regardless of what some of the other idiots were doing. :P

Then I was off to the geothermal plant at Krafla and the Viti crater - a crater full of bright blue water.
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In an interesting contrast to the beauty of the crater, there were more boiling "mud" pits on just the other side, so that you could literally have beauty on your right and hellscape on your left, depending on which slope you went down.
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I took this shot to showcase just how clear the water is - you can see for meters down until the mineral deposits become too thick. It's a strange, unearthly sight - the deep blue color with the very translucent feel. So, so pretty. In the background, you can see the new lavafields from Kraftla's most recent eruptions in the 80's.
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The last stop for the day way at Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. I... don't even know what to say. You can hear the falls from about a kilometer away and once I got there, the sheer speed and volume of the water prevented my brain from really, truly registering it as being WATER. There was just too much... and it just kept coming... Really, truly, an awesome experience in the most traditional sense of the word...

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The hour was growing late and I had been warned that the road to Seydisfjordur was tricky, so I drove as quickly as possible to the hostel. Oh, my. If full night had fallen while I was trying to navigate that road, I would have been sleeping in my car! The road was insane, even for someone who has driven on some pretty interesting Scottish roads - sheer drops, hairpin turns, amazing waterfalls, crazy grades, just... whoa. Luckily, I slid off the mountain and into town on the last of daylight. Google wanted to take me someplace really not right for my hostel, but Lonely Planet had it right... except that the hostel was deserted. The door was unlocked, so I went in, but it was pretty much the creepiest thing ever to be walking through a darkling deserted hostel, cue the horror flick soundtrack... I eventually found a note on the front desk instructing me to go to the OTHER hostel in town as they only had enough reservations for the one location to be open. I hurried out of there and was very, very happy to find the other hostel cheery and well lit. I checked in, grabbed some dinner at a local restaurant, and got to bed at a decent hour in preparation for another long day.
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Current Mood: enthralledenthralled
 
 
 
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
How sulphury is the geothermal stuff in iceland? I'm really allergic but I've always wanted to go there versus Hawaii.
eithni: drugzeithni on September 27th, 2013 03:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's pretty bad. The geothermal areas really stink to high heaven. The ones around Geysir are not too bad, though. What, specifically, are you allergic to?
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
I'm highly allergic to sulfur.

So, check, not going to Iceland. Darnit.
eithni: drugzeithni on September 27th, 2013 03:46 pm (UTC)
Sulfur, as in the element? or Sulfa, as in the drug class?
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
Yes and yes.
eithni: geekeithni on September 27th, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
Huh. So no eggs?

There is a lot of Iceland that is nowhere near a geothermal area. Even most of the volcanic areas do not have sulfurous fumes, unless they are actively erupting. You would need to avoid the places that are actively smoking and make a judgement call about the hot springs, but that would not seriously limit the truly stunning options.
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
Eggs I have to watch...I can have a couple but need to watch the yolks. If I have too many in too short of time things get weird.
eithni: drugzeithni on September 27th, 2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
Special. Lucky you. :P At that level of allergy, you probably could get away with bringing a high-quality face mask and limiting your proximity/time at the geothermal areas. They are all open-air and, really, despite being fascinated by them, I didn't spend more than about 30 minutes anywhere other than Geysir/Stokkur, which is reasonably low sulfur near the geysers and only gets really eggy by the vents a little up the path. You'd have to decide whether you wanted to risk it, but you'd really need to spend some serious time huffing the mud pits to ingest as much sulfur as there is in an egg.
eithni: greeneithni on September 27th, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
And then there are the non-active volcanic areas, and the waterfalls, and the glaciers, and the mountains, and the fjords, and... really, there's so much pretty, even if you entirely give the geothermal areas a pass, the country is just stunning.

Edited at 2013-09-27 04:14 pm (UTC)
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
maybe...if I have skin contact its usually pretty much swelling and then breathing issues. I made myself pretty sick doing some bronze casting and had to do a full regime of allergy meds to get me from being a balloon.
eithni: greeneithni on September 27th, 2013 04:21 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. Skip the geothermal areas and just love on the other gorgeous 99%. The geothermal areas are much more interesting and terribly beautiful than classically pretty. They're neat, but not really essential to the experience.
raventhourneraventhourne on September 27th, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
But when you have a husband with a Bachelor's of Science in Geology its hard to not go to them.

We keep talking about Yellowstone and I'm not sure if its possible.
eithni: drugzeithni on September 27th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
Th does complicate things. :p maybe dope up on Benedryl first on the dates you plan to be near a geothermal place, and retreat to the car to wait for him when you're done? You can at least see many of the sights from the car park.