This is the part of Iceland that is geared more for tourism and has all sorts of activities set…The East is far more wild and less populated…and there is a feeling of super individualism…you’ll see one house for miles and miles…here it is far more populated…Now, having said that, this area is still very sparse…keep in mind Iceland had just over 300,000 people in it’s whole country and most live in Reykjavik and Akureyri…But there are actual towns here in the west which I did not see in the East side(other than the North east where there were lovely little villages)…This is by far my favorite area of the country…it has towns and a “capitol” city that I will be in tomorrow called Akureyri…lots of outdoor activities…enough to keep you busy for a week or longer depending on your interests…
I started today by getting lost, of course…I have decided to turn Ms. Garmin off…and only use her on big drives because she gets me lost more than she helps..and if I bypass…say…my Guest house by only a km or so…she will recalculate and send me over 50km away…I have no idea where I’d end up but not where I need to be…I have found good ol Map Reading and asking for directions is the best way to go.
Once I got my bearings, I headed to a big crater called Hverfjall…It is all black/grey and you can hike up to it and then around the rim…it is all dirt and rock with a small path cut in, mainly by use. The hike was great…the hardest part was going up…as it usually is…and once on top the rim trail meandered around going up and down but with no difficult grading…the view from the crater is spectacular…it is surrounded by desolation…it feels like another planet…as you look out, you can see Dimmuborgier, which are the amazing lava formations that seem to be all over…but there they are grouped together to form a type of park…As I rounded the last area of the crater trail, I saw a woman struggling along the trail…at first I thought she had sprained her ankle by her limp and what appeared to be her difficulty in walking…but as I got closer, I noticed that she was using metal crutches…the kind that those who were struck with polio use. We crossed paths as she was sitting on a rock…I asked if she’d take my picture and then we chatted a bit about Iceland…she was from Holland and traveling around with her husband…who was no where in sight at this point…I thanked her for the picture and wished her a fun trip…I don’t know how she got up to that crater…I and many other hikers had to really push it to get to the rim…but I will tell you, I saw her at every single place…including the last area I went…which was a big hike through snow and ice and up hills of dirt into a huge lava crater…She is my inspiration…I don’t know her but that brief encounter and running into her a few more times showed me what real fortitude is…when I am feeling like I can’t do something, I am going to remember this woman from Holland…she not only did something…she did it with a smile and energy. After I saw her on the dirt crater, I heard, in very American english, a woman, very loudly, chastising her kids…it was reminiscent of parents at Disney…she had 3 boys and she was threatening them to behave…it dawned on me that I had not, until then, really seen many tourists with kids on this trip…now I see why! (-: I was heading down the trail when I ran into my German housemates…we chatted…hiked a little together and then we exchanged our experiences and advice on other good places to go…once I left them, I took their advice and headed to Dimmuborgir, the area with the really cool lava formations. But first I stopped in and had an all you can eat Soup and bread…3 types of yummy soup from Icelandic Meat(Lamb, Carrots & Potatoes & other fresh root vegetables), Asparagus soup and Minestrone…Perfect to give me energy for the rest of my day. While eating, there was an American couple at the next table who chatted with me..they were from Boston on their honeymoon. We swapped stories for a bit and then a busload of tourists(40 or so) invaded and we made our departure post haste.
Dimmuborgir is amazing…feels like another world…the hike I took, led me to an area well known as the “church” formation. Inside is a cave that is told was used as an early church. This was quite an easy hike and it took about an hour. The scenery was spectacular and so different than anything I had seen up close. After my hike, I did the proverbial pit stop…remember take advantage of every opportunity…since they are few and far between…although since I left the east, I have been happy to find them aplenty…On my way, I met a family from Hong Kong…we had a lovely chat and the man regaled me on his love for Yellowstone, while I told him of my love for Hong Kong…been there once but had a great time exploring all over(thank you Merrie Dudley for touring me to the fun places outside the main city), including the outskirts. I told him I have traveled to many countries and I am embarrassed to admit that I had yet to see Yellowstone! I am saving that for when long distance air travel no longer appeals to me… (-: He asked for a picture so we both shared shots together(see below)
Next, I went into the small town of Reykjahlid and did a lake walk which was quite lovely and lived up the American couple’s warnings of bugs…where I earlier stated there were no bugs in Iceland…let me re characterize that…there are bugs and they all seem to be congregating on the lake itself! I decided to head toward Krafla, which is called a maar(explosion-crater).. On the way , after I went over a mountain pass, I stopped at Mt. Namafjall Mountain…this is a Hot Spring area that has the highest temperatures in all of Iceland…Hikers are admonished to stay on the trail because the soil may give way and people have sustained serious burns…I do as I am told..since 1st degree burns don’t interest me…After snapping more pictures of fabulously unusual things, I drove up a road that passed one of the areas geo thermal power plants…usually, I would have zero interest in a power plant much less want to hike by it or stop and take pictures…BUT this is geothermal, using the natural volcanic steam from the earth…all sustainable too…I saw others shooting pictures so I stopped to do the same…it really is amazing how everything in Iceland is open…if I took pictures of an electrical plant in the states,I would be reported for fear i had nefarious intentions…this plant was amazing…what looked like smoke billowing from a stack was just steam…now i will tell you, this steam is smelly…just like at the geysers & hot springs…this steam has been in the earth for eons…the cold water here is so fresh you can drink from any tap or clear river…but the hot water, as fresh as it is…and it is fresh, has a sulphuric smell…the pipes of the plant went up & down the mountain…what was striking is almost how unobtrusive the pipes were…maybe it was because they are silver an not black(see Pictures)…After my foray into Power Station Photography, I headed up the mountain…I saw a small parking lot…with a little hot dog stand and a couple of porta-pottys…I figured this must be the starting place for the hike. I was at the Leirhnjukur Mountain trail that would lead me to the hot spring…Iceland has tons of these natural hot springs in the middle of no where…and many are set up for tourists, like Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik and Jarobodin in Myvatn…Blue Lagoon is famously huge and Jarobodin and smaller and much less crowded…everyone but everyone goes to these…and it is the highlight of most trips…NOW I used to love swimming and my parents could not get me out of any kind of water…but then something happened…I am guessing my thighs! (-: Some people fear heights, and I am one but still hike cliffs…some people fear flying…I used to be and still flew…BUT HERE in Iceland, I fear the “Shower Police”…yes, I said it, the shower police…it seems in Iceland, there are very strict rules to enjoying these hot springs…you must shower before using…seems fine enough….good hygiene and all(we could learn from this)…why would that be an issue, you ask…well I have been told by many a tourist…several Guest House owners and a few books here in Iceland that you must shower without a bathing suit on in one big shower(no partitions) and you must clean everything…and I mean everything…as you would at home…Not just rinsing off…I have no issue showering but I would like a modicum of privacy if I must get that personal…There are people(the shower police) who will “correct” you, I am told…one woman I met, said she watched what the others did and copied it down to cleaning between her toes! It feels like too much pressure for me (-: But I know I am being silly…
Maybe that is why these hot springs have little appeal…but then swimming and especially hot tubs have not held an appeal for awhile for me…..but most likely because I find them dirty…and here it is just the opposite…no one but no one goes into ANY hot Spring or hot tub without the proper cleaning…works for me…maybe I would enjoy more hot tubs if that were the case in the US…but I do need a little privacy…
Once again I digress…where was I …Oh that’s right the hike to the Hot Spring ….well this was probably the longest hike of the day…so far each hike today has been between an hour to an hour and a half…this one took a little over 2.25 hours. To get to the springs, you needed to hike across 5-6 Snowy and ice passes…no worries, right…except on the last 2, where there would normally be a wooden walkway, the snow and ice had built up so high that it covered iy by several feet…no worries…just walk on the snow…except the snow had iced over and was breaking through…so many were going through it…some up to their thighs…I had to help a German woman who fell through…a bit dicey but it seems all that eating soup for the last week has lightened my load!
Eventually I got to the area of the Springs…the lower wooden walkway was totally destroyed so I managed to put my boots to good use and walk on the hill at an angle…all this is great practice for Greenland…my boots got a huge workout today, with dirt, mud, snow, ice and lots and lots of rocky trails…
Once I did the obligatory picture taking, I saw some hikers going up…so what else to do but follow…yep…no comments about “if everyone went off the cliff, would you?” (-:
It turns out, they were hiking up to the Krafla Crater, which is really called the Stora-Viti Maar by Mt Krafla…It was formedin 1724 and the trail takes you right into the lava area…fascinating…again…very desolate…looks like what i imagine mars to look like…hmmmm Maar- Mars….works for me.
Once I got back to the parking lot, a young girl from Paris asked if I could give her a lift to the main road…seems she was hiking iceland…alone…yes she is a brave one…funny during all of my travels I see so many more girls and women traveling alone but most men travel with a friend or partner….just an observation… well once we got to the main road…I realized that she had to walk over a mountain pass to get back to the town…so I took her…She was happy enough to get out and walk the several hours in exceedingly cold weather at 6:30pm…the mothering spirit in me would have none of that…BTW hitchhiking is a fairly common practice here….very safe, as most things are…We chatted about her interest in photography and her penchant for traveling…it’s always fun to see the traveling spirit in others…I think the more you travel, the more you get to know other cultures and realize how very similar, regardless of what country, we all come from…this is why I love it so much…
My German Housemates
Em at Church!
Hike around the hottest springs
Hike to the Crater
Hot spring near the crater
The volcanic crater
My Hong Kong friend