MYVATN REGION, ICELAND – 12 November 2015
For the first time this trip, I had a good nights sleep, in fact I had a great nights sleep and it didn’t go unnoticed. Karina was already awake when I opened my eyes. She just smirked and asked somewhat knowingly: “did you sleep well?” Apparently I’d been sleep talking, mostly mumbles and then a clear and resounding “f#ck!ng yes!!!” punctuated with a fist pump!
I can remember two distinct dreams that could account for that response. In the first, I was at a theme park of sorts. It was based on the human digestive tract with lots of waterslides representing the different stages of digestion. I had just gotten on the small intestine before suddenly remembering my fear of waterslides. There was nothing I could do to stop it so I decided just to let go and enjoy it… f#ck!ng yes!!! There’s no need to go into detail about the second dream – let’s just say that Jake Gyllenhaal may have crept into my subconscious the day before, northern lights, hotsprings… f#ck!ng yes!!! Either way, we now have a catch cry for the rest of the trip for those moments when no other words will do to describe what we’re seeing.
We filled up at the breakfast buffet before a wander about Akureyri. We collected some Christmas decorations, gathered more information and set out towards Goðafoss– the waterfall of the Gods. As brave as I was in last nights dream, I still have a pathological fear of falling on ice having badly hurt my back in the past doing just that, so I hung back and set up my tripod while Karina braved the slip and slide to get a closer look. You’ll see from the accompanying photos that my pictures sadly just aren’t very good; at least not as good as they should be for the big heavy DLSR I just acquired in time for this trip. I overshot my current skill level with a Canon 7D which has no automatic setting for someone whose previous camera was a phone. I know some basic theory but clearly not enough to make this beast do my bidding.
I have to admit that my frustration summoned a little personal thundercloud that followed me to our next stop at Höfði. Inga from Tiny Iceland had given us a tip off about a car park that opens to a frosty trail that leads to the edge of Mývatn Lake where one might find the ‘love cave’ from Game of Thrones. Oh yes, we’re on the other side of The Wall now!
Our next stop was the Dimmubogir lava field with its striking rock formations that are said to look like the 13 Yule Lads (Icelandic Santas). Last time I was here, I was too scared to walk around, again for fear of slipping on the ice, but today’s light dusting of snow made it much less threatening. The view of the Hverfjall crater was beckoning so we hopped back in our SADcar and engaged all 4 wheels to head off-road over the moonscape towards it. At a distance it looked like a crater, the closer we got though, the larger it loomed and blighted out the sun! Once we were up against it we realised that it was no minor stroll to the top but a time consuming hike that we hadn’t allowed enough time for so we marvelled and moved on.
We had our concerns that the GPS was steering us wrong when it insisted we take a road that was beyond a closed gate and seemed to be private property. We did as instructed, nobody stopped us, and we were returned back to the ring road soon enough and on our way to the Namafjall Hverir geothermal plain.
This is one of my favourite places in Iceland, and by extension, the world, so in accordance with the laws of our opposing natures, Karina kinda hated it. I’ll admit that it has a certain distinct aroma… ok it stinks, and it stinks bad. It’s beyond the mildly pervasive waft of sulphur that I’ve come to like by association. It smells more like decaying horseflesh (or so I imagine). To her credit, Karina persisted as long as she could before seeking sanctuary in the car with its Windex scent from the windscreen wipers that makes me crinkle my nose.
Perhaps I should have shown more solidarity and left with Karina but I just couldn’t. The opportunity to be there was too rare and the pull to be amongst it too strong. It wasn’t just the stench that was overwhelming – something about the strangeness of the landscape with its belching blue mud and florescent fumaroles evoked a response in me that felt more spiritual than emotional… or maybe it was the fumes addling my mind. Whatever it was, I was glad of the solitude as I wandered around with my head literally in the clouds venting from the earth. At this point in time, as with last, the area is very open with no-go areas marked only by string between pegs. I have no doubt that increasing tourism will change this perhaps because of people like me who too easily, though unintentionally, strayed only to find myself on the wrong side of the string. That broke me from my trance so I returned to the car to find Karina still gagging.
I held out more hope that Karina would love our next stop – the Mývatn Nature Baths – like the Blue Lagoon of the North. Unfortunately her nostrils were still stained from our last stop so although the stench was much less, her threshold had been broken. She tried though, she really did and I’m grateful that she shared sunset with me from the warmth of the water before seeking olfactory refuge in the main building. I stayed a little longer indulging in memories of my previous visit where, for one brief moment, I had been the only person in the lagoon surrounded by an all-white winter landscape. But I wasn’t alone now and preferred Karina’s company to my own so I hopped out and joined her inside.
Knowing everywhere else would be closed; we decided to get a couple of takeaway beers from the kiosk to take back to our hotel. We were bemused to learn that we could only buy them open and that it was perfectly fine to drive with them that way. One of the mixed blessings of traveling in Iceland in winter is that many places are closed and so we had to book a fancy hotel as all the budget options were in hibernation. Whilst it may be the done thing to drive with an open alcohol container, I’ve been raised well enough to know that I shouldn’t check into a salubrious establishment holding one and so, like a lady, I put my beer in my pocket until we got to our room. Like an idiot, I put it in the same pocket as my phone, which had taken the liberty of having a swig or two. As everyone knows, iPhones can’t hold their liquor and so it went into complete meltdown, which sent me into complete meltdown immediately after.
There’s not much in life that makes me run but I can barely remember how I found myself at the kitchen door moments later, shaking my phone in desperation managing only “Phone! Beer!! Rice!!!” Luckily phone-addiction is a common enough affliction these days and so the kitchen hand, sympathetic to my plight, ran and returned with a ziplock bag of dry rice held open to submerge my phone in. It’s going to be a rough night waiting to find out if it pulls through.