Journal of a 23-day Icelandic road trip

Saturday August 15

I should warn you, dear reader, that this was the busiest day of the trip. We’d planned to do around 20 km (12 miles) of hiking, climb two volcanoes and finish by climbing to the summit of Vindbelgjarfjall, which overlooks the lakes. We didn’t know if it was possible to do all that when we got up, but decided to try it anyway!

We woke up at 6.30 am. The day started well when, quite by accident I assure you, I surprised a naked young woman who hadn’t closed her shower door properly. The funniest thing was that I met her later that day, and she recognized me too, a little embarrassed it must be said.

The image below shows how busy the campground was.

MYVATN - KRÖFLUSTÖD KRAFLA POWER STATION, NORTHERN ICELAND

Kröflustöð Krafla geothermal power station sends its silver pipes snaking across the landscape around Mývatn.

+ Note for readers of the eROADBOOK: have a look at the ULTRAPANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPH No. 12 / 20 +

MYVATN - VITI CRATER AREA, NORTHERN ICELAND

Viti crater:

Viti is surrounded by geothermal areas, all of them bubbling, gurgling, simmering, and above all tinged with the craziest of colors.

You see Emilie up there in the distance?

A touch of zoom and voilà:

By 9.30 am, we’d completed a circuit of the crater.

We got back on the road, direction the mysterious Grjótagjá cave.

The cave is supposed to be hidden in this fault.

MYVATN - GRJÓTAGJÁ, NORTHERN ICELAND

You can go underground in some places, and discover a magical world. This steamy blue water is at 45 °C (113 °F), and you can bathe in it.

Return to the car, and direction Dimmuborgir Park. This vehicle isn’t ours, but I love the way the red shovel and toolbox on the roof match the rims.

MYVATN - HVERFJALL, NORTHERN ICELAND

Dimmuborgir Park is an attraction in itself, with these strangely shaped lava formations. We crossed the park to get to the fabulous Hverfjall crater.

I’ve only ever seen these “fence steps” in Iceland.

Here we are at the foot of the crater. The map shows two ways to reach the summit:

- the easy path, which goes round the crater,

- the difficult path, which goes straight up the side.

We took the second route.

We arrived at the top out of breath, but the tough climb was well worth it. What a reward!

Look closely at the image below. The mountains bear scars that I just can’t explain. Perhaps Thor’s hammer struck here?

+ Note for readers of the eROADBOOK: have a look at the ULTRAPANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPH No. 14 / 20 +

And to think that we’d be ending the day atop that mountain.

The view was magical, whichever way we turned.

Too short! I had to stand on some stones to adjust my nodal slide.

No, those people aren’t on the moon, they just climbed down to the center of the crater.

HVERFJALL CRATER: this stratovolcano was created by a single explosion 2,500 years ago. It’s 250 meters (820 feet) high, 200 meters (656 feet) deep, and 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) in diameter. Incredible! We walked around the rim of the crater (approx. 5 km / 3 miles), which offered a panoramic view over the whole region.

It was 1.10 pm when we completed our tour of Hverfjall, with a superb viewover Mývatn lake as a bonus.

We bounded down the volcano’s slopes that had given us so much trouble.

Back to Dimmuborgir Park, which we decided to explore in more depth, and picked the red trail (3 km / 2 miles).

MYVATN - DIMMUBORGIR, NORTHERN ICELAND

We came across lava formations with some curious shapes, including arches, towers, and caves.

And here’s Kirkja, an incredible natural Gothic cathedral.

Back to the car park at 3 pm, where I came across this 1975 Volvo truck – a truly iconic design.

We were starving, and decided to treat ourselves to a slice of cake on the sunny terrace of the Visitor Center, after our regular daily sandwich.

We also tasted our first Kleinur, which are delicious little Icelandic fried pastries.

Then we bought some seytt rúgbrauð, which is Icelandic rye bread. It has a beautiful brown color, a characteristic smell and taste, and is delicious with salmon!

Back to the campground to collect our clean laundry. I spied a tiny greenhouse, so decided to take a look inside.

Next we headed for the Höfði, which is a protected nature park next to the lake. We were excited to explore the place, since we didn’t know anything about it.

It was already 5.10 pm, and dark clouds were threatening to spoil the end of our day. Remember that we’d planned to climb to the top of the mountain you can see in the background of the photograph.

MYVATN - HOFDI NATURE PARK, NORTHERN ICELAND

+ Note for readers of the eROADBOOK: have a look at the ULTRAPANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPH No. 11 / 20 +

This path led into the park.

The light was fabulous, with the rain creating silvery reflections amid the shadows. The place was virtually deserted.

When we got to the shores of the lake, we found these volcanic formations sticking out of the water. This was a magnificent place, but there were clouds of little flies. They’re too small to see on the photographs, but it really was unbearable. Mývatn – Lake of Flies – certainly deserves its name.

The park was miraculously well maintained. Some areas were very wild, while others were carefully laid out. There was even the odd bench inviting you to sit awhile.

The soft forest light brought out the whole palette of colors, with yellow and green lichens dappling silver bark over delicate amber wood.

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It was 6 pm by the time we left the park. We now had to reach the summit of Vindbelgjarfjall, our final mission of the day! This pretty little mountain provided an elevated viewpoint over the entire region. I’d read that it was exhausting to climb, but Gunter, who we’d met the previous evening, had been there, and reassured me that it was easy as pie.

MYVATN - VINDBELGJARFJALL, NORTHERN ICELAND

We had to park near to the road and walk to the base of the mountain before we could even start the climb, since the muddy track that led to the mountain had become impassable.

It was 6.30 pm.

We reached the summit at 7.20 pm. Gunter was right, it wasn’t that hard. The view was magical, but we were a little early for sunset.

We could see Hverjall from here.

You can’t tell from the photo, but it was very cold at the summit, believe me, with a terrible wind of course!

Everyone who climbed up here was proud to have added another stone to the giant cairn at the summit. We weren’t going to break the rules.

We watched the sun drop over horizon from the shelter of the cairn.

We found a mini-cairn a little further on. Cute isn’t it? And remember, every little cairn will become big one day!

The sun slipped beneath the clouds around 7.30 pm.

And the light finally caressed the horizon.

We left our mountain at 8.30 pm.

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By the time we returned to the car, it was 9 pm. We added the 4.8 km (3 mile) hike to the day’s distance covered, but we still had quite a way to go!

We now had to drive to Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) 60 km (37 miles) away, since we’d planned to sleep nearby.

It was 10 pm by the time we arrived at the campground, and night had fallen. We were exhausted, and I didn’t complete my “technical chores” until around midnight.

This was a minuscule campground (we were just three cars), but I recognized Gunter’s little Opel!

I hoped to see him the following morning, after a well-deserved lie-in to recuperate. The alarm was therefore set for a relatively late 8.15 am.

See you tomorrow!

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