Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bathing, Bands, and Bus Rides

Our ride to the north of the island was dotted with picturesque landscapes of lava formations, waterfalls, and fjords. We passed through Teigarhorn, famous for its cliffs covered in huge crystals (we purchased some!) and ate lunch at Egilsstadir, a town on a lake which supposedly is home to Iceland’s own 'Nessie'. Once at Lake Myvatn (which means 'midges'), we set up camp on the shores and enjoyed a soak in the warm natural baths after the long bus ride. The view over the volcanic landscape was surreal.

The next morning we got an early start (6:30 AM!) so that we could catch a mountain bus ride to Iceland’s interior. After a bone jarring, off-road, three hour journey we finally arrived at Askja volcano. Here, we learned that the Apollo astronauts used the terrain to train in preparation for the Moon missions. After seeing the landscape, desolate as it is, it is not hard to imagine why!

Once at Askja, we got the chance to hike into the caldera of the volcano! To do this, we had to cross multiple snow patches. Imagine, snow in July! Of course, some snowball fights ensued. Not only did we hike into an active volcano, but we also bathed in Viti, an explosion crater that formed during an eruption in the late 1800s. Viti means 'hell'. With a steep ascent and descent, a strong sulfur smell, milky white color, and warm water, it is easy to see how the crater got its name.

Upon return to town, we ate a delicious dinner outside, enjoyed the warm air from the lake, and then ventured over to an old barn to check out a local music festival called “Ulfadi.” We rocked out at the front of the stage, met some of the musicians, and interacted with young Icelanders.

The following day we explored Namafjall Hverir, an alien place, with yellow sulfur crystals in the cliffs and along the ground, steaming fumaroles venting their hot gases, and boiling mud pits. The stench of rotten eggs was quite overpowering!

The sun was blistering in the afternoon, but still we pushed on and explored Krafla, another active volcanic system in Iceland. The black lava from an eruption in the 1970’s marked a stark contrast to the surrounding weathered, grey rock and green vegetated regions. In some places near the volcano, the ground was still steaming-- a reminder to stay on the trail!

While our time in the Ppearl of the North” was short, it was quite enjoyable and full of interesting things to see and do. Now, we venture further north, to the sub-arctic.

Onwards and upwards!
Joseph and Uly