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Posts Tagged ‘Akureyri’

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11 Northern lights over Skaftafell

Determined to make it to Skaftafell, we were riding (our bikes) late at night across the sandar. The great expanse of grey sandar, a thousand square kilometers of volcanic ash and gravel coughed up by the eruption of Öræfi, is eerie and beautiful in the dark, silent and glittery with the numberless rivulets of water finding their way to the sea.  There is no option to camp in the sandar, so once we entered it, we knew we had to make it the whole way.   There was no traffic but the big trucks that haul after dark, and they were few and far between.   My brother was far ahead of us in his truck, and we were riding hypnotically side by side and talking, comfortable knowing we could see traffic in either direction ten miles away.  There are long wooden bridges with grated metal decks crossing the rivers.  Some seemed a half mile long.   The last one was mangled and tossed aside by the water in 1996 when Grímsvötn erupted, and there are some twisted steel beams like modern art on the side of the road there as memorial.

Just as we passed there, the indigo sky opened up in Northern lights, and we overtook my brother, who was parked taking pictures.  He said he could hear us coming by our excited whooping and shrieking at the sky.  Over and over the waves of lights flickered through the sky, brighter than moonlight, gorgeous.  We were cold from riding hot and stopping, but we couldn’t stop watching the lights, and we posed for some pictures with our bikes.  Late in the night, we rode the final miles to Skaftafell, looking forward to the flat camping and hot showers we knew to expect there, and the thunderous cracking of the glacier next to the park.

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12 Invited upstairs for tea at the herring factory museum in Siglufjörður

The town of Siglufjörður was wet and cold when we got there, but when we were looking around the herring factory museum, a man came out, said it was closed for the day and he was tired, but he would open it up in the morning around 8.  Interested, we decided to bed down early and visit the museum in the morning.  It was a good choice.  We soaked at the pool, the hostel was wonderful and we had it to ourselves in the off season.  In the morning we went around to the museum again.  A young woman turned on all the lights for us and left us to our own devices.  An hour or so later, the man from the previous day came downstairs, talked with us and then invited us upstairs for tea.  There were a couple of other men there, directors, or sponsors?, and the young woman. They shared tea and cookies and talked about the administration of the museum,  the history of saving the property, and scrounging up the parts of other abandoned herring factories that were being scrapped to reassemble the museum as it is now, housed in multiple buildings with the multiple functions the factory had.  About three hours passed before we’d seen it all, and I left with a children’s book written and illustrated in exquisite watercolours by the same man who invited us for tea- the museum director and driving force of the whole project.  I wasn’t able to find him again to have my book signed, though.

13 Bowling in Akureyri

There’s a very prominent bowling alley on the strip of museums of all sorts that have sprung up on the road to the airport.  Since we were resting up in Akureyri and enjoying the sundlaug and buffet at Bautinn, we thought we’d try out some bowling.  Nothing prepared us for Friday night at the lanes.  It was crowded with young people, but not just young people.  There were ladies dressed to the nines and eyeballing the boys two lanes over, the booze was flying (literally- glasses of beer smashed on the hardwood), there were catastrophic drunks, we got invited to a party, a scuffle broke out, and there was some majestically abysmal bowling.  Clearly it wasn’t about the bowling skills at all, since it didn’t seem to matter if a ball even made it down the lane it was meant to or any lane at all.  It was pretty typical style for nearly everyone to hurl the ball out and release it at eye level, where it would smash down painfully onto the lane and possibly make it down to the pins.  More than once someone wiped out and hurtled themselves into the gutter.  It was a mesmerizing spectacle.  It was also the first time I’d bowled tenpin, so I thought that was pretty cool.  It was so totally fun we came back with my brother the next night, and that’s how we missed the significant earthquake that knocked plates off of shelves and shook the earth all around us in the north of Iceland.  Everything was shaking and rumbling already in the bowling alley, and we had no idea.  In retrospect though, there was one patch of time where half the lanes malfunctioned at the same time, resetting pins inappropriately or not resetting, and not counting the scores or returning balls.  That was probably the moment of the earthquake.

14 Jolaöl and Jolaskyr

Besides the off season perks of having special attention as the only tourists or else empty hostels to ourselves, the best thing about being in Iceland so late in the year was the Jolaöl, and the hilarity of trying to pronounce it.  Already knocking back the familiar Egil’s Malts like nobody’s business (tall cans of non-alcoholic orange flavoured stout-esque non-beer), one day in Mývatn there were these blue cans that we hadn’t seen before.  Wow!  Jolaöl was the tall blonde version of Egil’s Malt, perfectly sweet and bubbly and orangey-beery.  Technically a soda, although it tastes more like a beer, this blew away every soft drink I’ve ever had (except OOgave is pretty darn good too).  It’s a special holiday beverage, appearing just shortly before Christmas.  We promptly started buying it 12 at a time and freaking out when there were no cans left in the back seat.  Especially incredible had cold with a hot pool. Likewise for specialty Christmas products was Jolaskyr- skyr, which we were eating pounds of daily, packaged with Santa Claus on it, and flavoured with candied apples!

IMGP395415 Vík in the sunshine

Vík, or more specifically the famously recognizable rock formations at Reynisfjara and nearby Dyrhólaey, is notorious for being socked in, grey and overcast and rainy.  In 2010 we passed through a total of four times and had the same weather every time.

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This time, the sun was out in full force, warm on the black rocks and black sand beach, and the stacks were bright and formidable in the sea, haloed with swirling birds.  My brother and I  climbed over the piles of huge black rocks, farther and farther from the main beach in the low tide, finding little coves of pebbled beaches strewn with bones and bird bodies, until I could see Vík and was sure I could get all the way around the point by the beach.  My better sense prevailed – my bike was at the parking lot, and by the time we got back out to it, the weather had changed, surprise, surprise.

IMGP137616 The amazing proprietor of a hotel in the Westfjords

who told me No he couldn’t rent me a room, they were all closed for the year, and the restaurant was closed too.  He called a restaurant in the next town to see if they were open and could feed us, and when they were not, then said Well maybe I could feed you some bread, and salad, and maybe there’s some soup.  He produced a wonderful meal, then told us we could sleep in the gymnasium if we wanted, and by the way there was a ping pong table.  Best night ever!

IMGP363617  Derek learning to drive a gas vehicle.

He’s only ever driven a diesel before, with the ultra-slow accelerator response, so his first time in a gasoline vehicle was like the Formula 500, and it was a pretty large truck.  The first two days were full of peeling away with a screech from green lights (Ooops, sorry.  I hardly pushed it!) and very abrupt halts (Ooops, sorry.  Wow, these brakes really brake).  It was pretty funny, especially when I was coaching him on the drive out of the parking lot from the people we just rented it from:  Okay, just barrrrely touch it.  Errrrk!  Whoa!!  I barely touched it!  Are all gas vehicles like this?  This is what people are driving in all the time?   Uh, yeah, it is!  Watch out for the sidewalk there-  Errrk!   Did they see that?  Ummm, yep.  They’re watching.  I wanted to email a week later- your truck’s still intact!  I just about died laughing.  But he got used to it and no one and nothing got hurt.   I wanted to email a week later- your truck’s still intact!

Also very special was:

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Sleeping in caves.  There was one big enough to set up two tents in, right next to the road, dry and open, and another half full of snow that we threw down sleeping bags in the bottom of.

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The solar powered drink dispenser in the middle of nowhere- wonderful!

Hotel Hellisandur and the fancy buffet of exotic foods and meats.
IMGP3545Walking on the beach by Hvítserker, where 24 seals bobbed in the water watching us and following us along the beach, popping under the water if you made eye contact.  Psst, we’re being watched.

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6 Arctic Fox Center in Suðavík

When we went in 2010 the Center was closed, but there was a fox kit outside in a play structure/enclosure being cute, fuzzy, long-legged, and adorable.  Going inside the Fox center was a must do on my list this time.  At the end of a long time trapped by the weather in Ísafjörður, we forayed out to Suðavík, only 15 minutes away, to visit the Fox Center.  Our hostess at the gisthus we were staying refused to take our room keys back because she thought we wouldn’t get far, but we had already packed all our stuff into the truck intended to check out.  This proved fortunate.   Most of the roads in the area were still closed and there was no way out of the Westfjords yet, but this stretch was supposed to be fine.  There were flurries across the road, but it wasn’t too bad driving at all.  We called and brought the beautiful Ester out of her cozy house to open up the Fox Center for us.  We talked at great length, looked at the museum, watched a movie over waffles, discussed the building of the Center and Frosty, the first fox we met in 2010.  When we left, the weather had turned and a slide had closed the road behind us, a half hour after we’d passed.  Luckily, we found another cozy guesthouse in Suðavík, promptly getting stuck there in the blizzard for another couple days.

IMGP14447 Horse roundup

Buried in a local paper with a feature on the sheep buried in the snow at Akureyri, there was a sidebar on wild horse roundups in the north of Iceland.  We’d never heard of such a thing, and there was one scheduled a few days away.  Far in the Northeast, we asked someone (Erlingur at Hotel Norðurljos) about it.  He called a friend and came back with instructions to the place, his friend’s name, who would be there, and to pass on that we “absolutely must go.  A horse roundup is not to be missed”.  So we went.  The horses were all driven from a field into a corral, and then the horses were sorted out by the owners and dragged through gates into holding pens and then shuttled away in horse trailers.  We were possibly the only tourists there and were wholly ignored, sitting up on the wall of the corral and petting the few horses who were calm enough to be interested in visiting.  It was a loud, dusty, active event.  It was clearly an all ages social to-do.

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The people were all yelling at the horses and each other, trying to cut horses out of the herd, grab them by the head and drag them into a corner.  They were checking chips in their ears with a reader.  There was much drinking and public urination and snuffing tobacco and laughing and lists on clipboards.   Although they were whinnying and biting each other, the horses were less frantic than one would expect.  At first crowded tightly in and then once horses were sorted out and there was more room, they got harder to grab, and would stampede together from one end to the other, knocking people over, bucking, stomping on feet.  Some horses were incredibly upset at being separated from others, trying to go through the same gate as their friends, sometimes managing it and then being forced out.  Colts at their first roundup looked sad, trying to keep track of their moms and crying at being separated from them, getting jostled and nipped by the big horses.

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8 Icelandic sweaters at the thrift store

There’s a wonderful thrift store in a certain city in Iceland that we found in 2010 and went back to this time.  It was exactly the same.  Messy, crowded, tended by the same no-nonsense lady who can’t or won’t speak a work of English.  I found fabulous things there last time that became wardrobe favourites and it was no different this time.  I cleaned up on clothes that were like nothing I’d seen before, even though I’d have to toss some of the clothes I’d brought to Iceland with me.  Icelanders take unique fashion to a whole new level.  Even their leftovers are awesome.  Then there were the sweaters.  We had been checking out Icelandic wool sweaters on everyone and for sale at various places in the country, as I wanted to get one this trip.  Sweaters have a vast variety, and H.W. had put a specific request in to the universe: “I want a sweater with a hood, black and grey, with a zipper”.  Hooded sweaters are not very common at all.  And there it was exactly, in that thrift store, only it was a women’s version, a lovely charcoal grey and a perfect fit for me.  They had a whole rack of sweaters, some of them just as nice as the ones for sale down the street for hundreds of dollars.  So I got the sweater H.W. had ordered, and he ended up with one with no hood or zipper.

IMGP95249 Reindeer

Ever since I saw a movie of reindeer running, I’ve wanted to go to Lapland and see the herds migrating.  I didn’t even know there were reindeer in Iceland until I read it somewhere on our way into the Eastfjörds.  I was very excited to see reindeer and promptly, the deer delivered.  Riding our bikes into Höfn, there was a family unit of deer in the field.  The next day there were more deer, closer, walking along the other side of a fence by the road.  They have such beautifully swooping antlers.  But that was nothing.  In the truck later near Reyðarfjörður, suddenly we noticed a hillside speckled with snowy patches- that were moving.  We turned around and parked to watch and take pictures, and there were over a hundred deer on the slope, involved in every kind of deer behaviour.  Most were lounging, some were agitating and rousting up the loungers, some were sneaking into others’ territory, some were bullying, some were grazing, some were headbutting their moms in the belly, some bulls were harassing the ladies, and there were a couple full scale clashes over territorial disputes.  It was a city of reindeer, there in full sight of the road, as if they knew it wasn’t hunting season quite yet.  The reindeer were introduced to Iceland for a meat crop that never took on, and now the wild population is limited to the Eastfjörds for some reason (climate?) and controlled by hunting.

IMGP844410 Flight to Grímsey

To officially visit the Arctic Circle in Iceland one has to ferry or fly to Grímsey and then walk a hundred yards north from the airport.  There’s a signpost there to take pictures by.  We booked cheap flights to the island, arrived at the airport far too early (we left again to get ice cream for breakfast and then went back), and when I checked in I was startled that not only did I not have to provide any ID, he didn’t even ask my name, just handed me the three boarding passes.  Then he took our day packs (checked luggage) and we went to sit in the sunbright waiting room.  We could see the plane, a Twin Otter, pull up, and we saw the same guy who’d checked us in stroll out to the plane with our backpacks on one arm and stick them in the luggage hold.  With a total of ten people in the waiting room, when someone came on the loudspeaker to announce the flight, Derek said, “I don’t know why he used the P.A., he could have just come in here and told us all”.  But of the ten people waiting, half of them were going someplace else!  Only one local kid and the three of us were getting on this plane to Grímsey, which made the checkin process make a bit more sense.  We boarded the plane after holding everyone up a minute to take a picture, the same guy who’s loaded our luggage shutting us in and then flagging out the plane.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and as we rose up and turned from takeoff, the snow and the grey cliff edges of the fjörds were beautiful as we headed towards the open ocean for Akureyri.  Then the window one seat in front of us plopped out onto the seat.  The outer pane was intact, but it was still funny, and H.W. deadpanned that hopefully that’s the only equipment malfunction on the trip.

At the other end, the airport was even smaller- one room with a desk in it, and the lady who unloaded our bags and handed them to us talked a mile an hour asking us where we’re staying, pointing out the two guesthouses on the island, and commanding us to go to the Arctic Circle point, which was there in sight.  We had to go there before we could get our certificates (signed by the pilot).  We obediently went over there, lingering and posing.  We were waiting for the plane to reload and depart again, as Derek wanted to try for the very difficult shot of us with the plane taking off in the background (he did it).  Then we were snacking, when the lady from the airport, having changed out of her uniform and locked up the airport, came walking across the field to bring us our certificates.  They were unexpectedly beautiful things, with our names done in calligraphy and yes, signed by the pilot.

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I slept in ’til 8 and headed straight for the pool.  Derek did the same, to get warm, and when he came back we ate muesli and broke camp.  Going to retrieve my laundry, I found it all hung on the lines run along the low ceiling, a typical Iceland laundry setup.   The laundry room was warm from being below ground, I think, and all our clothes and even my hikers were all dry!

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Lots of skyr, every day

There was a close call with the camera charger- we almost left it behind plugged in the bathroom, but thankfully remembered while pulling out.

We headed for Hólmavík, interested in the Witchcraft museum, excited by the Lonely Planet and their description of the necropants – wooooo!  When there’s the possibility of seeing, at a bona-fide “award-winning” museum, the magical money-producing trousers skinned off a dead man’s legs and groin, of course you must seize the day.
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On the way we stopped for photo ops of seals hanging out with heads and tails stiffly out of the water.  Is that comfortable?  Why do they do it?  Also sheep and swans crossing the road made the morning drive interesting.

DSCF5340(5)The museum was unfortunately like all the other museums- lots to read and little to see, although severe stuffed ravens overlooked it all and there was an appropriately creepy vibe.  The necropants, were, alas, obviously not real.  Sorry, the cat’s out of the bag (pun intended), we know, they’re not real pants made from the skinned lower half of a male corpse.  You could see where the hairs were glued on.  To be fair, the guidebook does say “plastic replica”.  I felt like I was at Ripley’s in Niagara Falls, anyways.

DSCF5335(5)The genuine stone bowl that had been used for blood was considerably creepier.  It’s a nice museum, aesthetic and well-lit and nicely designed.  Reading material abounds, about the witches who were slaughtered for supposedly practicing sorcery, and their real craft books under glass.  I just can’t get into reading when the rest of Iceland waits, though, so I bought a book and coveted the fat little woollen ravens standing on rocks in the gift shop.  Later I had to have them mail me one.

DSCF5347(5)In Staðarskali we almost left the camera charger behind again.  We were still on our usual program of charging at every stop where we could subtly find a socket.

It was slow driving.  We drove right past the seal museum and the sea ice museum, but we stopped for the turf church and the site of the biggest battle in Iceland.  We stopped for a white-tailed eagle, and the seals at Kirkuból.

Finally we made it to Akureyri.  It was somewhat welcome to be in a town with streetlights.  The first thing I noticed was that the circles of the red lights were masked out a little.  They looked a bit like hearts.  At the actually department sized Intersport store, I impulse bought a pair of white skate shoes that had line drawings of superheroes on them.  I couldn’t not, they were so awesome.

Unfortunately, they were children’s shoes only, and the largest kid’s size definitely didn’t fit me.  I walked around in them for awhile, going I can’t, they really don’t fit, but I have to, because of their sheer awesomeness; I may never see them again.  I decided if I wore them barefoot, they fit.   Bought them.  They became my totally favorite shoes for awhile.  When I tore out the insole and put a thinner one in, I could even wear socks, and only my big toe would hurt a bit.
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We visited another camping store and then parked downtown and walked about.  There seemed to be hearts everywhere, pasted on storefront windows.  It was a mystery.  We went in the beautiful, grand Akureyri library, desperate for a rest room.  The library was wonderful!  Icelandic authors, by first name,  were mixed with English ones.  Derek said “TolkieDSCF5398(5)n!”, and we rushed around looking for them.  The three Lord of the Rings books were there, in a beautiful colourful hardbound set I was dying to have.  That led us to the book store, the multi-storied Eymundson, which was totally overwhelming with books and CDs.  Eat, Pray, Love was in vogue, and the Icelandic translation had stacked tabletop displays.

Starving, we headed to Bautinn to eat.  An unlimited soup and salad buffet really hit the spot.  All was delicious, and there was an abundance of different kinds of bread.  Back to the bookstore for some music.  By this time, the two CDs, one unlistenable and one questionable, that had been in the car when we rented it, were wearing pretty thin after days of driving.  New music was a necessity purchase.  We checked out a couple of places and their hours to sightsee tomorrow, and headed for a campsite well after sunset.
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On the way we found a rink, glowing in the dark next to the highway.  A genuine arena!  Excited, we parked and I barged in.  There were men on the ice playing mediocre hockey for about a minute.  I’d arrived just before close, as the final bell was about to ring.  Still breathless, I quizzed the puzzled men at the reception waiting to turn out the lights.  No, there were no skate rentals.  No, there was no “public skating”.  Quizzical looks.  Sigh.  We were this close to skating in Iceland, but it was not to be.  It was still exciting to be in the cold, musty air of an actual hockey arena!
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I went back out and found Derek in the verge with a tripod, taking pictures of the lights on the hill across the water in the shape of a heart.  The lights would pulse, fading in and out, like a beating heart.  It was a big heart, described in lights on a hillside.  What was with all the hearts?  We figured there must be some event in progress today or this week or something.

IMGP0753(4)Following the guidebook’s directions we fortunately found our way directly to the campsite.  It was one of the biggest we’d ever seen, fields after fields, bounded by shrubbery so it wasn’t just one gigantic field.  When we went in, just before close, the girl at the kiosk didn’t want our money because she’d already rung off.  “Oh, just pay in the morning on your way out,” she said, and waved us through.   We crept along through the many fields, trying not to disturb sleeping campers with our headlights and engine, and found our way to a field all our own, on the edge of the property.

There was a strange wall of electrical boxes on a panel at the mouth of the field.  I investigated with a flashlight and it turned out to be many different plugs, probably for RV hookups.  I found a standard one, and even in the middle of nowhere as it felt, we got to charge our electronics for the night.

It was an amazing night, so dark and quiet a location that I had an extremely restful sleep.  There was a beautiful moon and the air was cool.

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So restful, that we woke up very early.

A few more pictures from this day

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We woke up in a dense light mist that promised a beautiful clear day.  We were packed and out early, headed north east to Mývatn.  Just as we were about to turn onto the highway a plane took off right over us.  It was so low and loud and sudden, it was terrifying.  A little early in the day, too, for jets to leap out of the mist.

The low fog in the bright rising sun made everything gorgeous. On the hill out of Akureyri, there’s a sheep crossing sign like on the postcard, and we had a brush with capturing the “sheep crossing the road near a sheep crossing sign” photo, but didn’t quite.  Sheep can move quick.
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At Goðafoss there was so much mist our clothes got damp walking around.  Goðafoss was multi-layered with webs of little trails along the bank.  Derek had been trying to find a better way to clean his lens and in my usual manner I said “Just ask someone with a big camera who looks like they know their way around it.  Here, I’ll do it.”  So I struck up conversation with a random guy holding a camera at Goðafoss, and Derek quickly took over and they discussed “camera stuff” at length.

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Naturally, he and his partner were Canadian as well, on a one week whirlwind of Iceland, and he really surprised us with what he did.  Upon saying “Here, you need one of these”,  and pulling a lens pen out of his pocket (cleaning brush gadget), he passed it to Derek told him to have it.   Not “there’s a camera store in Akureyri, they’re about $10,” but “here’s one”. We protested, and he insisted, shrugging, “I usually have two on me, you can have that one.”  So that was an unexpected act of generosity.

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We approached Mývatn from the south, taking a short walk around the pseudocraters at the south of the lake and taking pictures of some Icelandic cows.  On up the west side of the lake, we stopped at Dimmuborgir.  There were no guided tours on, which may have been more interesting, so we showed ourselves around the Church circle, we think, but saw no church.  It wasn’t that IMGP0992interesting, possibly because this type of skin-tearing ragged igneous lava structures had become quite familiar.  This are unusually large, creating a maze one could get lost in, but still, it was “hraun and still more hraun”.  We surprised some sheep lounging in a cave.  It looked like their regular spot to hide from the sun in the cool air.

Dimmuborgir is the home of the Jólasveinarnir, or Yule lads – the grown sons of a wicked trolless, Grylla, that play the role of thirteen ragged Santas in Iceland.  My favourite story is the Christmas Cat, though.  It is  vitally IMGP0972important that everyone have some new article of clothing for Christmas, because anyone who doesn’t wear new clothes will be eaten by the Christmas Cat!  That’s the lovely Grylla’s cat.  And they all live in Dimmuborgir.  Or the lads do, now that they left the nest.  No wonder, with that cat hanging around Mom’s.

IMGP1044Up to Hverafell from there, a vast crater with a walking path around the ring, about a mile around.  All grey tephra and boulders, it was a stunning landscape, looking over the crater and out from it at the varying geology surrounding the lake and mountain.  We spent ages up there, taking pictures and fooling around, until we got too hungry to carry on and had to come down for a burger  and ice cream at the N1.

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We were hoping to go to Askja but didn’t grasp that it was five 1/2 hours away!  And expensive.  There were a flock of fancy jacked trucks parked at the info center, all equipped for the F roads, and the excursion was not cheap.  We wouldn’t go for a guided tour and weren’t inclined to spend a day to reach Askja, so we passed on that major natural attraction.IMGP1156
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There was a golf course in Mývatn, though!  When we drove up (quite a hill) to check it out, this golf course was patches of green cut into the top of two hills and the valley between them. I think of golf courses as pretty flat, by necessity.  I’ve never seen or imagined a golf course with such extreme differences in elevation between holes, and even between tee and hole.  And there are flat areas all around Mývatn, it’s like they picked the top of a hill for some reason.   From the parking lot we could see a guy on the green in a valley below us with crazy blue plaid pants on whacking balls down the green.  He had a sheepdog that appeared to be retrieving all his balls for him.  We avoided him, but another guy working there told us to go to the Hótel.
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At the Hótel a girl said that the manager was at the course at the moment – her hilariously accurate description matched the character we’d seen – but she could take our money, and did we have our own clubs?  Well, no.  Then she could call “some guy” to loan us his clubs.  We went to get cash, I ate a sandwich watching the pretty horses and some ducks being picturesque in the backyard of the hotel, and “the guy” with the clubs pulled up, handing over his personal bag of clubs and also some balls and scorecards.  This sort of exchange never failed to surprise and delight me in Iceland.

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The course was ridiculous. It was hilly, hard.  Fun.  At times we had to search for the next tee because it wasn’t in sight.  Some holes are a trail hike from others.  Some fairways are a gap across valleys of brush, or on a plateau with slopes cutting away.  Keep it on the grass or else.  Overshoot the green and it’s gone.  Whacking the balls hundreds of feet uphill. We spent some time hunting for balls in the blueDSCF5625berries (+2 on balls for the day).  Flags that can’t be seen from the tee because they’re over a hill. It was such a phenomenally challenging course and terrain that it was hilarious and entertaining.  We’re looking around, okDSCF5626ay, so where’s the flag?  It can’t be that one, up there?  No way!

We had to consult the course map a lot, like we were orienteering.  At one point I dragged the golf bag up a steep scramble to get to the next tee, then I realized that it was probably protocol to carry only one driver up there with you, because you had to go back down, walk along a road, and then climb back up to find your ball again.  Luckily we got nice straight drives on that hole.  Here the midges, aka blackflies, that Mývatn is named after were in evidence.  Derek busted out his mesh hood- he’d read about the midges, and golfed in comfort, except for my laughing.
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We finished around seven, dropped the clubs back at the hotel, and carried on to see “the rest” of the sights.    DSCF5653Stóragjá, where the earth is ripping apart like at Þingvellir, and you can climb down and walk around the narrow crevasse.  Grjótagjá, farther along in the same tectonic plate tear feature – a cave full of hot water.  This cave was beautiful, and I so wanted to swim in it, but it was just a little bit too hot.  I tried my best, sitting in there and slowly putting my limbs in deeper and deeper.

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I could put my hands, and arms in, but not for very long, and I worked my feet and legs in, but it was just too uncomfortable to be pleasant.  It made a lasting red high water mark on my legs.  IMGP1298Some guy from L.A. came along and dropped his glasses in the water, and then we moved on.  There is another cave with slighter cooler water a bit farther south that the locals sometime swim in.

We saw the vibrantly blue toxic lake on the left driving out of Mývatn, and were blown away by the mud pots of Hverir.  The colours!  Blue and pink-orange, and the boiling mud!  Everyone cleared out, and we were getting extraordinary pictures of steam, just hissing out of the ground like a giant kettle.  We kind of rushed it, though, Derek literally running between the features to get some shots before dark.    Just in time for the sunset we climbed up Námafjall, looking back over the town and the lake for some sunset pictures and shots of the moon.

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It was very dark when we came down, and we stopped at the Nature Baths but they were closing at 10, and after seeing the price we weren’t sorry about it.

We decided to head for Húsavík, and got part way there.  Just out of town the Northern Lights started up and we pulled over.  It just happened to be on a little pull out, and I backed off the road and cooked pumpkin soup with Ichiban by the back wheel.  Derek was getting crazy excited by the lights but I was so tired I just threw my bag on the ground and fell asleep in it.  Derek took pictures for half the night, and I was in some of them.IMGP1518

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Mývatn is spectacular in so many different ways.  This was a very photo-rich day and I encourage you to look at all the other great pictures that wouldn’t fit in this post.

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On a mission to have a relaxing night, I slept in with determination.  Up at 9:30, I fixed my broken flip flop with dental floss and went to the pool.  Akureyri’s sundlaug is very nice, with massaging jets and stairs over the water.  I warmed right up at the pool, DSCF6072had some skyr and went back to camp.  Derek was all packed up and unfortunately, it was overcast now.  We went downtown, got a parking clock, which I was thrilled about, and we spent some time in Eymundson writing postcards, using the internet, and forming a plan for our remaining days.  We finally ruled out a trip to Askja due to the long drive, and decided to be in Keflavík  the next night for the Festival of Lights.

The parking clock is also visible in this picture

Can you see the heart red light? The parking clock is also visible in this picture.

We checked out lots of things in Akureyri then.  We found the Red Cross thrift store, wandered into an art museum full of large format photography, mostly of the riots in January 2009, and another fabulous exhibit of textiles celebrating rhubarb.

We bought a stack of books in Froði, an unkempt and awesome little used bookstore cluttered with piled boxes of books.  There wasn’t any Tolkien, but we finally got an explanation of the hearts DSCF6031sprinkled around Akureyri.  The sweet bookstore lady said that it was started a year ago, to remind everyone “to have a good heart”, and to “drive gently”.  She also explained that Icelandic books were so expensive because the print runs were tiny for such a limited audience.

An outdoor store downtown had Light My Fire spoons.  I’d snapped Derek’s much earlier in the trip in a jar of peanut butter, and replacing it had nearly become a grail quest.  Nowhere could we find these camping spoons, ’til now.  We bought extras.  Finally to Bautinn, to tank ourselves up properly.  That is one memorable buffet.

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We collected a hitchhiker at the campsite, a young German woman who had approached me earlier asking for a ride to Reykjavík.  We tanked up the car and stopped at the biggest Bónus we’d seen yet, although it didn’t have decent bread or skyr, and hit the road, burning towards the capital.

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A few stops, at Örlygsstaðir and for the sunset, but mostly driving.  We took the tunnel and got into Reykjavík long after dark.  We dropped our passenger downtown, and the city was busy and drunk and kind of scary.

IMGP6246A motorcycle whipped past us at at least 150kmh, cars were speeding, and I wanted out.  We went directly to Hveragerði.    The drive there was a whiteout of dense fog, and then Hveragerði was totally clear, under the blanket of fog.

We set up our tents in the mist at the back of the campsite in town and crashed hard.

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