Iceland - Day 6

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We awoke to brilliant sunshine! Over breakfast we became (belatedly) educated about "midge lake," and learned that literally billions of the flies hatch between June and August. The birds and fish are plentiful here largely because of the midges - which hardly made swatting at them any less irritating. (Later some of us bought head nets which, while not exactly a fashion statement, made hiking outdoors a little more comfortable.) We also learned that the lake, which averages only 6- or 7-feet deep, is frozen 7 months of the year.

  Lake Mývatn seen from Höfði Lake Mývatn seen from Höfði
 

So we left the hotel for the day, to explore the area. Our first stop was Höfði, a really beautiful wooded area with abundant wildflowers, birch trees, evergreens, and lava formations, all overlooking the lake.

Next stop was Dimmubórgir ("black castles"), a huge field of lava formations that reminded me of a giant's sand-drippings. Some of the pillars were 60 feet tall, and there were arches and caves as well. We could have spent hours there, but chose the yellow path for about a 30-minute walk. (There were stakes in the ground with yellow-red-blue-white marks, each describing a trail of varying length.)

  Dimmubórgir Dimmubórgir Hverarönd Namaskarð
 

We picked up our lunch at a small market in Reynihlið, then went to the Namaskarð area and walked among the boiling mud pools at Hverarönd. Above here was a hill that overlooked the entire area, and a path, which led up. Naturally we decided to go, just because it was there! We really didn't think twice when we saw the sign "Difficult climb" at the bottom - although maybe we should have! This was the Námafjall ridge, and there must have been an easier way up. Of course Brian was the first to the top, no problem, followed closely by Kevin. Mike also got there, but Ali and I turned back halfway. That's where it seemed to go straight up - only hard-packed dirt, nothing to hold onto, and at this point I only hoped we could get down safely! We met Marie and Liz at this juncture, and Liz chose to descend with us. Of course we all made it back in one piece.

It wasn't long before the boys descended as well, and on we went to Krafla. This is where a power plant was build about 25 years ago, on the sight of what was thought to be an extinct volcano. Unfortunately the drilling of test holes is considered to be the cause of Krafla's 15 or so eruptions since 1975. We ate our picnic lunch here, then walked a circuit of the area. It was fascinating to see the "lakes and rivers" of "fresh" lava - dark black, no moss yet, some of it still steaming.

We then crossed the highway to the crater Viti ("Hell"), a beautiful 320m-wide explosion crater. There was no way to walk down to the water here - you might be able to slide down, but getting back up would be a real problem! There was still some snow at the water's edge.

  Discovering fresh lava at Krafla Krafla All of us at Krafla Viti
 

When we saw Marie and Liz at Krafla, they told us about Grjótagjá ("grotto") and it sounded so interesting that we backtracked a little to go see it. Definitely worth the detour: this was a series of heated underground pools inside rock-lined caves. The sunlight comes in through cracks in the roof, and while the water feels tepid to the touch, apparently it is much hotter under the surface. A sign warned that the water was 50 C, although one of our guidebooks said 60 C. Either way, that's warm!

Then we continued north to Húsavík, for our 5PM whale watching trip with the North Sailing people. Our boat was named Náttfari, a beautiful 75' oak fishing boat, which was just renovated for tourism in 1998. We were lucky to be among the first on board, and thus were able to put on fleece-lined waterproof coveralls provided by the crew. These were in very limited supply, although raincoats were plentiful - and necessary. It got a bit chilly on the water, and we were toasty in our suits. We saw only one minke whale, but that one whale breached more than 50 times, which our guide said was quite unusual. We also saw several dolphin and a few puffins. The shoreline was breathtaking, with waterfalls and the volcanic mountains. The crew served hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls on the return trip - delicious! - and we zipped out of our coveralls to return to shore.

  Road to Húsavík Whale Watch Apparel Coast at Viknafjöll Húsavík
 

We had hoped to have dinner at the Gamli Baukur restaurant affiliated with the North Sailing company, but there was an hour wait and we were getting tired. We walked around Húsavík to the hotel, and had a simple dinner there. Driving back to Mývatn we saw a beautiful sunset, and were happy to get to sleep after another long day.

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