Eastwards – Fire&Ice – Day 11

The breakfast in the super-expensive hotel was the best so far in Iceland. Well, it better be, the hotel was all right, but the price is not. It is clear that Iceland is expensive, but this pricing is shameless, taking profit of the tourist boom. I did not know that this would be topped in the evening….

So the plan was to get to the ferry harbour with a little bit of detours and many sightseeing stops. Most of the first destinations were close, at the Myvatn lake. I removed all the double layers of clothes, for today I would be walking a lot (in the end it was something like 5 km!). I started with the biggest exercise first, the Hverfall, an ancient volcano that exploded and left a very particular crater. I walked up to the rim and decided that this would be enough, the walk on the rim would be more than two kilometers, not so nice in motorbike gear. I took my pictures and descended again. The view was really great.

The next stop was only a few minutes away, a place called Dimmuborgir. The area is composed of various volcanic caves and rock formations, reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel (hence the name). The Dimmuborgir area consists of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapour rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter. As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground in the Mývatn area, the top crust collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained. The lava lake must have been at least 10 meters deep, as estimated by the tallest structures still standing.

I chose the second shortest itinerary that led through the bizarre formations. There is a cave where in winter you can meet the Yule Lads, the Island version of Coca Cola’s Santa Claus. They are a group of 13 mischievous pranksters who steal from or harass the population and all have descriptive names that convey their favorite way of harassing. They come to town one by one during the last 13 nights before Christmas (Yule). They leave small gifts in shoes that children have placed on window sills, but if the child has been disobedient they instead leave a potato in the shoe.

The next stop was a bit in the north, I had to queue a little bit to step down into the small cave called Grjótagjá. Its popularity has probably increased as it was, like Dimmuborgir, a filming spot of GoT. But apart from that, it is really a very beautiful cave filled with hot water. Bathing is forbidden, as temperatures could suddenly spike and maybe kill some of the abundant tourists. Not good for business. Talking of business, in Iceland, all natural sightseeing spots are for free. Other countries would try to make a fortune by asking admission fees. Here, this is achieved by other means.

Grjótagjá cave

My sightseeing at the Myvatn lake was finished. Now some riding was due. My tank was pretty full, but I filled up to have some peace of mind, petrol stations would be scarce today. The next attraction was not very far way, though. Next to the main road, there was the area called Hverarönd. It is a prototype of such areas, consisting of stinking steam vents, solfataras and boiling mud pits. The whole area is metamorphosed by the geothermal activity and thick deposits of silica, gypsum and sulphur cover the ground. One has to be very careful crossing such areas, because the thin crust might brake. There is an intense smell of various sulphuric compounds; it reminded of my basic chemistry studies, when the courses on inorganic analysis would require the use of hydrogen sulfide that was bubbled through the samples. We students spent months in this nice odour. Those were the days!

After some more riding, I had to leave the Ring Road and ride 25 km to the north where I parked the bike and walked, together with a lot of other tourists, to the Dettifoss waterfall. This was really worth the long walk, an impressive fall. As the water was very muddy, I wonder if the high temperatures lead to an increased melting of the central Icelandic glaciers.

It was midday, but there were no facilities except toilets at the parking, so I hoped for some café along the road. About 30 minutes later, I saw a sign “coffee and cake, 3 km”, pointing to a place away from the Ring Road. I was not really in the mood for cake, but I hoped they had something else as well. So I took the turn. I rode for about 4 km on a terrible washboard track, leading to some houses. It took me a while before I spotted the “hotel” on one door and “coffee” on the other. Closed! The sole cyclist who looked tired and thirsty was surely more disappointed than I was, I could at least quickly get way from this deserted place. After doing the washboard again, of course.

The landscape was very arid now, but beautiful.

Finally there was a small café next to the road, actually quite cozy. I ordered a typical lamb soup that was very tasty.

The road ascended to 600 m now and I realized that the warm period was over. I was on a high plateau where the temperature dropped to 14ºC. After a while, I had to get the inner jacket liner out of the pannier. The whole day, temperatures did not rise again. Back in the east, real Icelandic temperatures reminded me how lucky I was the last days. I descended towards Egilstađir, the largest town in the east. I filled up, bought a pastry in a supermarket and warmed up again a bit. I was underdressed for these temperatures.The last 25 km to the ferry port in Seyđisfjörđur were even more chilly. I realized that this the highest point of the whole trip (630 m) and the same weather and temperature welcomed me back (foggy and 8ºC at the pass and clear and 14ºC at the fjord). I checked into the Hotel Aldan, i.e. the room is in a different building.

Riding down to the harbour

Before that, I quickly walked through the centre of the village…

After having a shower in my “room”, I concluded that this was one of the largest rip-offs ever. An old room of 5 square meters (sic), almost no hot water in the shower and an almost inexistent internet connection…OK, it is clean, but this is a joke. Not the place as such, but it’s at least 100 % overpriced for international standards. Highwaymen?

I went back to the main building for dinner and I must say that the food and service was very good. My last dinner in Iceland….

Tomorrow morning I will embark the ferry back to Denmark and make a concluding report when I’m back at home. It was a short trip, but the right time!

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