Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iceland, The Director's Cut - Day 6

This day happened to be my brother's birthday. It was also a much shorter drive than the previous day. Also? Minimal mountain passes.

No breakfast included with this hotel, so we stopped at the local grocery store and picked up sandwich stuff. We stopped at large ravine and unfordable river. Until a bridge was built, this was a fairly hard-to-access area.

Filled with food, we drove, and drove... and drove. Then we turned off towards Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Average flow? 193 cubic meters per second, during floods it hits 500. By comparison, Niagara Falls has an average flow of 1,833 cubic meters per second, but it's MUCH larger than Dettifoss.

We got out of the car and quickly realized it was cold, and windy, and damp. Luckily, the walk to the falls was only a kilometer or so over rocky terrain. No problem. We reached the falls and started checking out the various vantage points. One brother decided that six inches from the shore at the crest of the falls was a good place. Again, I took some pictures so there'd be a document of his last moments on earth, and again, he managed to not fall in. He did admit that it wasn't his smartest idea though, since the wind was making it very hard for him to not keel over to his doom. The idea was toyed with to visit the two other falls nearby, but somehow another 40 minutes of walking plus time standing around in the cold wasn't that appealing with our noses running and ears turning red. Well, my ears were red, my brothers had hoods. Who knew it would be chilly a few degrees south of the arctic circle?

We shivered our way back to the car and drove back across the vast wasteland we had traversed on the way there. Land scoured by glaciers, with a single road winding through it. Eventually we made the main road again and continued west.

The thing about hot springs is that you can see them coming. Plumes of water vapour in the air visibile for a while. We were coming up on some more. These ones were surrounded by a very large geothermal plant, but had no shortage of visitors. The main attractions were the two volcanoes. Well, one volcano, one crater full of hot spring water. Across from these was a series of hot springs and mud flats. This tends to create bubbling mud... and a strong smell of sulphur.

Over a much smaller mountain pass, and on to a most unique place. Volcanic pillars, mounds, and other rock formations all in one small park. It was described regularly like being on another planet. In reality, it was like walking among a bunch of lava pillars. It was still very unique, but underwhelming after the buildup.

This was by Myvatn, a large, shallow lake, which was filled with pseudocraters. A pseudocrater is caused by explosions of gas during a volcanic eruption. Lava into the lake... lava cools... gas inside explodes... pseudocrater.

And then on the road again. To GoĆ°afoss - Falls of the Gods. When Iceland chose Catholicism as its official religion, the man who made the decision tossed his pagan idols into these falls. Or so legend says. They're a small falls, but one of the most interesting ones. Think a mini Niagara Falls, with an extra small falls in the middle, and a few extras on the side. Once again, much time was spent wandering around, enjoying the vistas.

And then, onto Akureyri, the capitol of Northern Iceland. A large resort town of 18,000. It's a great town, with good food, a great hotel, and yet another cool-looking church. We arrived with time to spare, so some exploring was in order. Directed to a local restaurant, we had a solid meal. Saltfish for me, although the Kangaroo was very tempting. Back to the hotel, and a solid night's sleep.

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