Iceland 2016: From Calderas to Midges, the Adventure Continues

22 07 2016

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What a luxury to know that we get to spend two nights in one place!  And according to our excursion voucher, our tour of the Lofthellir lava cave doesn’t start until 9:00, so we eat a leisurely breakfast and then prepare for the trip.

Only thing is, we get a call from the travel agency shortly after 8:00 telling us that our tour was actually at 8:00 and we missed it.  Dang.  It seems the travel agency updated our plans and then did not get us the updated version.  It happens. Fortunately, they are able to book us on a tour for the next day.  And fortunately, there are plenty adventures in this area to keep us active and entertained.

6-1-16 Myvatn (15)

Say that three times fast!

After a look through the ranger station of the National Park, our first stop is at Grjutagja, a cave with a pool inside where David remembers skinny-dipping when he took a tour through here 40 years ago while stationed in Iceland in the Air Force.  We’ve been warned not to get in the pools as the water temperature changes rapidly and without warning. (Later, we will discover that the Icelanders still use this pool.  Possibly the warning was just their way of keeping it for themselves.)

6-1-16 Myvatn Grjutagja cave pool (13)

6-1-16 Myvatn Grjutagja cave pool (5)

6-1-16 Myvatn (14)

We hiked a bit around the area, ending up at a sheepfold built in 1880 as the main sheep sorting fold for the free-range sheep in the Mývatn area.

6-1-16 Myvatn (5)

What I usually see of Annalise

6-1-16 Myvatn sheepfold (3)

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We send the guys back down the road to get our cars, and while they are gone, we investigate a more modern sheep shelter.  Lots of snow melt still around—not sure how much of a shelter this would actually provide!

6-1-16 Myvatn sheepfold (5)

We travel down the road to Dimmuborgir, a lava field that translates as “dark castles,” and indeed is the avowed home of Iceland’s Yule Lads, those mischievous elfish creatures descended from trolls who show up around Christmas time.   If I understand the origin of this place correctly, some 2,000 years ago a lava lake pooled over a depression where a small lake was.  The soggy lake bottom under the lava turned to steam, which boiled up through the lava in tubes, the sides of which cooled forming hollow pillars as the lava lake drained toward lower ground.  I’m no geologist; after reading the explanation several times in several different places, I’m not sure I have it right yet.  However, I do know that in this area are some really fantasmic lava structures.

6-1-16 Dimmuburgir church (2)

6-1-16 Dimmuburgir (3)

David and I meander around several of the many paths through this area; Annalise and Brian take off on another path that leads them far astray.  “Follow the yellow trail” is now synonymous with getting lost!


6-1-16 Dimmuburgir (1)

The lost are found

After lunch at a picnic table near the parking lot, we head out to Namafjall Hverir, a geothermal area just off the road that is reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park, minus the boardwalks and constant reminders of danger.

6-1-16 Namafjall Hverir (2)

Note the proximity of the photographer

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll mention it now:  Iceland is heavy into Darwinism.  If the rotten egg smell of sulfur is not warning enough, the steam coming out of boreholes should be.  Not that either dissuade us from getting closer than we should have.


6-1-16 Namafjall Hverir (5)6-1-16 Namafjall Hverir (6)6-1-16 Namafjall Hverir (13)6-1-16 Namafjall Hverir (17)

Somehow we survive our stupidity and go on to Krafla, a huge caldera (volcanic crater) that had an active lava fountain as near as 1984.  To get to Krafla, we pass through a geothermal power station, with geodesic domes signifying wells.  Cheap energy, if you don’t mind the uncertainty of eruptions.


6-1-16 Krafla power station (3)

The best views are always found up high, so we climb Krafla, and from the windy rim of the crater, we look down on the lake within—still frozen in June, but a beautiful turquoise blue edged in icy whiteness.

6-1-16 Krafla (1)

It’s the middle of the afternoon and we have tickets for the Mývatn Nature Baths so we go back toward town.  We chose to go to these hot baths rather than the more popular Blue Lagoon because, well, I like an underdog.  Also, it is not as tourist-y, it is smaller, and it costs less.  Brian did not bring a suit because he had no intention of repeating his unfortunate experience from our last trip (hot pot + open wound = staph infection), but somehow the receptionist persuades him to rent a suit and go in.  He does.  It’s a Speedo.  He gets in the water and we all enjoy a hot steamy soak.  But magic is performed: none of us sees Brian get in or out of the water.

6-1-16 Myvatn Nature Baths

After dinner, Annalise and I go to the lava field just outside our hotel.  I should mention that Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake, which when I looked up the word I found out that means “high biological productivity.”  That would explain why Mývatn translates as “midge lake.”


6-1-16 Myvatn  (1)

Dried cow parsnips

Midges, for those fortunate enough never to have encountered them, are small black flies that swarm around you, never biting, but preferring to clog orifices with their bodies, making breathing and talking next to impossible.  I had the foresight to bring two midge nets along, donning mine as soon as I noticed the first nasty little booger.  Annalise swears she will not wear one as it clashes with her ensemble, but within a few yards I could have sold her my extra net for a hefty profit.

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Annalise can even make a midge hat look good!


With midge hats on, we are good to go, stopping to watch as our pants changed color as they become laden with midge bodies.

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Sometimes, Icelandic adventure is as big as a caldera, other times as small as a midge.  But adventure is always around the corner, as we are to find out on the morrow.



2 responses

22 07 2016

Man, I want to see a picture of Brian in a Speedo….

22 07 2016

You and me both!

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