Iceland Day 7, July 27– Myvatn

We started our day leaving the eastern fjords.   They were beautiful but overcast weather encouraged us to move on. The area became much more barren as we headed into a wide-spread lava field—a site of earlier eruptions.

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 We continue on the Ring Road further into the countryside.  The road is still paved, but most bridges are one-lane.  You must be prepared to yield at every crossing.  Even this large bridge was narrow.   We’ll see a lot more of this as we continue around the island.

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We saw the Askja caldera in the distance.  This was the volcano that turned the area into such a barren plain the US sent astronauts here to train for their moon landing.  Our first adventure was touring the smaller Snaefell caldera—a collapsed volcano– from a long ago eruption.  

3_askja

In the middle of lava-land with high winds, I got back in the car thinking of the blowing dust in Monument Valley.  Once again I had grit in my teeth and “extra body” in my hair.  A shower will feel good tonight!

4_caldera

 We definitely not in Kansas anymore—more like the end of the earth!  We thought twice before passing up any N1 gas stations.  There’s a whole lot of nothing out here!  And it will only get more pronounced when we hit the Westfjords!

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 Cairns dot Iceland’s landscape; some are quite elaborate.  Locals explained these are the traditional trail markers, from a time before the ring road and are still helpful in heavy snow.  We weren’t sure if they had a religious meaning.

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On the way in to Myvatn (MEE’ vot) we stopped at the Namafjall Hverir.  There were incredible fumaroles and bubbling mud pots in this geothermic area.  Unlike the US, we were able to scramble among them- a real hot spot (ha!). 

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Myvatn sits in the middle of a geothermal area and the plant we saw as we drove in generates power for the area   Hot water from the tap has an eau de sulfur, and tarnishes silver jewelry in the shower.  Remember, we plan to hit the blue lagoon of the north during our stay!  That is based on the surface geothermal activity and the resultant “healing powers.”  We’ll let you know how we feel when we’re done.

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We reached our hotel on Lake Myvatn at noon and headed off for lunch at the Cowshed Cafe.    We passed intricate rock walls—so many rocks.  They were filled with wildflowers so there was no sign they were still used.  A lot of work.  Maybe old corrals?  They were beautiful.

0_rock_walls

The Cowshed is an interesting restaurant.  You can pet the bovines–they loved a scratch!– then go in for a fresh organic lunch. They milk the cows behind a glass wall so you can watch if you time it right–they followed an Icelandic (whenever) schedule, so we missed it twice.

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This afternoon we took advantage of the sunny skies and headed to the seaport of Husavik on the North Atlantic for a four hour whale watching sailing tour.  Mind you, the ship left the dock at 4:30.  Late right?  No way.  No problem with daylight in Iceland in July!  This really is the Land of the Midnight Sun, so it looked to be about 1:00 in the afternoon.  (It really never gets dark here–at 3 AM you see a faint red-yellow line on the horizon, the only real sign the sun is beginning it’s next cycle!)

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We first went to Puffin Island–a great success…I’ve been dying to see them since we hit Iceland!  

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This is home to a colony of over 200,000, so we saw them in the rocks, floating by the ship, in the air–they were everywhere!

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I even captured one with fish hanging from its mouth—en route to feed its babies in the nearby cliffs.  Puffins are unique among sea birds.  They carry fish back to their young by holding it sideways, hanging out of their mouths.  This allows them to carry more food for their young.  (Other birds eat then regurgitate the fish at the nest—a much less efficient process.)

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Our guide told us puffins mate for life and they all arrive on the island the SAME day to nest, then all take off August 15th for their winter migration. Another interesting detail, they mate for life but sometimes the pairs loose track of each other when they migrate.  They usually find their mate back at the island the next spring.  If not, the male will choose a younger female.  But if his old mate shows up, he dumps the sweet young thing and goes back to his first love.

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We left Puffin Island, searching the horizon for whales.  Dolphins escorted us into open water.

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Then one of the passengers saw a blow in the distance…we scrambled closer!

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It was a young humpback–huge, but only about half of what will be his final adult size.  

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We followed at a distance for over an hour while it dived, waving it’s flukes.

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The humpback surprised us by spy hopping and tail thrashing.   

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Great day!  To top it all, the winds picked up so the crew–and some passengers ( note John hard at work) put up all 7 sails

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and we cut the engine and had a beautiiful sail back to port.

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We had dinner in the harbor- fish fresh from the sea- and started back to Myvatn about 10:30.  Sheep are all over this area so we drove back carefully, waiting for several wooly fur balls to let us pass.  Yes,  it was late, but the good news is we finally saw an Icelandic sunset (at about 10:30).

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See you tomorrow, when we stay “home” and tour the beautiful lake area!

 Alberta

 

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