We awoke next to Lake Myvatn and, after a very nice breakfast buffet at the only nearby hotel, were off for a busy morning of sightseeing.
You could smell the mud pot fields from a mile away…literally. I remember I stayed at a cheap hotel in Italy once, and the water from the faucet smelled like rotten eggs…this was that multiplied by a million times. I see now why Chanel hasn’t developed a ‘volcanic scent’ perfume. Although sulfur smells awful, its interaction with the environment creates some beautiful colors…the ground was a mix of green, yellow, orange and other hues. As we walked around, I imagined this not as Iceland, but what it might be like to take a stroll on Mars, or maybe one of those Star Wars planets. The barrenness of the surroundings coupled with the loud hissing sound of steam rising from the ground created almost a post-apocalyptic scene.
I sacrificed health for a good picture when I stood in the path of some volcanic smoke…I felt light-headed and nauseous for an hour after that.
We finally made our way to the mud pots and saw some brilliant bubbling mud…thankfully they had these areas roped off so no crazy kids could get too curious. Glaciers a few days ago and now this…Iceland was indeed the land of fire and ice!
We next traveled toward Myvatn national park, and on the way stopped at Grjotagja, a cave with a thermal pool inside. Years ago this was used for bathing, but eruptions over the years made the water too hot and there were warning signs everywhere. There wasn’t much to do here other than climb down and admire the steamy water…none of us were brave (or stupid) enough to stick a toe in to check the temperature.
Next we stopped briefly at the national park. This was great for panoramic views of the lake, but there were bugs everywhere. I later read that ‘Lake Myvatn’ means ‘lake of the midges’…okay, that explains it…never realized I’d need to worry about bugs in Iceland. We left after only a few pictures, as even that was difficult…the midges kept on swarming in front of the lens and messing up the shot! Before we left Myvatn, we made a stop at the lava fields which had a nice volcanic lake inside a crater, but besides that were otherwise uninteresting.
We made the drive up north to a little place called Husavik, which ended up being my favorite town in Iceland. It’s the epitome of a ‘cute town’…cozy church in the centre, beautiful harbor, cafes with terraces, and then the town’s calling card…whale watching! I remember years ago my friends and I joking about the whale watching tours in San Diego. These are primarily used as a date idea for early in a relationship…it sounds romantic, you don’t really have to do anything other than sit on a boat, but you never see any whales! According to the ticket salesperson here, however, there was a 98% chance of seeing whales in Husavik…liking those odds we bought our tickets and rode like Vikings out to the main whale hang-out spot. We had two tour guides, one local and another woman from Spain spending her summer in Iceland. They clearly had experience doing this, as they kept shouting out every few minutes the location of a whale. Most of the time this was just a water stream from the blowhole, but there were so many of these sightings scattered about you got the feeling we were surrounded. A handful of whales surfaced, but they descended so quickly oftentimes you only spotted a tail. I was quick on the draw with my camera and got some okay pictures and video, and we even got to see a blue whale. At the end of the day the whale watching was a success, and none of us got sea-sick!
We didn’t feel like driving after this, so we set up camp in a parking lot near the harbor. Dieter cooked up some awesome spiced potatoes, and we closed the evening with a bottle of Spanish red.