Circumnavigating Iceland, Part 4: Heaven and Hell

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The following day found us at Akureyi, the second largest city in Iceland after Reykavik. Needless to say, the Ocean Endeavor could dock there and we could take the stairs down to the dock! Our goal that day was to see Namafjall Mountain and Hverir, a hot springs area with boiling mud pots and fumaroles, plus the Myvatn Nature Baths. Time for a hot tub experience.

On the way we stopped at another waterfall — this will give you an idea of how wet we were. It was really raining. I finally broke down and purchased a water proof jacket at some stop that day after my water-resistant jacket had soaked through and chilled me to the bone.

Namafjall is a spectacular volcanic mountain and wending our way over it on narrow roads revealed spectacular views — heavenly.

                                                From Wikipedia, with sun

In the foothills on the other side we found an expanse of hot springs called Hverir. Fumaroles, mud pools and mud pots over a huge area were all boiling, spitting or spewing with relentless energy – hellish. We were warned to wear booties (provided) to protect our shoes from being eaten and not to expose our cameras to the fumes for too long. But the greatest impact was the smell. The minute the bus door opened, we were enveloped by rotten eggs – an odor so strong and revolting I put a scarf around my face.

The landscape is devoid of vegetation because the constant emission of the fumes has made the ground utterly sterile and acidic, unfit to sustain any life. The colors – oranges and yellows and browns – are spectacular, but not inviting for any long walk.

Following an exploration which was remarkably brief, we headed to the Myvatn Nature Baths. There we went into our separate areas with our bathing suits, disrobed, soaped up and showered (naked – we were told!) with at least 50 other women (haven’t done that since high school locker rooms). Then I put on my suit, tough to do when you and the suit are wet, and my found out way outside into the warm, blue pool. No jewelry or cameras allowed because the water would do nasty things to them.

 I sat in the warm (not hot by any means) water, submerged to my neck, but with an icy rain pelting down on my head. After a warmer shower and redressing, I dried my hair and rejoined the other, not feeling very refreshed, I am afraid to say.

Then we called it a day, with everyone looking forward to our next excursion to Skjalfandi Bay and Husavik.

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Husavik Harbor – small but spectacular, and yes, we had sun

Huysavik is often called the whale watching capitol of Iceland, and was the first place to be settled by a Norseman. Off shore of this town can be found 15 different species of whale, plus dolphins and 30 varieties of birds. Humpbacks seem to be the most common, but minke, blue, and orcas ply the Icelandic waters during the summer. It was actually on our way to Husavik that we got our best whale shots: a mother humpback and her baby. The baby was sounding and generally kicking up its fins, while the mother floated nearby with her pectoral fin up in the air. The funniest shot, which I didn’t get, was one of both whales lying on their backs, mom with her fins out to her side and baby mirroring her position.

The water that day was rough, and we had to Zodiak in to shore to don huge wet suits – yellow and red – with life jackets. We all looked like yellow Michelin men and waddled down to the duck boat that would take us out.

It was cold especially at the speed of the boat banging away in the four-foot waves to several miles off shore, but the mountain views were spectacular.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see a whole lot of whales, but we did follow a humpback for a while, watching it blow and dive.

Hubs camera died during this excursion. W concluded it got damp and ordered up five cups of rice from the kitchen to dry it out. After two days in a bag with the rice, it was as good as new!

The excursion on the morning of our 10th day, I will have to leave to your imagination. My foot was in such bad shape by then that I took the morning off and stayed on board. Hubs and everyone else went to the house of a lady called Petra Maria, who collected colored rocks from all over Iceland, and then to a WW II museum located in an old hospital barracks. I spent the morning reading on the aft deck, with my foot elevated and without a sock in the chilly air (to ice it), enjoying with this spectacular view!

17 thoughts on “Circumnavigating Iceland, Part 4: Heaven and Hell

  1. Applesauce, Noelle. That part of the trip sounds intense. Even the photo looks wet, windy, and cold. I’m glad you’re safe and dry now. As for the volcano, I visited one in Hawaii that was not active, so just beautiful scenery (then at least… I believe it’s one of those that became a horrific problem this year). Then several years later an active one in the tropics. That rotten egg smell is not something we forget, huh?
    Hugs!

    Like

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