North Iceland

I finished the first segment of my clockwise journey around Iceland with my fellow “Ring Roadies”: Amy, Ginny, and Ingrid. We drove up along the west coast in beautiful sunny weather, and then encountered more typical rain as we headed east.

8/24/16 – Sunny Skies

My friends joined me this morning. It took us a while to get our rental car, a Citroen, thanks to a faulty printer at Thrifty and new fangled features, such as an automatic parking break and temperamental push button start that took us a while to master, after first figuring out how to switch the control menus to English.

It didn’t take us long to drive up to Saelingsdalur on the west side, in spite of stops along the way to admire the views. We stayed at Hotel Edda, a former boarding school now used for field trips during the school year. We dropped our bags in our dorm rooms, took a stroll through the grass-covered hillside, and had a delicious vegetarian dinner in the dining room.

8/25/16 – Whale Watching

Ingrid and I headed to the hot pool as soon as we woke up and had it to ourselves. It was the perfect spot to watch the sun rise over the hills; we ignored the organic matter that rose up as we walked on the mossy bottom. We met Amy and Ginny at breakfast, which included what I’ve since learned is typical: hard boiled eggs, several types of bread (sometimes homemade), yellow cheese, sliced ham, yogurt, granola, cottage cheese (delicious), homemade jam (raspberry, rhubarb, and/or marmalade), sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, sliced fruit (apples, oranges, and/or bananas).

We stopped in Blonduos on our way to Akureyri and enjoyed a damp stroll through this small town on a fjord. We had a picnic lunch and took pictures of amazing mushrooms.

Our room wasn’t ready, so we left our bags at the front desk and headed over to the dock to find our rib boat for a whale-watching trip that far exceeded our expectations. The narrow boat can take twelve passengers and there was only one other besides the four of us, a man from Kuwait (quite a weather change for him). Geared up in floatation suits, which helped protect us from the chilly wind, we sped about 20 km out through the fjord, towards the Greenland Sea, and saw about a dozen Humpback whales. It was an exhilarating ride and we were all beaming afterwards while enjoying a Thai restaurant, where I negotiated extra veggies in my curry.

8/26/16 – Geothermal Wonders

It took us all day to reach our next destination, Lake Myvatn, because we made a variety of stops along the way – Goðafoss (beautiful waterfall), pseudo craters, Icelandic horses, Hofdi (fantastical landscape), lava fields, and Namafjall with lots of smelly steam and mud pots. It rained lightly on and off throughout the day. We’re staying in a great place, Eldá Guesthouse in Reykjahlid, luckily in one of the buildings with a guest kitchen and common area. The air in the whole town is sulfur scented; it subsides from my awareness until I turn on the faucet.

We walked over to a nearby café where I had an expensive salmon burger – all food is expensive in Iceland, it’s hard to find any entrée for less than $25 and it’s easy to pay much more.

8/27/16 – Waterfalls and Hot Springs

After breakfast, we drove northeast to see Dettifoss, considered to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe (one in Norway has greater average water flow, but is half the height). Our 2.5 km loop, over black lava paths in the rain, included Selifoss, a smaller, scenic waterfall.

We had lunch, mostly leftovers from breakfast, in the deserted common room at our hotel, then took a short drive to the Myvatn Nature Baths (Jardbodin). There we enjoyed a relaxing few hours in the silky blue water wandering from hot spot to hot spot. I felt totally renewed, especially after my first good beer in this country: Einstök Icelandic Toasted Porter.

After a welcome break at our hotel, we fixed backpacking food for dinner, supplemented with fresh spinach, then took a walk over to the Reykjahlid hotel for a glass of wine. (Alcohol is only sold in special stores – far and few between outside major cities – and restaurants). Ingrid and I also ordered desert: rhubarb pie and ice cream. The pie was more like a delicate rhubarb newton, but delicious.

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