Iceland, part 2

Another delay in posting – sorry about that!

So, we left off on Route 1 headed north to Akureyri. Now, Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland after Reykjavik (which has about 60% of Iceland’s population in and around the capital). Akureyri has a population of 17,000 people. Plus tourists.

We had dinner on a rooftop patio overlooking Akureyri that night, which was really lovely.

View of part of downtown Akureyri, looking up at the church. It's 10:10pm.

View of part of downtown Akureyri, looking up at the church. It’s 10:10pm.

The next morning, we set out to see Dettifoss. You may know it as the waterfall at the beginning of the movie Prometheus. But we got to see it in real life, and it is a force of nature. It is a large and powerful waterfall – not poetic, but raw. The churning water flowing over the 40 metre drop looks like cement because it’s so full of sand and dirt from the lava rock desert the upstream river flows through.

This waterfall doesn't gracefully drape itself over the cliff face. It pounds 40 metres down.

This waterfall doesn’t gracefully drape itself over the cliff face. It pounds 40 metres down.

We also hiked up to Selfoss, which is the mere 10 metre high waterfall slightly upstream. We tried to hike down to see the other waterfalls along the river, but the “Challenging” hiking trail, which had us scaling rock falls on cliff faces to reach the dry river bed where the river course used to be, switched to “Difficult” with the addition of a climbing rope hooked “permanently” for hikers over two large boulders, disappearing down amongst some additional rock fall, to make it to the new river course below. Presumably, it would have helped one lower themselves the rest of the way to the chasm floor, the equivalent of the cliff face over which a truly impressive waterfall likely once cascaded. Alas, we felt that this might be a sign that we were underprepared for the rest of that particular loop, so we opted to circle back (hiking back up the other bank/cliff of the dry river bed – this time over a black volcanic sand dune) to Dettifoss. The only place that had significant greenery in the area was the spot that received most of the spray from Dettifoss.

We investigated Krafla, which last erupted sometime in the 1970s. We scaled the caldera of Viti (which happened in the 1700s) and took a look around, got a little wobbly-squirmy about how high up we were and how very far we would roll should we stumble and fall, and then headed back to the car. The car itself almost didn’t make it up the flank of the volcano, it was so steep. They have set up a geothermal power station there to take advantage of the heat, and so we had to drive under a little rectangular “doorway” they made in the tubing feeding the main generating station, which crosses the road.

And we finally stopped at Godafoss for a look. It’s a very lovely waterfall. Also very filled with tourists. That night, we tried take out from the Indian Curry Hut around the corner from our BnB studio apartment. It was really good. We had vegetable korma and prawn masala and naan bread.

Godafoss, the falls of the Gods, so named because an Icelandic chieftain tossed his Norse god idols into the falls when he decided that Icelandic should be a Christian country.

Godafoss, the falls of the Gods, so named because an Icelandic chieftain tossed his Norse god idols into the falls when he decided that Iceland should be a Christian country.

We drove north the next day to see how far we could go, and what it looked like up there. The north coast of Iceland is really gorgeous, and smells of ocean and white clovers. We actually made it within about 10 km of the Arctic Circle, within 5 km of the 66th parallel, but our car could have potentially been damaged by the back roads we would have had to drive to close that gap, so we turned at Arctic Henge and headed back to Akureyri.

Just past Husavik, looking back towards the mountains near Akureyri and the fjord we just drove around.

Just past Husavik, looking back towards the mountains near Akureyri and the fjord we just drove around.

Alas, the next day, we had to drive back to Reykjavik to drop off the rental car and prepare to fly home. We kept to the Route 1 we had travelled on the way to Akureyri, and set out early, before anything was really open except a few gas stations. That was something we weren’t used to – useful things not opening until well after 8:00 or 9:00am. We hit some rough weather passing through the western lands, and used the tunnel to drive under Hvalfjordur.

We had another lovely dinner at K-Bar, and spent the next morning wandering around sunny Reykjavik before going back to the hotel to catch our bus to the airport. We tried to find the CCP offices, the creators of Eve Online, but we didn’t wander quite far enough.

Our flight was at 5:00pm, so we re-lived 5-6pm a few times. We flew over central Greenland on the way back, which was quite striking. We flew over Nuuk, which is a town that I’m now familiar with due to my research at work.

The eastern coast of Greenland.

The eastern coast of Greenland.

Close up on a tongue of glacier flowing to the ocean.

Close up on a tongue of glacier flowing to the ocean.

Western coast of Greenland, and more tongues of glaciers meeting the ocean.

Western coast of Greenland, and more tongues of glaciers meeting the ocean.

Iceland was gorgeous, and we want to go back to hike the trail between Skogafoss and Thorsmork, and potentially be better prepared for the Dettifoss hike. Greenland’s landscape was amazing from the air, although I suspect it’s far more difficult to get to those places as a tourist.

And that was our big trip for this year. It was a great adventure!

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