Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 23: July 18, 2011

We wore out the word "wow" today. Iceland is full of natural sites that can only be described using superlatives and what must seem like exaggerations. But the adjectives I've been using in this blog really don't do justice to the experiences.

The weather god chose to smile on us today, as we cycled 45 km from the guest house in Grimsstadir to Myvatn, a large, beautiful lake in a volcanically-active area. Huge white clouds lumbered slowly across the blue sky, which somehow seemed bigger, as we cycled through treeless lava fields. My grandfather in Oklahoma would have called it a "big sky." We rode through sections where the ground for miles around had been ripped apart and twisted by volcanic forces, shoving up black shafts and gouging out mini craters.

Just outside Myvatn, we parked our bikes next to the tourist busses at Hverir, a scene of bubbling, boiling acid pools emitting a strong sulfur smell. There were compact mounds of rock belching out white steam that almost seemed like a prop you might find in a Disney theme park. But this was real, and the acid pools were dangerous. A sign said that they were 80 - 100 C (around 175 - 210 F) degrees and steadily eating away at the rock around them. Definitely not a good place for a four-year old to slip and fall, so I held Saya's hand throughout. Sho pinched his nose, complaining that it smelled like rotten eggs and asked me incredulously how I could stand the smell. "I got used to bad smells changing your diapers," I teased.

Once in Myvatn, I decided to take advantage of the clear skies and splurged on a 2-hour "flight-seeing" air plane ride on Myflug Air. Check out some of the pictures below. Zooming in a 6-seater Cessna through the air and covering so much ground was a disorienting contrast to the deliberate, intimate experience of cycling. We flew over the bizarre "pseudo craters" at Skutustadir, the dramatic explosion crater Hverfjall, and one of Iceland's most recent lava flows at Krafla. The frozen black river spread out below us like a geology demonstration. We circled over Iceland's largest caldera, Askja, and over Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. The streaming mist from the massive water flow was visible from miles away. And we flew to the northern tip of Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe. Sho, Saya, and I had hiked on the tip of one of the glacier's southern fingers a couple of weeks ago, and I greeted the glacier like an old friend, marveling at the monstrous beauty. For a moment, I feared that the plane might crash land in the vast empty expanse of snow and rock.


He are some pics:

Saya practicing her cycling skills at the guest house where we stayed:

We ate lunch here on the road side:

Hverir bubbling pool:

View while cycling into Myvatn:

Our plane:

Myvatn from above:

Our pilot:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post


  1. Hi Charles: It's Jean from the Reykjavik bike tour. You guys are finally in the part of Iceland that we visited on our birding trip. Lake Myvatn is really neat. Don't you love how Icelanders expect personal responsiblity and only have one little rope barrier between boiling mud pits and visitors! It's the same way at Dettifoss and Geysir. In the States, there would be much bigger barriers to protect the site operators from liability.
    Keep an eye out around Myvatn for Gyrfalcons. There are six nests of these big falcons around Myvatn. Iceland only has two native raptor species so any big raptor that flies by, especially if it is whitish, is a Gyrfalcon. We saw 2 adults and 8 chicks in that area.

  2. Thanks Jean. Sho and I think we saw an adult Gyrfalcon on the ride out of Myvatn, on the way to Husavik. We are having fun learning about the various birds squaking at us as we cycle through their territory!