Ahh, the bliss of waking up after a decent amount of sleep

Sunday, July 1, 2007 – We awoke in Akureyri (Iceland’s second biggest town) to thick fog. The hotel has lots of tourists (German I think) staying here, but I didn’t hear them at all. We had breakfast which was included in the room. I really appreciate how the Europeans think of breakfast as more than toast and cereal. The buffet included waffles you make yourself, cereal, yogurt, fruit, ryveta crackers, hard boiled eggs, cheese slices, tomatoes, meats, breads, nutella, peanut butter, yogurt, and of course, smoked fish and pickled herring.

Not sure about pickled herring for breakfast, but did notice that there was a bottle of fish oil with shot glasses in front of it. Apparently many people around here do shots of fish oil in the morning as it makes them feel stronger. I know fish oil is good for the cholesterol, but shots of it in the morning? No thanks! I’ll get it in my salmon, etc. Greg made a funny looking waffle and we made a sandwich (I used jam thinking it was chutney, but hey, smoked fish, strawberry jam, cheese, cucumber, tomato and fish on dark black bread is okay when you are hungry, right? ) for lunch. The coffee was good and plentiful.

Like Reykjavik, Akureyri has its own version of the famous “Runtur” or “round tour” bar-hopping on foot around the hotspots of downtown. It happens on the weekends and with fewer bars and a lot more bored teenagers you’ll see from 8pm onwards a procession of cars bumper to bumper driving round and round in circles on a loop up on the hill overlooking the harbor. Kids scream out to each other which goes on for hours and hours. I didn’t hear any of this last night….

We staggered out with our luggage to the red truck shrouded in a thick fog. As we set out there were quite a few tour groups heading out at the same time. Akureyri lies along a main fjord and is a hub point for cruise ships to come in, expeditions to whale watch and other day trips. We have seen many large tour buses on the roads around here and at the sites we stop at. There was a fairly large cruise ship in the port this morning. Summer is short here so the tourism industry only has a short time to cash in on the local spots. We headed out of town over a bridge and up a big hill on the ring road (1) and had nice views looking back to the city. Within 10 minutes of the climb we were out of the fog and into brilliant sunshine. We’ll go back with a better tan than we could get in the states! Our first stop was Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods), one of Iceland’s most recognizable and easily accessible waterfalls about 40kms away from Akureyri. It was formed by glacial waters which run through it a brilliant blue color. As the story goes, at the Alping in the year 1000 Porgeir spent 24 hours meditating on the national issue of religion and decided to embrace Christianity. He then threw all his statues to the Pagan Norse gods over the waterfalls edge and gave it its name. They were gorgeous. A lot of people were here (see the afore mentioned tour groups) but Greg and I managed to get good photos and took quite some time walking all over the place.

Back on the road we headed towards Myvatn Lake, a lake which sits right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It’s the centerpiece of a rich volcanic area of lave flows, geothermal activity, craters and rock formations. The stark beauty is one of a kind. It’s a very accessible lake where you can do a variety of activities from bird watching (at Hofoi) to day hikes, touring and more. We drove around it and stopped for some photos and then headed to Hverarond, a geothermal field full of mud pots, steam vents, sulphur deposits, boiling springs and fumaroles, some of which are blowing big time. We had to walk on boardwalks b/c they want you to stay off of the red sand. It was so cool. Once you get used to (not really possible) the smell, you can take in that you are standing on the earth coming to the surface. Very interesting.

Our next stop was to Krafla, an 818 meter hight mountain whose name is now used for the entire volcanic region as well as a geothermal power station and once of Iceland’s most awesome lava fields. There are warning signs everywhere that you are in a potentially volatile and dangerous area, but that didn’t stop us. Rather than a cone-shaped peak, Krafla is a largely level system of north-south trending fissures underlaid by a great magma chamber. The ground surface is presently rising, indicating possible future activity, hence the warning signs. There is a power station there which looks like it is straight out of a James Bond film. They were all set to build this when in 1975 Krafla erupted putting plans on hold until 5 years later. THe present operation utilizes only one of its two 30 megawatt generators and 17 of the boreholes. Pretty impressive. We walked quite a ways up into the crater. The sun was shining, the sulphur was smelling and the place was awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Driving onwards we were not able to go quickly. The ring road isn’t exactly a well paved road at places and it’s hard to get going at any speed. We drove through the town of Egilsstadir, close to the town where the ferry comes over from Denmark and stocked up on water and food at the local Bonus (pig) grocery store. Driving out of town we hit a terribly paved portion of the road and heavy fog. The driving was stressful as at places it’s only wide enough for one car. We found ourselves winding down and being tired and ready to stop, pulled in at the little fishing town, Djupivogur,population of 400, a quiet unassuming village at the mouth of Berufjordur. It’s the oldest trading center in the Eastfjords serving as a commercial port since the 16th century. German merchants were trading here as early as 1589. It has several historic buildings, a few cafes and restaurants, a nice hotel on the harbor (where we are now) and is the gateway to a day trip to Papey Island nearby. Hopefully the fog will lift by morning so we can get some pictures. Had a decent dinner of cod (locally caught). Sleep will come easy tonight.