We have a fitful night because the room is very hot despite the radiators being off. Only a portion of the window slightly opens so that does not help much.
Breakfast is nice with the usual fare plus some excellent Danish pastries. We then fill the van up and drive, into increasingly nice weather, to Godafoss: a scenic waterfall with lots of tourists.
Shortly afterwards we reach the Sukutustadir Gesthouse on lake Myvatn. It’s just before noon and our room isn’t ready yet, but we get the keys all the same and decide to go for one of the suggested hikes in our roadbook. We choose to wander through the strange lava rock formations at Dimmuborgir and climb the Hverfell volcano, a trek of four hours. We first meander along a track that crosses a lava field that solidified when it met the waters of the lake, so the rocks have frozen into tortuous shapes. It is a Tolkienesque landscape: like the part where Frodo is approaching Mordor with Sam and Gollum (Emyn Muil, for LOTR geeks).
Then there is a stretch in more flat and eroded terrain and we climb the volcano by the hard path (the easy path is on the other side). It’s pretty steep and difficult to climb because the volcanic sand is soft and shifting, but we are rewarded by a spectacular view from the rim of the caldera. The crater is deep and some Slovenians (we assume) scratched out a big “SLOVENIA” in the sand at the bottom of the crater. It’s windy up here, but we decide to picnic anyway because it is 3pm and we are starting to starve. It’s pita sandwich on the menu, with ginger nut cookies for dessert. It’s Chris who chose them, and Ryo stops suddenly after the first bite: “ugh, what’s in these, garlic?”
As it is getting late we walk just a portion of the rim before going back down by the easy path and retracing our steps along the foot of the volcano and across Emyn Muil to the parking. When we finally reach the last portion of our hike, we are surrounded by a tide of old folk spilling out of a entire fleet of buses. We suspect they have come from one of the gigantic cruise ships we saw in the port of Akureyri. Sandra has to get out of the van and shoo them away so that we can back out and leave the site.
We drive over to the other side of the lake, to the bird sanctuary. There is a little bird museum located on the farm Ytri-Neslönd beside Lake Myvatn. It was built by the family and friends of the late local farm lad Sigurgeir Stefansson who collected stuffed birds and their eggs. His very complete collection contains a specimen of all of the Icelandic breeding birds but one (they don’t say which).
Skye then roams the marshland in search of the local ducks. Unfortunately, he will not see the endemic Barrow’s Goldeneye and will forever rue the missed opportunity. In consolation we head to the local baths: they are less modern than the Blue Lagoon, but just as warm and pleasant after a day schlepping in volcanic dust. Skye even manages to order a beer delivery and they bring us a couple of local Viking brews to sip in the pool. Ryo prefers the Amber to the Blonde, for the record.
We are now cleansed and comfortably numb, and thinking it’s time for dinner. There is a pub in the nearby town of Reykjahlid. The Gamli Baerinn is cosy and serves honest pub grub. It is full of tourists but we manage to grab a table for three pretty quickly and order some smoked fish followed by burgers (salmon for Sandra and lamb for Skye). We normally really like smoked fish but in Iceland all the smoked fish we’ve tasted has a peculiar aroma that makes us wonder what they smoke it on. Burning tires, maybe?
It’s been a very long day and it is time to head back to our Guesthouse. Our room is actually in a shipping container: it’s functional with comfortable beds and has good radiators to dry a bit of laundry: if your heating is running full blast at the peak of summer, it’s gotta be Iceland!