Posted by: jeanne | July 23, 2014

a real day trip

to the tune of 11 hours on the road.  ugh.  i have spent much of the day recovering.  but oh was it worth it.  my friend lara offered to do something nice for me, and i asked to go to asbyrgi.  at one point it was going to be a huge bid deal of a road trip, but she had a meeting in siglufjordur at 8 pm and that meant just going one place, and that would be asbyrgi.  we left just after 9 am.

first there’s always the drive to akureyri, thru the tunnel and along iceland’s longest fjord.  this morning it was foggy until we got to dalvik, and then the sun came out and i lamented deciding not to bring the sunglasses.  fortunately the sun wasn’t out for some of the day, and i could relax.  i also rued my thick lined tights and swedish wool army sweater and heavy boots.  i never did touch the wax jacket in the back seat, either.  but i spit on the idea of sunscreen.


this is how it looks coming toward dalvik, with some lovely valley marching all teh way inland from the sea.  iceland is so cool.


after we got thru akureyri, we went up the ring road, route 1, across eyjafjordur and thru the pass over the next range of mountains and into another completely different valley system.  this one was wide, with lots of farms, and lara tells me the people are extremely well read and strong willed, but also innovative and decisive.  her daughter in law is from here, and she loves her whole family.  why have wishy washy relatives?

anyway, this is going thru the pass.  i might look it up and tell you which pass, just so you know.  the green stuff is trees, actual trees that weren’t planted, but which have grown right up the side of the mountain.  which says a lot in a country where the wind takes the dirt away if you let it.  the dirt, being volcanic, is like sand; no, like dust, and if it dries out, it cracks and crumbles, the wind takes it, and you end up with the kind of scenery i saw in the highlands, nothing but rocks.  what i had thought were volcano bombs turns out to have just been dirtless land that goes on forever.  the definition of wasteland.


our first civilization was husavik, which ten or so years ago was a tiny little fishing village, but is now the center of the universe for whale watching.  those little smudges on the picture below are a boatload of tourists with their bulky jackets and their cameras, all paying an arm and a leg to go out whale watching.  but one of the reasons husavik is so successful at attracting the tourists is that they work in teams.  when one boat spots a whale, they call the others over, and everybody gets in on the act.  tourists are happy, they tell their friends, and suddenly there are thousands of tourists swamping the place.  but the locals can’t complain, since tourists are what keeps lamb on the table all year.  lara and i had lunch at a great little place – icelandic sushi – and watched them tromp around in their all weather gear and backpacks.


then we took in the exploration museum.  lara knows the people who started it (she knows everybody in iceland), so we stopped in.  first thing you see is this viking with chain mail around his head and homemade clothing, and great leather shoes i got a closeup of so i might could make a pair myself.


upstairs they had an exhibition about how iceland was used to train the astronauts, including pictures of neil armstrong and others climbing up volcanic deposits.  this is stuff i’m pretty sure they don’t cover in the tour back at canaveral.


on the way out of town we met a hitchhiker from germany, and took him to asbyrgi with us.  on the way, lara mentioned that there is a place in iceland that has fossils, and this aroused my curiosity because a volcanic island shouldn’t have fossils.  turns out they’re not technically fossils, because they’re still shells and not rock, but there are layers of shells in the lava, under layers of lava, and layers of more shells.  the shells on the bottom were much larger than the ones higher up.  i brought my hammer jsut in case i needed it, but as you can see the rocks are pretty loose, and there are embedded shells everywhere.  lara insists these are mediterranean shells, and if that’s true then wtf.


what you see below is a stranded and wrecked boat, falling apart on the hillside.  and there’s a troll right in front of it.  surely anybody can see that.


there are trolls everywhere, like the rock to the right.  you’re looking up the valley carved out by the glacial river.  the entire hillside is about 150 feet tall, and there are shells all in there in layers.  the white stuff in the foreground is shells.



here’s that boat again, with the curve of the bay.  another german guy was there, arriving soon after us down this badass hill that looked like it had been scooped out of sand.  he had just bought the little house/factory at the bottom of the hill, right behind where i was standing to take this picture.  he was going to turn it into a guesthouse, with a tremendous view and such a peaceful setting.  and fossils.


you can see here where we were.  husavik is just barely out of the picture on the bottom.  we stopped in tungulending to see fossils.  it’s a great place for northern lights because there is zero light pollution, as nobody lives in the mountains across the way.


then we stopped at a place to collect pebbles.  but not just any pebbles, these are volcanic, with volcano holes in them, and they’re jewelry worthy, so i’m bringing them back to meg, who makes kickass jewelry.


while we were there the sun came back out for a moment and illuminated this hill behind the beach.  the beach went on forever, on two sides.  one side faced the ocean, and the other fronted a lake.


and then we were at asbyrgi, capital city of the hidden people, carved out from the lava by the same river that goes over dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in europe.  massive movement of water.  it moved on after it carved out asbyrgi, and so did we, down that little road to the left.


asbyrgi.  this shot is from the visitors’ center looking into the horseshoe shaped valley, with vertical cliffs (not just mostly vertical either).  you can see the graying of the back wall.  that’s due to distance.  the entrance is over a mile away from the visitors’ center, too.


at one point deep into the canyon there’s a parking lot, and it was full of cars.  you walk in along this path, with mature trees all around, mostly birch.  the really white birches are the native trees, the darker ones are from norway or someplace.  according to lara.  the leaves taste different, too.  all the way into this area i could feel little elves holding my hands.  ragnhildur tells me that asolfur the elf met her while she was here and asked to go home with her because where she lives needed more elves.  i was kind of hoping to take some elves back home with me because god knows we need more elves in atlanta.  they could work in film.  oh, right, gremlins are already working in the movies.


in fact, speaking of elves, can you see the troll at the very top of this cliff face?  he’s sticking out his tongue at us.  and if you look, you can see troll faces all over this photo, and all over the entire place.  what a wonderful, peaceful area, with the cliffs blocking most of the wind most of the time.  it got hot in the sun, and washed out most of my photos.


but at some point we got to the edge of the rocks, leaned our backs up against them and sat in the grass, or on rocks, and just looked at where we were.  the cliffs are at least 200 feet high, probably more.  there’s the sound of water coming from a cascade at the right side of the photo.  the pile of moss covered rocks is massive, and the rocks are car sized.  and the lake below is quite large, and many shades of green.  it’s a magical place, alright.


the next stop, down a wonderful gravel road that went thru the same kind of moonscape as in the highlands, was Hljóðaklettar, which i’m still fumbly trying to pronounce.  our guide told me that the reason for the moonscape is because of the wind, which takes all the dust-like soil away.  they are experimenting with different plants and even a sort of net to try and retain soil, and i wish them luck.  in places there is soil, and then it’s not, and the difference is amazing.  the soil is maybe 6-8″ deep, with loads of grasses and heathers, and then it just stops, the way it does at the water’s edge, and thereafter it’s bare ground and rocks rocks rocks.

anyway, Hljóðaklettar is lava formed into hexagonal shapes, much like giant’s causeway in northern ireland.  there it’s very rare and only occurs in the one place.  here it’s almost everywhere, well, it’s common, and in this part of the park – the same water that carved asbyrgi – it’s all there is.  and it’s huge.  the rock below must be a hundred feet high, and it’s all columnar basalt.  you can see the tiny figures at the base of it.  and that’s only one.  we didn’t have time to actually explore, because there’s loads more.


a closeup.  ain’t it cool?


an extreme closeup.  each rock is a foot or 18″ across.


this is one of the larger formations across the river, which is called jokusla, which i think means glacial river.  it is amazingly massive, very fast, and incredibly dangerous.  i suggested my rafting friends would like to go down that, and the suggestion was received with horror.  it’s got more water going thru it than the amazon.


here’s a closeup of the knees of that troll woman in the picture above.  see how the columnar lava looks like it burst out of a small hole.  i have no idea how this stuff was formed.  the entire area is just one big lava field, or many big lava fields.  and we all know that trolls and hidden people are thick in these kinds of places.  that’s why you don’t throw rocks – you might hit one.


oh yeah.  while coming back to the car from our short hike, which you can see it in the background of the picture below, we found some mushrooms.  normally i don’t pick wild mushrooms, but every grandmother and mother and several fathers and lots of kids were going after these things, which have just started popping up everywhere.  they are birch boletes, a kind of cepe, and boy were they good.  i picked this handful and brought it home, and cooked it up that night with butter, garlic, onions, celery and carrots.  yummy delicious, and i didn’t die.


then we were in a rush to get back.  we stopped at dettifoss, but the car park was a mile from the waterfall, it was thick with tour busses and cars, and we had to be back in town for a meeting at 8 pm, so we said the hell with it, and carried on.  it was okay; i’ve seen the waterfall before.  in movies.  and it’s not so much beautiful like most waterfalls, but it’s powerful, and the power of it is what’s so special.  it’s the most powerful waterfall in europe, and i can’t imagine a stronger one in the states.

then it was on to myvatn, where they have the usual handcraft shop.  this one featured icelandic wool underwear, and if they didn’t cost a hundred bucks apiece i would have gotten some for the men in my life.  sorry, guys.  the wool must itch like crazy next to the soft and danglies.


we passed this cool little lake in myvatn.  it’s got signs all over saying it’s unhealthy to bathe there, mainly because the temperature is unregulated, so cool in spots and near boiling in other spots.  they direct you to the nature bath center, with gift shop and restaurant, where a nature bath costs big bucks.  our guide says that back in the day, the nature baths was a hot tub in someone’s yard, and it was just fine bathing in the lake we passed.  but that’s tourism for you, take a good thing and slap a price tag on it.

btw, the blueness of the lake is not because of reflections from the sky, but because the lake is blue.  really blue.  manganese blue.


the nature bath center, notable for the pillow lava and the surrounding hills.


in the middle ground is lava, lots of lava.  in the background are the mountains surrounding myvatn, which is on the mid atlantic rift, and a very active seismic area.  i took this photo from the car, as we didn’t stop again, not even for godafoss.


and we arrived back at the residency at 5 minutes to 8.  it’s 15 minutes to the meeting in siglufjordur, and you’re not considered late until you’re 10 minutes after the arranged time, so everything was great.

thanks again lara, i owe you one.  but there’s nothing like this in atlanta, so it’ll be a poor trade if you ever come there for a vacation.



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