Posted by: jeanne | June 16, 2017

14 hour round trip

i believe they call it the diamond circle, as opposed to the golden circle or the full circle, or the troll peninsula circle.  being an island, people naturally think of circles when they go exploring.

but we were sitting over our first cup of coffee on wednesday, discussing the schedule – swimming/swimming, soccer/no soccer – and the weather.  it’s forecast to rain for the next almost week (so what), and wednesday was supposed to be sunny and warm.  i had to see the mayor, and there was no soccer for either boy because of games, so we thought why not go now while we can?  it was beginning to look like we weren’t going to be able to go, and i really really wanted jim and the boys to see some of the really special sights of north iceland.

the visit with the mayor was great.  he was horribly busy, so i was delayed for about 45 minutes, but since alice’s house is directly behind the mayor’s office, it was easy to dash back to the house and make a bunch of sandwiches and do other preparations.  i spent some time talking to the mayor’s assistant, who is the head of the rotary club (who gave me coffee at the pool the day before – 3 jobs…), and we are the same age, and that’s always nice.  he told me the same thing they all do, which is that they once traveled from olafsfjordur to hofsos in 2 hours.  i’ve heard this from everybody i talk to – a trip that takes over an hour by car, they once did in 20 minutes on foot.  in the snow.  i tend to take that with a huge dose of salts, as i do all irish jokes.  but what if they’re right?

the mayor listened to all my plans, only raised his eyebrows at the idea for the troll bus shelter (a shipping container and old bales of hay), asked me to draw him up a proposal by friday, and said he would run it past the planning committee.  and since they’re not a bureaucracy here, he said it should cause no problems.  then i told him i would need ladders or scaffolding and a lift for some of the murals, and he wasn’t sure.  but i’ll deal with that when i get to it.

and when that was done, i packed the boys into the car, and off we went.  it was just after noon.  our first stop was in akureyri, where i made a special trip to the red cross and salvation army (across the street from each other) to get a thank you gift for our housesitter, jasper, as well as a couple of toys for the boys, because they’d neglected to bring anything to play with for our trip.  the lady only charged us for the two large coffee mugs we bought (200kr), and gave us the toys – a soft soccer ball for avery, a little white dog like his lillie for conner).  we passed the swimming pool on the way out of town, and after the usual complaints about why we can’t go swimming, they marveled at the slides, which are still being built.  nevertheless, it’s still a great pool, and i plan to take them to it on the way to deliver jim and avery to siggi and runa for their trip back home.



the part grandpa didn’t see




our second stop, an hour later, was at the godafoss falls.  it’s right on the road, so you can’t miss seeing all the cars and tour buses parked on either side of the river.  we got out, and i made sure the boys didn’t run, or get anywhere near the edge, but even so they tried my patience a couple of times.  it’s a not horribly large falls, and there were kayakers taking the plunge and doing a competent job of it.  jim wanted to cross over the rocks to get to a better vantage point to take photos, but he didn’t bring his boots and only had his shoes that get slippery when wet, so i discouraged him, and avery and i crossed instead.  and all was great until some guy with a backpack got right in front of us and never noticed he was edging us to the edge.  and he didn’t speak english either, so he didn’t hear me warning him not to back up into us.  but the falls were magnificent, and we enjoyed our little time there, especially when we got far enough from the edge that i could let the boys run around a little.  at that point i made a sandwich for myself, and the boys had their skyr.  and we continued.


the next stop was dimmuborgir, the home of the yule lads, a bunch of juvenile delinquent trolls who act as iceland’s santa clause(s).  it’s next to myvatn lake, named after the midges who torment visitors.  they midges were out, but not so bad – we only had to drive with the windows open for awhile to flush them out of the car.  i had only stopped at the parking lot with lara when we visited in 2014.  at that time there was a large barrel with a crass solicitation for donations written by the trolls (or their managers).  now, there’s a visitor’s center and cafe, so same thing, right?  but this time, to a chorus of ‘do we have to?’ we went and walked the shortest of the trails.  it’s a truly magnificent landscape, with large lava formations at every turn.  at one point we were overtaken by a tourbusload of french and/or italian tourists, who then stopped for a lecture, blocking the path.  but that was okay, because i found i understood most of what the tourguide was saying (yay duolingo).  the boys loved the place, and jim lagged behind taking dozens of photos.



a troll cave


after our walk, we went to the gift shop so the boys could get something small for their relatives back home, amulets with runes inscribed – avery’s dad’s says love, and the boys’ mom’s says warrior.  i forget what nana’s says.  made in china, but it’s a giftshop, so what can you do?  then we stopped at the n1 gas station in myvatn, because it was almost 6pm, and i knew the boys needed something to eat.  we got 3 hotdogs, theirs with catsup only, mine with everything (crunchy fried onions and remoulade sauce), and a half order of fries (should have gotten the 1/4 order of fries, there were so many left lying in the back seat of the car when the boys were done).  jim had the last cup of coffee from our flask, we most of us went to the (free) bathroom (they charge 200kr at the giftshop in dimmuborgir)



then we drove up and over the geothermal area, passing the north’s version of the blue lagoon, with its similar pricing structure (outrageous), and drove along that part of route 1 that has marker cairns every hundred yards or so.  these cairns are hundreds of years ago (i think i remember hearing), and it’s illegal to mess with them because they used to be the only waymarkers before they put the road in.  this area is quite empty, plains with volcanos all around.

when volcanos grow under glaciers, they end up flat, not conelike

we got to the gravel road that goes north to dettifoss and asbyrgi.  only it’s not a gravel road anymore.  they have paved the road as far as dettifoss, and put in a fancy new parking lot.  they were doing that when i was there in 2014.  the new road is empty, with no signs limiting you to 90kph (that’s the top speed in iceland).

the parking lot was still pretty populated.  jim and i started to walk ahead, while the boys visited the bathroom again – rejecting the portopotties for the wooden bath house.  i had to let jim go on and double back to get the boys when it became apparent they were playing rather than peeing…


avery was getting pretty tired of walking, he’d been demanding to stay in the car every time we got out.  that’s not something i’m willing to do, because i know damn well he’ll get out and wander off.  it’s about a mile walk thru boulders and the mountains of the moon until we reached the river.  jim stopped and took more photos.  i’ve actually never seen hjm take as many photos as he did during the trip.  360.  usually i’m the one who takes all the pictures.  in venice, i would take 700, and he would take 5.




we got to the falls, with spray raining onto us even before we could see the water.  we could hear it, tho.  and an uglier, more powerful waterfall you’ll never see.  i was afraid of it, even standing far back at the viewing platforms.  so of course we went down the stairs and got closer.  and the boys were duly impressed, and connor threw a stone into it to show his bravery.  grandpa almost slipped on the trail, and i got a bunch of movies of the water falling and boiling.  very ugly.

and then we walked back.  some of the tourists we passed were wearing mosquito netting wrapped around their heads.  quite picturesque, even tho the midges weren’t bothering us.  they sure did hover around our car, tho.  maybe they like heat.

at this point it was 7pm.  the road turned to gravel and scraped dirt for the next 35 km, so we went 40kph or under the whole way (that’s about 20 miles at 20mph.  the distance map says 23km, and that it should take 39 minutes hahahahahaha).  the few campers and vans on the road with us passed whenever i could find a place to pull over, and we limped along, trying to make sure nothing happened to the car, because there is no cellphone service at all in the middle of nowhere.  we rode over the plateau, with the river off in the distance to the east.  between bouts of windswept plain with nothing but rocks on it, there was a lush alpine landscape of tiny ancient birch trees, something with fuzzy catkins also qualifying as trees, moss, heather, and sheep.

we got to hljodaklettar, going down into the river ravine past a castlelike lava formation.  the camper that was so anxious to pass us decided to spend the night at the campground here, so we waved as we passed them.  we got to the parking lot, and there was absolutely nobody there.  of course, it was 8:30 or 9 by this time, and the tourists all keep bankers’ hours.  so we were alone.  the boys ached and whined the almost mile to the river, but once we got to the enormous lava trolls they were suitably impressed.  at this point i ragged them every time they complained, because while unwilling to go along, they loved actually being there.


hjodaklettar is one of my favorite places, but i haven’t spent much time there, or gone exploring as i would have liked.  the last time i was there, with lara, it was suddenly mushroom season, and absolutely everybody was going off the path to collect mushrooms, so i did too.  they were boletus mushrooms, and they were wonderful.  in june, it was too early, but we did pass tiny blueberry bushes with the same red berries as we found on our walk up the valley here in olafsfjordur.





the trail went on from there.  we didn’t.  grandpa wasn’t even allowed back there

it was 10 when we got back to the car and left.  there was a spigot in the campground, so we refilled the canteens.  there was absolutely no water up on the plateau, but many many wash basins showing how fast the water runs in the spring (huge rocks).

our next stop, another 20km or so, along the same dirt road, brought us to asbyrgi.  i turned the wrong way on the road at first, but when we passed a line of lava cliffs i recognized, turned around and found it easily.  again, there was nobody at all there, so we drove to the far parking lot, just a short hike from the walls, and walked in to the magical lake, where in the midnight sun you can see the elves that live there.  the king of elves makes his home there, and i invited the boys to ask around and bring as many of them back home as wanted to come.  we also released some of the elves that accompanied me home back in 2014.



asbyrgi is an enormous bowl of vertical lava cliffs that was obviously once a waterfall.  geologists theorize it was formed all at once during some catastrophic flood, when somewhere in vatnajokull a volcano went off under the ice and melted everything.  it’s a magnificent bowl, and was planted with thousands (now millions) of trees back when i was a child.  so the birch trees were as old as i was.  we could tell elves live there; everything is peaceful and quiet and it feels like you’re being watched all the time; plus i kept seeing people perched on top of rocks out of the side of my eye as i passed.  we hung out among the midges down at the water’s edge, watched a mother duck and her tiny ducklings frolicking on the rocks (the water level was about a foot down from usual, leaving a white scar line all around the lake, and the waterfall had completely stopped flowing from the plateau a couple of hundred feet above).  then we wandered back to the car, made peanut butter and honey sandwiches with the last of our bread, and started back.


the ride back was uneventful.  155km to akureyri, the sign said.  the boys fell asleep as we drove along the northern edge of iceland, i dodged sheep in the road, and we watched the sun dancing with the horizon and flirting with a bank of clouds approaching from the north.


we didn’t stop until we got to husavik, and that was to buy gas at the n1, and get coffee.


i was amazed it was open, because it was close to midnight.  when i asked the girl at the register if she would be there all night, she cheerfully told me that they were closing in ten minutes, and that she’d been there for 14 hours straight.  i said me too, and suggested that we both go home to our beds and get some sleep.  we were less than half full of gas; i should have topped up at myvatn, but figured the gas stations would be open late, i don’t know why.  i got some candy for the boys, who were struggling to wake up, and as we drank our coffee, we cruised down to the harbor and looked at the various boats.  i showed the boys the space museum, which of course was closed, and the whale museum, ditto, and then we continued.  we passed a hotspring lake on the way out of town.  lara told me that at one point, there was a plan to raise alligators in that lake.  they would die outside the lake, because of the cold – what could go wrong?  the plan was nixed for some strange reason…

it was well after midnight, and the sun was still setting.


i took pictures every half hour or so, slowing the car to a stop to let jim take photos of the landscape.  at one point i was getting back up to speed and drove right into a bird who was trying to outfly me.  it was a sickening thud, and i could see the bird crashed onto the road in my wing mirror.  i felt horrible.  that bird had a family, perhaps a spouse for life.


the boys finally fell back asleep as we got to the mountain pass road that goes down into akureyri – a horribly steep decline that had me in low gear and my nerves on edge, peering past the bent and crumpled guard rails.

then we were in akureyri, going 35kph thru the deserted town, and out again.  the road to olafsjordur had had construction on it, perhaps that very same day, and the road speed went from 90 to 70 to 50 as the road turned to gravel.  i missed the signs (i was getting a little sleepy and the ground was getting a little gloomy in the sunset, tho the sun was on the way back up at this point – 1am) and ran too fast into the gravel, and slowed down, but not before hearing the engine noise suddenly get louder.  i knew that sound.


oh drat, i caused a hole in the muffler.  perhaps it was retribution for killing a bird.  after that i was particularly cautious on the road.  it was almost dark on the ground, and i was tired, and couldn’t really see all that well even tho the car lights were on.


plus there were lots of sheep wandering around, and hitting a sheep will mess up your car.  unless it’s a baby sheep, and i wouldn’t feel so bad about hitting one because it would end up as dinner, minus a messed-up shoulder.


the farmer would have to be found and compensated, of course.  it would be lots of trouble.


but we didn’t hit any sheep, and we didn’t get crushed by a landslide, and we didn’t run off the road and roll a thousand feet to the bottom of the cliff, and it was 2am when we finally got home, with connor waking up again and crying inconsolably the way he does when he should be sleeping.


the boys fell into bed, jim and i unpacked and put away all our stuff from the car, and definitely did not read our chapter.  because we had to be up on time in the morning, to do a kid’s workshop, take the boys swimming and to soccer, and deal with the hole in the muffler.

i’ll get to that in the next post.



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