Monday, June 23, 2008

Northwest Iceland: The Mývatn District 16 May cont'd

16th May 2008
The Mývatn District

After washing up and a nice lunch, we drive to the last two destinations in the The Hverfjall & Dimmuborgir Trail to make up the time we lost this morning.

The classic tephra ring Hverfell stands prominently, 463m above the lava fields east of the lake. It appeared 2500 years ago in a cataclysmic eruption. The 1040m-wide crater serves as a Mývatn landmark, and it is one of Iceland's most interesting mountains.

This is the starting point to the top of Hverfell. The walk takes about 15 minutes, the path gets steeper near the top.

The crater is comprised of loose gravel and resembles a mound of ball bearings.

Close up on the crater floor. Because of damage to the formation, the crater floor is closed to hikers.

The pseudocraters on Lake Mývatn, view from Hverfell.

The way up ends at this point, on the right of this narrow path is the edge of the crater.

Descending is not easy, the steep slope is full of loose and running stones. Our car is a small little dot in the middle of the picture.

This is the starting point of the descend. See how steep the path is. I only can see our car.

This is when we are halfway down, where the gradient is more gentle. The path will lead to where our car is.

At the foot of the Hverfell, it looks like the hostile landscape on Mars.

Full view of Hverfell, on our way out to the main road.

Handsome Icelandic Horses, curious enough to come close enough to check us out

They are friendly enough to let us touch and feed them

Close up on the horses

Back to the main road, moving on to Dimmuborgir, the ending point of The Hverfjall & Dimmuborgir Trail.

Dimmuborgir (dimmu "dark", borgir "cities" (or "forts"); is a large area of unusually shaped lava fields east of Mývatn in Iceland. The Dimmuborgir area is composed of various caves and rock formations, remnants of volcanic activity that are perhaps reminiscent of an ancient collapsed citadel, with columns spewing plumes of sulfuric smoke. In Icelandic folklore the Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions, and is the purported dwelling-place of elves, trolls, and Santa Claus/Father Christmas. People also say that Dimmuborgir is the entrance to hell.

These oddly shaped pillars and crags are created 2000 years ago by lava. The lava flows across the older Hverfell lava fields and is dammed into a fiery lake in the Dimmuborgir basin. When the surface of this lake cooled, a domed roof formed over the still-molten material below. It is supported by pillars of older igneous material welded by the heat of the lava lake. When the dam finally broke, the molten lava drains in stages and the odd pillars of Dimmuborgir remain, mark with terraces at various surface levels. The remaining formations contain natural arches, caves and zoomorphic features.

Main gate

View of the area from the main gate

If you take a closer look, this scrub is silvery!!

Various Rock Formations, Arches & Caves:

The pseudocraters on Lake Mývatn, view from Dimmuborgir.

Dine Out @ Vogafjós Cowshed Café
We decide to have early dinner after Dimmuborgir, then go back hotel to do some packing and laundry before heading to the nature bath at night. In fact, we spot this place when we come out halfway from The Hverfjall & Dimmuborgir Trail this afternoon. It will not open until 2pm.

Cowshed Café situates 2.5km south of Reykjahlíð (where we stayed) and the country charm makes this place unique. From the dining hall, one can watch the cow being milked mechanically and patrons can order fresh milk straight from the cow.

Road sign of Cowshed Café

A stable of cows

Interior of the café

Outside view from the café within

Milking of the cow, as view from the café. Surprisingly the barn smell doesn't seep through the glass partition.

The surroundings of Cowshed Café. The Café also own the sheep farm.

The sheep and lambs.

Reykjahlíð Church
We drop by this place on our way to the Nature Bath because of the amazing history of this church. It's worthy taking some time to admire the beauty of the mother nature's past fury here.

During the hugh Krafla eruption of 1727, the Leirhnjúkur crater (which we will visit the next day), 11km northeast of Reykjahlíð, kicked off a two-year period of volcanic activity, sending streams of lava along old glacial moraines and past Reykjahlíð to the Lake Mývatn shore. On 27 August 1729 the flow ploughed through the village, destroying farms and buildings, but, amazingly, the well-placed wooden church, which sat on a low rise, was spared - some say miraculously - when the flow parted and missed it by only a few metres. It was rebuilt on its original foundation in 1876.

The nearly 300-year-old cooled lava.

Mývatn Nature Baths
This is the highlight of the day. After an eventful day, imagine one dip and relax amidst clouds of steam rising up from a fissure deep in the Earth's surface, and in a pool of geothermal water drawn from depths of 2,500 metres. That's life......

Main entrance

Surroundings of the bath, in fog

This is the heaven

I must say this is a fantastic experience. It's 2047hrs and the sky is still bright. My body is in a pool of water 38-40ºC and yet my head is freezing when the wind blows at 4ºC. The water that pumps into the pool is at 100ºC (see sign on the right). You can see the heated stream of water if you go near to the pipes but you will not get scalded. There is another pool that contains a hotter water. Taking this picture is difficult, we have to take turn to get up from the pool fast, take the picture in split seconds before the body starts losing heat to the chilly wind.

Frankly speaking, this bath is nothing compared, in terms of facilities, services and price to the famous Blue Lagoon which we will visit at the end of the trip. However, I still prefer this one to the Blue Lagoon because of its rustic settings and environment. It makes one feel that one is bathing in the middle of a volcano. Blue Lagoon is more commericalised as it caters to tourists. On the contrary, this bath is mainly setup for the inhabitants of the Mývatn region.

Click to see next - Northwest Iceland: The Mývatn District 17 May


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