Fairy Churches and Troll Faces

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August 21st 2008
Published: January 17th 2009
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Today was spent exploring the area around Lake Myvatn. Lake Myvatn is famous, bizarrely, for having a huge midge and mosquito population... in fact it's what the area is named for!! We began our day with a walk around the lake, which is Iceland's fourth largest and apparently the world's most fertile spot on a similar latitude. Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in the area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2,300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and pseudocraters. It is apparently a paradise for bird watchers but I failed to spot many. We did see eider ducks, red throated divers and the great northern diver but for the most part it was either out of the coach window as we drove past or on the assurance of someone with binoculars that the tiny black speck we could see was in fact a bird!
We walked around the lake viewing the craters and then moved on to the Hverfjall Crater. The coach left us at the bottom of the steep slope and we struggled over the loose stones and lava pieces of the slope until we reached the rim. Hverfjall Crater was created during a short but powerful eruption some 2,800 years ago. Measuring nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. Hverfjall's cinder cone rises 656 feet (200 m). All around lies evidence of the turmoil steaming beneath the surface: the eruptions of the 1720's and the Krafla volcanic fires of the 1970's left the adjacent landscape littered with fumaroles and bubbling mudpools.
We proceeded to walk around the rim of the volcano which proved to be a very long trek indeed. While I enjoyed the views there was little else to see as the volcano itself is just an empty crater. We walked over three quarters of the way round before beginning our descent. Going down was even harder than climbing up had been. We walked down an indredibly steep slope clinging on to the loose rope hand holds that did little to help us keep our balance. The loose ground kept slipping and sliding beneath our feet and several people fell over and slid part of the way down. We arrived back on solid ground dusty and tired and sat down as our legs gave out. When we had recovered suitably we set off into the Lava Park where the cooled lava from the volcano has formed weird and wonderful shapes over the landscape. I really enjoyed walking along the little trails. It was nice to see plant life again and it was easy to imagine the weird jagged shapes of the lava were the outlines of troll figures. We climbed up to an archway in the lava and then back down where we hit a crossroads. The idea was to continue on to visit the Fairy Church but many of the group were tired and fed up with the excessive amount of walking and so headed for the coach. Determined not to miss anything I continued to follow the trails. I was glad I did as I saw quite a few birds hiding in the bushes. The Fairy Church itself is actually a lava arch. It is very pretty with bands of different coloured lava, but I suspect those who returned to the coach early aren't too disappointed about missing it.
We drove onto the local hot springs which were an exceptionally welcome rest after all our walking! The water was incredibly warm and relaxing. I don't overally understand why everyone raves about the natural hot springs in Iceland - the natural heat may be wonderful but the bottom of the pool is sandy sulphur, the water stinks and when we finally emerged my bikini was full of black sand, my skin encrusted with white flakes of mineral and I had the wonderful aroma of Eau d'sulphur which didn't abate until after I had showered a few times.
Still it was an enjoyable visit, and since smell doesn't show in photographs I'm sure it will seem far better in hindsight! We spent a long while soaking our aching muscles and enjoying being warm and relaxed. We eventually returned to the hotel, stopping en route for another quick visit to Goðafoss as it was on our way. It was nice to see the waterfall again and we walked to view it from the opposite side this time and then reconvened in the shop before heading home for dinner.

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5th February 2009

Today's Travels
Greetings Anna, Discovered your blog today and have enjoyed your naritive and pictures. Thanks for sharing your travels.
28th July 2009

nice pictures!
You've got some great panoramas on these Iceland blogs! But where's the one for "floating amongst the icebergs"?!
28th July 2009

Hmmm, not sure I have one... I'll see what I can do! :)

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