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Published: January 15th 2009
We set out early this morning and had a long morning drive. The winding roads took us up over the hills and into the fog. We passed the 'Giant's Staircase' a series of natural steps in the hillside, as well as passing several beautiful waterfalls. The photographers and nature lovers on the coach where clamouring to be let off but the driver kept on insisting there were no suitable places to stop. As we drove higher we were surrounded by mist and fog. The landscape was very green and lush... when it was visable at all through the swirling white mists. Our drive took us through a whole range of Icelandic scenery. As we got further north we drove through a very desolate area that looked like another planet. In fact it was on almost identical terrain in the Askja region a little further south that Neil Armstrong and his colleagues were sent to train in 1968, prior to their landing on the moon.
As we finally began to see signs of green, and civilisation, we stopped for a tea break in a small village. We visited the little church, were amazed by the authentic turf roofed petrol station, and savoured
our hot drinks in a log cabin. Then it was onwards to Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall which tumbles down the huge gorge of the Jokulsa-a-Fjollum river.
The first thing we saw on arriving at the site was the smaller waterfall, Selfoss. I considered it a huge, powerful, breathtaking waterfall... but that was before the walk on to Dettifoss! The scenery is stunning and even before we reached the falls I was impressed by the sight of the river winding its way between the stark grey cliffs. We stopped to view Selfoss and then began the walk to Dettifoss, picking out an almost invisible trail over the rocks. When we arrived at the waterfall we had our picnic lunch with perhaps one of the most splendid sights I've seen yet. Dettifoss is 44 metres high and 100 metres wide and an estimated 110,000 gallons (that's about 416,395 litres) of water passes over the falls every second!
As lunch was finished and the photgraphs had been taken and endless minutes had been spent gaping at the sheer force of the huge falls, we grudgingly turned to backtrack towards Selfoss and then the car park.
We headed towards the volcanic area surrounding
the Viti crater. We walked along past large cracks in the earth towards a hill that showed large patches of sulphur on it's slopes. As we drew closer we could see steam rising from beyond it and began to smell the distinctive scent of sulphur. We found the first part of the park had wooden walkways to follow - probably a very good idea as the pools were steaming and boiling mud bubbled around the edges. We had a long walk through the cooled lava formations. We had to tread carefully as steam arose in various places. As we reached the crest of the hill we could see the entire lava flow covering the landscape around us. We drove onto the Viti crater itself. On March 29th, 1875, a violent eruption in the Dyngjufjoll Mountains finally marked the end of the Askja eruptions. This explosive eruption formed the crater Viti, north of Askja Lake. Since the end of the eruption, water has collected in Viti. Because of geothermal heat, the water is warm and quite suitable for taking a dip, not that we had time to do so, or the inclination to climb down the slopes to the rather deep
water below, no matter how inviting the warm blue water looked! Viti is over 150 metres in diameter and there is a distance of almost 61 metres from the rim down to the surface of the water at the bottom of the crater. The water itself is around 8 metres deep.
We drove onto another area where boiling mud pools or 'solfataras' covered the terrain. The smell was awful. There is no word to describe just how bad the stink is. We walked towards the first little mud pool with our hands over our mouths and noses and as we leaned over to look closer I had to back away for a minute to avoid being sick. After a while we picked up the trick of breathing through our mouths with our hands making an ineffectual filter over them. The landscape is truly breath-taking but it is easier to asppreciate through photographs! We spent some time there and then retreated to the safety of the coach.
We continued on towards our hotel in the Myvatn area. We stopped briefly at Goðafoss, an incredibly beautiful waterfall whoose name means 'waterfall of the gods'. In the year 999 or 1000 CE the
Lawspeaker Þorgeirr Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. After his conversion it is said that upon returning from the Alþingi, Þorgeirr threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall. Goðafoss is around 12 metres high by 30 metres wide and exceptionally pretty with the waters of the river Skjálfandafljót cascading down between the rocks in three streams.
After walking around near Goðafoss and picking up a few emergency rations in the nearby shop (mostly postcards and chocolate!) we drove onto our nearby hotel. The hotel is lovely and very comfortable with free internet access (always very important!), stunning views of the hills and lakes all around, and a swimming pool. The slight downside is the shared bathrooms again and the fact that all the water smells like sulphur. I tried to compensate by using as much fruity smelling shampoo as possible but there is a definite aroma of sulphur that clings to us all despite our efforts to the contrary!!
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