Day 6 – Eyjafjarðarsveit via Goðafoss to Reykjahlíð on Lake Mývatn – 72 miles
Rainy, 48°, slight breeze. Slow start today on purpose. Rain will clear later, giving us a window to dry and to pack up gear. It feels warmer without the stiff the breeze from last night. It moved the tent around a bit but again, not worryingly so. I took advantage of the time to make coffee for everyone in the Hotel.
Today we’re making for Lake Mývatn for a two-day rest, using that time to explore boiling mud pits, waterfalls, and the peninsula to the north. It’ll also be nice to not break camp in the morning.
The ride there is like another planet, across more lava fields following a winding blacktop ribbon. First the moon, as we saw in the Snæfellsnes, then Mars, and back again with colours changing from black soil to broken red and brown rock. It’s cold at 1,000 feet across the lava. These seem newer than the others we encountered. The surface is a scab, crusty and cracked with stress. Some areas – you can smell the sulfur miles ahead – still fester in unhealthy ochres, yellows, browns, and verdigris. I wonder if the colouring and texture indicates age of the flow? Stacked stone pylons follow a path, often parallel with the road, as we ride. Was this the old path before the paved road? Or maybe it’s for horses and hikers now? We see no sheep because there’s no vegetation. On the older flows, some lichen is beginning to cling. The lichen seems to cover the rock, breaking it down, forming an environment for midges, who mix with the black soil when they die, and providing a bed for larger plants and greener grass to later root.
We stop by Goðafoss first, one of Iceland’s famed large waterfalls. The mist it makes can be seen from afar as we approach. It looks like a steaming hot spring but for the lack of sulfur smell. The 1km hike in is strenuous in armoured ‘cycle gear and stiff, high boots but the view is worth it. It’s almost too big to be believed and left most viewers speechless. The area around it was eerily quiet except for the sound of falling water.
We have lunch in Mývatn at a small café – $25 lamb cheeseburgers and $12 draughts – secure the campsite, then explore a bit.
Past Mývatn we come to the large geothermal field of Hverir. It looks and smells like a wasteland, full of sulfurous steam escaping fissures, fumaroles, and boiling mud pits. We notice some serious vehicles there, like Paris-Dakar contenders. Why do they always seem to have German plates?
There’s a power plant here, its cooling water fueling the spa at Mývatn Nature Baths, much like the Blue Lagoon in the south. It’s inviting for a before-dinner dip and we took advantage despite the high price compared to public pools and baths.
The camp is at a lovely site in Reykjahlíð on the shore of Mývatn. They have wonderful showers, communal cooking buildings, and due to the cold wind from the south over the lake, we set up the tarp for shelter, testing our ability to rig it securely against the wind.
But it’s cold and raining again so we move to the communal cooking building. The steam from the isobutane stoves condenses on the stretched canvas ceiling, making the inside rain almost as much as the outside.
I spot an orange child’s snow-sled against the registration building, loaded with backpacks, and skis stacked nearby. Did they cross the glacier? I asked in awe when they appeared. “No, we tried, but weather was too bad; we had to turn back.” In August.
As we were enjoying some “locally foraged” snacks from the market, another herd of Iceland horses rode by just on the horizon.
The find of the trip is Oscar brand powdered bouillon. That night it became tradition to have a cup of warm broth before bed. Oxse (beef) first, but it was so good we picked up and tried all the other flavours too. The lamb is a bit gamey, chicken is decent, duck is great once it grows on you, but beef is the best.
Some of us are getting hats and gloves tomorrow no doubt.