On a damp and miserable Thursday morning I set off to get the bus to go camping in Mývatn. I got a city bus to what I thought would be a main bus station, but turned out to be a bus shelter on the side of the road, for a 6.5hr journey to Akureyri. Turns out it’s the right stop, the driver takes visa (€90 one way) and there’s wifi and chargers and with regular rest stops it’s a plush journey! The landscape was rolling hills with the odd swirl of mist until we got to the north, with more dramatic mountain ranges, topped with snow.
Camping in Mývatn
Bjarg campsite (roughly €10/night incl hot water) is in a really pretty location by the shores of the lake. Myvatn, a protected nature reserve, has more types of duck than anywhere else in the world. Including little flocks of ducklings running between tents. And you know why? Because they can gorge themselves stupid on the murderous legions of mosquitoes, midges and flies. On a warm sunny evening you need a lot of repellent. But still it’s beautiful. So first to set up the tent. For the second time in my life. Ok it’s not perfect but it’s not bad. Having only once slept in a tent I keep waking up whenever there was a flapping noise, not sure if it was normal or that my tent about to take off. There are lots of campers, mostly with cars, which if I had the budget, would be nice but I’m sticking with hitching, the occasional bus and my own two feet.
Hiking around Mývatn
So to test my gear, and abilities, I started the next day with a 15km trek to strange and rugged Dimmuborgir lava fields, onwards to an extinct volcano Hverfjall cutting across some open moorland and lava fields to Myvatn Nature Baths (what they call the Blue Lagoon of the North) for a well-earned soak and some relaxation. It’s much nicer than the overcrowded Blue Lagoon, and the campsite can give you discounted tickets. The baths themselves are warm but not that hot, do your muscles a favour and go for the 41°C pool and steam room, they make the outside air seem pleasantly cool rather than freezing. So far I’ve learned that unless I’m only going a couple of km I can’t carry the pack far. All loaded with food and water it’s just over 20kg and the terrain can be tough going. The volcano was like climbing a 230m sandhill in wind that wanted you to go back down the fast way. I’m not used to the poles so hard to say if I like them. I’m having a love hate relationship with my heavy hiking trousers. I really appreciated them on the volcano, but warmer than 12°C and moving they’re too hot. Thus far my Power Monkey solar charger is acting the monkey and charging very little, despite being left out all night (remember there is 24 hour daylight). So those are things I might ditch. I’m not that keen on protein bars either but here’s hoping hunger will be the best sauce. Which it won’t because Icelandic hot dogs are the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten, with two types of onion and a yellow sauce which far surpasses hunger sauce.
Selfoss and Dettifoss
Today I hitched to Selfoss and Dettifoss, surprisingly didn’t take me too long to get lifts, but it helps being on my own and female. Which goes to show that people totally judge on appearances and I could be an axe murderer, midget pigtailed appearances aside. So thank you to the German family who were climbing a volcano, the Icelanders on their way to a family reunion, the French couple, the French family and Eloise and her seal and the German couple with the really clean car. I stopped off at Námaskarð geothermal area, with bubbling mud pools and a smell of sulphur that would knock a horse. But the patterns are beautiful and the colours contrast with the dull lava rock of the previous day.
When I went back out the road I had some competition so after a brief chat I left Stefan to get in ahead of me and I waited a bit further down. When I car slowed down he waved furiously – I was getting to go too! Our generous drivers, Icelandic brothers, off to a family reunion that was going to include half of Iceland, we’re headed to the east and I was only waiting a few minutes on the Dettifoss road before a French couple picked me up.
I intended to take a look at the waterfalls and head on to a trek soon after but I delayed hours at the falls before I set off on that. Selfoss is just down from the mightier Dettifoss but it’s a bit nicer to photograph, if just that you’re not as soaked by the spray. Using my new Cokin filters I discovered that two 5-stops is awkward as you can’t focus or compose but just one is fine. At one point four guys came up behind where I had my tripod set up. Is it something about a tripod and filters that says I just know what I’m doing?! I have no problem with people taking the ‘same’ shot, but it was weird. I got chatting to a guy from Montreal who thought that the difference between being a photographer and someone who takes pictures is that there is something between you and the landscape, and it’s not about getting paid for it. I like that.