The sun shone all day today. Even though the sun never gets very high above the horizon, the pink and blue light was a welcome sight! The light is really incredible. It’s like dawn for hours and then a very slow sunset until the last of the light fades away around 4:30 PM.
We slept a little later than usual then had a good breakfast at the hotel. Matt and Chandler slept in even longer, so much that we lingered at the breakfast table long after breakfast hours were over. The hostess asked if it would be ok if the staff could start eating. Apparently, they were waiting for us to hurry up and leave already! We said of course, embarrassed that we’d caused them to wait. They were very gracious and we enjoyed our stay.
We headed north toward Lake Myvatn where we will stay tonight. The weather is much colder; with windchill it feels like the low 20’s (Fahrenheit). It was so nice to see the landscape outside the car windows instead of rain rivulets and fog. The landscape turned white as we got further from Egilsstaðir. Snow and ice covered the ground nearly everywhere other than the road.
We followed the navigation to the Dettifoss waterfall. The road was closed a short way down the turnoff from Ring Road. A warning sign cautioned that if you proceed down the closed road and need assistance, you can expect great expense. So naturally, we drove around the sign.
The reason the road was closed is because it’s covered with thick ice just beyond the sign. The going was slow, but still possible. It wasn’t long before we encountered another sign: Closed, Impassable. You’d think we’d stop there but you know that’s not how this story goes, right? We continued around that sign too. Another kilometer or so down the road we found the “impassable” part. A solid sheet of ice covered the road. It was apparent the area had once flooded and was now frozen over. It was impossible to know how deep and just how solidly frozen the water was and how likely it was that we’d get stuck there for hours. Reasonable minds prevailed and we finally turned around. Back on the main road, we continued on toward Lake Myvatn and soon came to a second road to Dettifoss. We realized in hindsight this was probably the correct route and got there with no trouble.
The number of tourists has dramatically declined over the last 2 days. There were only 3 or 4 other cars in the parking lot at the Dettifoss trailhead. That’s a huge change from all of the sites we stopped at the first couple days when there were easily 50 to 70 cars plus tour buses crowded in the lots. The entire area, including the parking lot was covered with thick ice. We put Yak Traks over our boots (except Matt who forgot to pack his) and gingerly made our way over the smooth spots and picking up our pace over the rough patches. It was obvious from the deep track that the ice had been soft, deep snow not too long ago. Other areas were large puddles frozen smooth. I’m glad we’re not mucking through that.
You can hear the roar of Dettifoss before you can see it. It has the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, 500 cubic metres or 17,600 cubic feet of water per second plunges over the edge. It’s 45 m high and 100m wide. The opposite side of the canyon is covered with ice several feet thick from the vapor created by the massive falls freezing on contact. My hands ached after I took off my mittens for just a couple minutes to create a video with my phone. They haven’t felt like that since I was a little kid playing in the snow with wet gloves.
Selfoss is another huge waterfall in the same area. It’s wider than Dettifoss but the volume is not as great. The river that feeds it is runoff from the Vatnajökull glacier. The ice on the trail to Selfoss was thinner, cracking under our weight in places. Chandler and I both ended up with wet boots (only on the outside, thankfully).
The afternoon light fading, we made our way to the Icelandair Hótel, Myvatn for the night. The lobby was decorated with funky colors and old luggage, TV sets, radios, and miscellani stacked into pillars leading to an iron spiral staircase by the check in desk. The lively decor and the jumbo dice we found in the parlor (Farkle, anyone?) was a stark contrast with the monochrome ice and stone leading to town.
After being foiled by the winter hours of both a local farm/cafe and a comfort food diner, we were resigned to eat once again at the hotel restaurant. Chandler ordered grilled eggplant rolls with asparagus and quinoa, Matt had the lamb with truffle mashed potatoes and velvet beet demi-glace, and Riley and I tried the nightly special of Monkfish with “American sauce” – because who knows American food better than the Icelanders?
When prompted with the entirely reasonable question of “what on God’s green earth is American sauce?”, the waiter informed us that it was a base fish stock simmered with tomatoes, bourbon, and the all American secret ingredient: chocolate. Our bets on what it would be were nowhere close. Being assured that it was in fact edible, even good, we went ahead and ordered.
The first course of the special was soup which was pretty good, and dessert was also pretty tasty. But the main course, well, not so much. The fish was wriggling on the plate when the dish arrived. It wasn’t really, but as Chandler pointed out the fish flake garnish warps from the heat making it look like fish was still alive. Well, as alive as a baked monkfish can be. What did convince us we’d made a mistake was the first taste of the sauce, which somehow was worse than “it tastes like a goat smells”. Chandler and Matt sympathetically offered bites of theirs while we all avoided eye contact with the waiter. It was about at this point that we asked for more bread. Overall, it was undeniably bad. I can’t imagine who would think this was good.
Feeling disappointed by the meal and fact that the bill was 14,900 kr, we all retired to the parlor for a game of Farkle. Chandler’s blindside victory did well to make us all forget the past hour, as did the entire box of hot tamales candies I brought from home. At least the weather is still nice, though we may have to rethink eating at the hotel tomorrow…
Oh, and this was my favorite sign so far… just a little reminder to stay on the trail.