We had a much easier day than yesterday with only 180 km to travel. This gave us lots of time take some deviations and to backtrack along the road to see a few things had we had missed. The weather was cooler – about 8C and with a bit of a breeze that dropped the perceived temperature to around 4C.
At first, we followed the road up a large river valley with many farms.The road followed the side of the valley, so we had some really good views along the river and the surrounding landscape.
We came across a few waterfalls and stopped at one of them to walk up to its base I can’t see Iceland having any form of water shortage anytime soon.
It began to drizzle and we crossed an extensive length of landscape that reminded me a little of the moors around Dartmouth in England. There were lots of little ponds and rippling streams. There were no fences and occasional sheep became a traffic risk as it was hard to tell which way they would run as we approached them.
As we ascended onto a plateau, the landscape became more barren. We were now driving across a volcanic gravel and gibber plain. There was reduced visibility because of the rain and the area looked very stark. Someone had set up this white chair in the middle of nowhere and it formed a welcome point of interest for my photos The landscape here was a bit of a moonscape although visibility would have been better on a clear day.
In the middle of the day, we took a 27 km deviation to see the Dettifoss Waterfall. It is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The sediment-rich runoff colors the water a greyish white. The falls are 100 metres wide and have a drop of 44 metres down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
By early afternoon, the rain had cleared so we were able to find a little roadside clearing where we could have another ‘tailgate lunch’. We pointed the car into the wind and this made it a bit more pleasant as we cut up our cheese and salami with the rear hatch raised.
By the roadside, we came across a group of Icelandic Horses. They were friendly enough to let me walk right up to them. They are small horses with stocky legs and large manes and tails. They are used mostly for traditional sheepherding work as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.These horses were developed from ponies taken to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries and selective breeding over the centuries has developed them into their current form.
We are staying tonight at Hotel Laxa on Lake Myvatn. There is large thermal area near here and one where a thermal power station operates. The temperature at 1000 feet below the surface is around 300C. Water is pumped into a series of bores which create superheated steam. This is then piped to the power station to drive the turbines.
We can see clear evidence of old lava flows around here. Some is jagged where steam has caused large fissures to develop. In other places, the lava looks as if someone has poured an enormous jar of treacle over the landscape and the viscous liquid has cooled and set into rounded shapes that show its molten flowing form. It’s bit mind blowing to understand that in this case, the viscous liquid is actually molten rock.It takes many centuries for plant life to grow on the lava. First comes lichens, then mosses and finally grasses. We could see that some sections of lava flow were much newer because nothing was growing on them yet.