Iceland – Day 8

Day 8 (June 28th)

Click here for the Google Map (then zoom out, and click on "Hybrid" in the upper right, Google Maps lacks data for much of Iceland).

It’s like college again.  Freshman year.  A dance around another’s personal space in confinement, studying late, getting up early… dotted with moans of "it’s too early" (myself included), but today I was the last asleep and the first awake.  I worked an hour after "lights out" catching up on this travel log.  It’s exam time.

Some tech side notes in the saga, Iceland IS the land of SAGAs (this is a double pun in tech talk as ".IS" is the top level domain for Iceland):  Skype (VoIP= voice over Internet Protocol) works great, day in and day out.  I continue to be surprised and amazed.  I can make calls the the USA and I have RECEIVED calls from the USA via Skype.  The photo at the left shows me on the Skype phone (blue) with some help from my new friends.  Most people don’t even know they are using VoIP, but this IS my phone number (Dallas and Austin).  Not the cell phone number, just what appears to be the "land line".  In fact, it is not.  It is a technical liberation of my notebook computer, and I have a little blue phone that attaches to the notebook and IT DOES RING when someone calls my Austin or Dallas number.  It rings in Iceland just like it does in Buenos Aires or Bariloche, Argentina.  The other day I had a wi-fi connection at the hotel we was staying in Hrútafjörður.  It was only a good connection in front of the hotel and not in my room, so phone in hand (small like a cell phone) connected to the notebook’s USB port, and the operating notebook tucked under the other arm, I walked to the front of the hotel, and still outside, called my friend Pam in Austin.  It was early there, and I got her voice mail recording and hung up.  Disappointed I did not reach her, but knowing Steve was loading up the car, I started to walk away… and the phone rang!  Amazing stuff.

Other tech notes… with Apple’s iTunes I can download the ABC or NBC national news and a plethora of other information sources (PBS, Internet radio stations, etc.), all free.  Both Steve and I carry Garmin 60CSx GPS units to track where we take photos.  I have my unit configured to generate a daily GPX file (see GPX link) recording all information about where it has been, the unit also generates a Garmin "Mapsource" file (GPB) that I can read into the mapping software each evening before I download my data cards with photos on them.  I then use Downloader Pro ( to copy the images from my data cards to the computer, simultaneously saving a back up copy (2nd copy) to an external hard drive.  Downloader Pro also is simultaneously reading the already downloaded GPS tracks and matching the time positions to the images (cameras were synchronized to the GPS time earlier).  When the location times are found that match image capture times, the GPS data is written to an XMP reference file for each captured image.  Then I import these images with the tagged GPS data, into Adobe Systems’ Photoshop Lightroom 1.1.  Now with the images in Lightroom, I have the date and time of capture, and the GPS coordinates of where the image was taken.  If I mouse click on the GPS location in Lightroom, my web browser will open and take me to a Google Earth page where a pointer is aimed at the exact location I pressed the shutter button.  This becomes much more appreciated when you take one or two thousand images in a week while you are traveling.  I also have the .KML files that will plot the same GPS journey tracks on Google Earth.

We filled the SUV up with diesel this morning, about 3/4 of a tank… (see picture)… divide the top number by 63 and you’ll be pretty close to U.S. Dollars.  Coming to filling stations in America one day soon.

Back to Iceland… today was another visual movable feast from steam vents and boiling mud pits, to steamy water filled lava tubes… all around Lake Mývatn.  The most interesting parts were the hot steam vents which were roaring a steady blast.  Hot magma is just 2-5 km. below the surface.  This is half of the depth of some gas wells in west Texas.  R200706281234191499
The entire Karfla crater by Lake Mývatn seeming has been taken over by the island’s power company for geothermal heat extraction.  R200706281232051492_2
Hollywood could not create a more alien like place of blue white stream that steam with heat, fog covered hills, shiny pipes in multiple succession that rise in unison to form an arch over the roadway.  The last big eruption here was about 1724, with some smaller ones after they started drilling into the magma zone… but they are due for the big one.  R200706281251031503_2
I read that the warning sign the said "visitors forbidden" has now been taken down as it was just photographed a lot as tour buses with grand parents and children were photographed behind it.  The speculation is that when this volcano erupts, instead of fleeing, most of Iceland’s population will want to come for a visit.

It was early, we had circled the lake and had time to search out something new.  Inasmuch as we have a long road journey tomorrow, driving to the northern tip of Iceland, just below the Arctic Circle (shy by a few kilometers only), we went south into the interior of the island.  Still, another journey where we really did not know quite what was at the end of the road, but onward we traveled.  Really a metaphor on life, so many roads and we don’t know where they lead.  R200706281601501538_2R200706281554031529
Some are dead ends and we knew that was a possibility too.  But sometimes you get the prize… It was an epic road, not so much for the path, but for the river.  We stopped to photograph trees, a short forest, a rarity on Iceland.  The sheep were here too, but the trees somehow survived their foraging. 

AldeyjarfossThe end held what was likely the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen, Aldeyjarfoss falls on the Skjalfandafljot River, spilling over volcanic rock which had been extruded in hexagon shapes eons ago.  R200706281657461554_2
The flow was astounding, but it was the location… in the middle of nowhere.  Water squirted from springs in the sides of hills that on the surface high above them could be confused with the surface of Mars.  A deafening canyon of water.  Video, still shots, and 360 degree images, we took the time for all of it.  The wide image of the falls was taken with my Canon 1Ds Mark II, 70-200mm zoom (forgot the wide angle up the path at the car) at 70 mm, but 12 images (3 rows of 4 images), hand held, shot in RAW, input into Lightroom 1.1, tweaked, output as 16 bit TIF file, stitched in PTGUI (thanks Joost!).  Better than a wide angle lens!

Dinner by Godafoss falls on the way back in a cute little restaurant… again, soup, fish course, dessert, cheapest bottle of white wine… $150.  We leave a week from today, I hope we can afford it.  I am getting used to it.