We were sad to leave Seydisfjordor, but it was time to continue on the Ring Road and head north. It was a relatively short driving day, so when we got to Lake Myvatn we decided to look around. Lake Myvatn was created, like most things in Iceland, by a volcano and the flooding that follows when a glacier melts. The lake is dotted with craters that were created when the lava cooled over steam vents (or something like that).
The nearby Krafla volcano provides hot springs and blue lagoons, one of which you can swim in like the famous Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik. Paul and I, however, are terrible tourists when it comes to hot springs and volcanic activity (blame it on Yellowstone), so we stopped at the Reykjahlid visitor center to look around a little and book a horse-back riding tour. The visitor center is conveniently located on the edge of town right by the grocery store. So one stopped gave us the chance to book a horseback riding trip for the afternoon and pick up some groceries for our picnic lunch.
Once we booked the trip we began driving to the farm, but stopped along the way to eat while overlooking the lake. Thankfully, it was a little windy which kept the infamous black bugs away. They’re somewhat like gnats, but bigger, so the bites are more obnoxious. Apparently the bugs are great for the Lake Myvatn ecosystem, but not so much for my jolly tourist attitude.
Icelandic horses are smaller than most horses we’re familiar with in America. They’re obviously bigger than a Shetland pony, but significantly smaller than an average quarterhorse. The genetics are kept very pure; once a horse leaves Iceland, it is never allowed back in and no other horses are allowed in the country. They have also developed a 5th gait which is somewhat like a trot but much smoother because they only pick up one foot at a time; the horse answer to race-walking, but with less butt shaking.
We rode for 2 hours around the lake and learned some interesting facts about the area. For example, people used to heard their sheep into the craters to milk them, sheep poo is used for smoking meats in Iceland because they don’t have much wood (yum??), and people in the area used to keep a bag packed and a car parked for quick departure because they feared the volcano so much. But we also got to experience that infamous 5th gait for quite awhile. Apparently trail rides in foreign countries involve less walking and no waiver-signing.
After the ride, we headed to the north shore town of Husavik. It is famous for whale-watching because 11 types of whales come to the bay in the summer months. There are two companies that provide whale-watching trips, and for the basic 3 hour tour, there is very little difference between companies. Paul had reserved us a tiny cottage right on the edge of town for the 2 nights we were there. It was by far the cutest place we stayed. Complete with a kitchenette, en suite bathroom, living area, and porch over-looking the bar, we were quite comfortable. We had a couple of drinks and settled in before heading to town for dinner.
Salka restaurant was in an old wooden building on the harbor and had smoked puffin on the menu, which Paul had been anxious to try. So, the hour-long wait didn’t deter us, we simply headed next door for a couple of beers while we waited. The smoked puffin was actually really good. Tasted a little like chicken dark meat, but not as juicy. But it came with some chicken liver that the restaurant must have been trying to get rid of because it was disgusting. Then we split the fish of the day plate and a beef sandwich. It was well worth the wait.
Our cabins had a few hot tubs, but again, not like the hot tubs we would expect to find in America. Considering that even the hot water in the shower smelled like sulfur because it was fresh from a hot spring, I was less than inclined to let the sulfur seep in. And after a day of driving, ocean kayaking, and horseback riding, we didn’t have much energy left.