Patricks New Zealand Weblog

On towards Myvatn, via Godafoss

Then it was on towards Myvatn (where quite a lot of the volcanic activity is). Well, where isn’t I suppose in this country, but still, Myvatn is a destination!

We went through quite a few tunnels on the way. Some of these are long. Like.. really long. At least 6-10km some of them.

We stopped for a coffee in Akureyri, where I received the best coffee art of my life. I was most impressed.

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We did have a quick obligatory stop at Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). At the Alping (National Assembly) in the year 1000, the logsogumadur (law speaker) Thorgeir was forced to make a decision on Icelands religion. After 24 hours meditation he declared the country a Christian nation. On his way home he passed these falls and threw in the pagan carvings of the Norse Gods, this is what gave the waterfall its name.

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Next stop on the way to Myvatn, well, in the area but before you got there, was a trip to the Pseudocraters (also known as Rootless cone’s apparently). These don’t look like so much from the bottom, just odd depressions.

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Rootless cones are formed by steam explosions as flowing hot lava crosses over a wet surface, such as a swamp, a lake, or a pond. The explosive gases break through the lava surface in a manner similar to a phreatic eruption, and the tephra builds up crater-like forms which can appear very similar to real volcanic craters.

We went for a quick walk up Vindbelgjarfjall (529m) which looks out over the area. There were some great views to be had, and well worth the hour and a bit to get up there.

From here we looked across to the imposing Hverfell. Huge eruption ~ 2700 years ago. It’s 463m high and 1km in diameter.

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Next it was on to Dimmuborgir (Dark Castles). It’s a weird place where lava was dammed by old lava, cooled, and made weird formations when the dam eventually burst. It was interesting, but, it’d be fair to say that I think you might have got more out of the place if you were a geologist. If you were running short on time, I’d leave this one to last.

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That night we stayed at one of the busier campsites of the trip. And we took a dip in the thermal pools.

Myvatn Thermal Pools

Picture above taken from http://www.thepolarroute.com/2013/03/the-icelandic-swimming-experience/. It was gorgeous at night.. but definitely pricey. If you want a cheaper thermal bath.. try out any of the swimming pools. They’re all heated thermally and have baths. Not that we went in them ;) But heard that’s the case.

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A great place to spend the night, really nice camping beside the lake.

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More Snaefellsjokull, rotting shark and further Northwards

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It really is an impressive lump o rock. We went for another coastal walk, hoping to see some puffins, as it was still the season. No luck, but we did see some big stones which the local fishermen used to lift as a form of competition. I was just able to lift the lightest one. I felt entirely manly.

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We also saw a couple of wrecks along the coast, this one left as a memorial (Eding – English Trawler, wrecked in 1948).

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We saw a hut here too, it was quite bare inside and was a clubs I think, i.e. not quite the backcountry hut network that NZ has. Still, quite serviceable and nice inside.

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Then it was on Northwards, in the direction of Akureyri, passing a few interesting places along the way. One of which was a small museum and a rotted shark factory Hákarl. It was reasonably tasty.. actually.

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We had a pint of beer one of the evenings, or was it two. I can’t remember. I do remember it was weak though. I guess the very high tax on alcohol means that they don’t get stronger beers? I’m not sure, but it was underwhelming. Probably one of the few underwhelming things about Iceland we experienced. That said, if you came to NZ I’d probably recommend something off rather than on tap… so maybe it’s to be expected :)

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Nice evening though, the campsite was in the middle of town, but that was OK. And like a lot of places, the toilets had a radiator in them! It really must get seriously cold in the winter.. I mean you aren’t very shy of the Arctic circle up there.

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Iceland: First couple of days – mostly Snaefellsjokull National Park

I was so excited to go to Iceland.. and wasn’t in the remotest bit disappointed. One thing I guess I was surprised by was how expensive it was. I thought it was going to be cheap after their banking collapse.. but no.

Here you can see a picture of our sadcar.

our trusty car

Not actually that sad at all really (that’s just the name of the company). It had over 300K on the clock. Rust, dents, scratches and chips pretty much everywhere… but it did us fine. It also cost 744 Euro to hire it for 13 days ~ 60 euro a day. That’s not cheap in my book, but it was pretty much the cheapest thing we could find. Still, it did us proud and it did mean we didn’t really need to worry about scratching it up on the roads..

First off, we got slightly lost on the way through town which turned out to be a great thing as we found a large supermarket. This was key to success as basically no one lives outside of Reykjavik so buying bulk foods is a good idea to do in town. Maaike had also had the very sensible idea of buying what we could in the UK and bringing it over. Another very good idea. We should have bought nuts! (very expensive in Iceland for some reason).

Anyway, shopping done we stayed in the campsite in Reykjavik (we actually camped every night in Iceland), which was also a good idea. People leave all sorts of stuff there which you can just take. So we picked up some drying up cloths, foam squares to sit on, a couple of small chairs (which we never used), cleaning utensils etc. We also bought Methylated spirits for the Trangia stove I use.

methylated spirits

Very very expensive stuff as it’s alcohol.. which is taxed really strongly in Iceland. I think that bottle ended up costing us the best part of 30 Euro. I never saw it in supermarkets so it was very handy to buy it in Reykjavik before heading out into the unknown.

Anyway, the first couple of days was spent in the Snaefellsjokull National Park mostly going “ooh” and “aah” and seeing the completely weird geology as the lava?! I guess, hits the water. You really do wish you’d studied geology when you’re in Iceland.

Here are some pictures (some of which are Maaike’s)

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Finally, two other things worth commenting on.

Firstly – the signage is excellent. Every major new area you enter there’s a big sign listing points of interest, and a map. Dead handy

area mapgood sign posting

Secondly, and I’m afraid I don’t have too much on this… is the Icelandic Sagas. For example, this gorge was inhabited by (I need to get the guidebook for the name). And there’s obviously a whole story about it. To the Icelanders, the sagas are far more worthy of note than the scenery. I’m afraid I was far more concentrated on the scenery!

here be sagas

One thing which… concerned us, was how often we said (especially in the first few days) “well, this is beautiful, but so is New Zealand. We definitely are spoiled living in NZ, and it is honestly hard to find a place more scenic in such a small area. Certainly moving on from Snaefellsjokull National Park we did find ever more scenic places.. but yes, it was a thought. i.e. how spoiled we are in NZ – and how … inured you become to some otherwise very beautiful places. If I’m making this sound like we weren’t stunned… we were.. and definitely more of that to come – but it was something that we noted.

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Quick stop in to London

After Cornwall we headed up to London (thanks for the lift Dad!). There we stayed with my cousin Thomas and had the unexpected pleasure of getting to see cousin Catherine and her husband Alex (who I’d not had the fortune of meeting yet).

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It was such a lovely time as it always is seeing them. Cath also brought along a rather nice bottle of port which her dad had given to her a long time ago which she’d saved, lost, found and now opened. Excellent excellent time. Someone hurry up and invent teleports please.

Maaike and I also managed to get a few hours in with my old college roomate and fellow engineer Declan.

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Again, really great to be able to catch up with him, if for too short a time. He’s still as wonderful a trickster as ever.. some things never change.

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Cark (phonetically speaking)

We had a quick trip down to Cork to see Paddy & Becks. Unfortunately, Becks was called away on a business trip to New York, so we didn’t get to see her. It was a lovely break down there. I’d not really spent much time in Cork before, so it was nice to have a wander around.

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Not that these are really pictures of Cork.. but hey ho. I’d forgotten just how incredibly narrow the streets are in Irish towns. We had a lovely time though. Paddy is now working for Heinekin so there was no end of nice beers to try.

We did go for a nice ~4km walk along the coast

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Definitely a useful thing to do, as I realised that the shoes I’d bought before coming travelling were _eating_ my feet alive. A good thing to know as the rest of the trip was going to at least involve walking (in Iceland) and I needed decent walking shoes. A quick trip to the handily located Patagonia European outlet store (in Dublin) was arranged and I ended up in something I could actually walk in.

Ok, not that exciting a story about the shoes, but honestly, it meant a lot at the time ;)

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Hodge Podge of a Post

We had, apparently, as a planet, the hottest June on record. This is most of the reason why you’ve not seen any posts about skiing.. the ski fields, at least the ones around ChCh simply haven’t opened.

Intead, there have been a few walks, the CUTC sale (representing Snowpool), the Banff Film Festival (excellent, also representing Snowpool)… there have been a couple of walks..

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Some games

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^ that is excellent, the stones are magnets and you place them on this super smooth surface. Object is to place them down without any being forced to connect. Kinda like reverse Jenga.

I also went along to a basic electronics meetup.. made this awesome thing:

No skills required, just connecting dots, but lots of fun. I’m planning on getting into using my Raspberry Pi a little later on in the year.. just some small projects (timelapse photography etc.) .. but quite looking forward to it.

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A quick trip South

Well, have I ever been slack writing up the blog.. it’s almost the end of July and zero posts (hurrah for backdating)

This was a lovely weekend; went South to Dunedin with Steve & Michelle and Maaike for the long weekend to visit my former flatmate, the excellent Mark Tynan. I didn’t take enough pictures unfortunately, especially not of Mark and Stephanies lifestyle block. They’ve bought quite a chunk of land about 20 mins from Dunedin. It’s …. rustic… but lovely… It is certainly a massive amount of work to take on their challenge. There isn’t a house (though they have a 1 room well insulated cabin with a ridiculous view), plumbed toilet (almost though), shower etc. It’s all coming along though, and I suspect by the next time we’re down it’ll be a lot further along. I admit I am not as attracted to the lifestyle as Maaike is.. she loves the idea…. I prefer a bit more creature comforts. Also.. it’s a huge amount of time in upkeep (like constant)… The flip side of course is that you have plenty of space, land which is yours to look after, sheep, chickens, trees… and birdsong to die for. Great to visit ;)

We did get a walk out to Sandfly Bay I think it was: quite a few surfers & seals out.

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michelle and maaikebeachbattle of wills (or seals)

So yes, a good trip down South… I’m definitely looking forward to the next time. It’s a shame that Mark and Stephanie have left ChCh as it was nice seeing more of them than we will now. On the positive side, good excuse for road trips :)

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Tranz Alpine Express.

For Christmas, Maaike and I gave my Aunt Mary a present of tickets on the TransAlpine Express which is the train going from Christchurch (East Coast) to Greymouth (West Coast).

Maaike and Mary, and the ticket.

It was a leisurely and quite scenic way to cross the alps. I certainly think that the most scenic part is from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass as it takes you up the Waimakariri river system etc.

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We went over to Greymouth and then took the train back the same day – but just as far as Arthurs Pass. There we stayed the night in my friend Nicks Bach (holiday home) – such a very lovely place to stay. Mary took us out for a delicious dinner at the Wobbly Kea.

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Then the following day we went for a little walk up to the waterfall.. it’s such a rewarding site for the short walk it takes to get there…

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It wasn’t in flood like it was the last time we were up in Arthurs..

Well, all in all a lovely weekend had. I wonder where the next adventure will take us? :)

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