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The Iceland Epic – Husavik and Reykjavik

whale penis, husavik, iceland
Specimens from whales on display

One false move, and I could wind up impaled on a taxidermied whale penis. The walls bristle with them. All species. All sizes.

There are also clear acrylic capsules filled with them. Floating in preservative, maintaining their original glory.

Yes, whale penises are the centerpieces of the Iceland Phallological Mueseum in Husavik. It’s Husavik’s star attraction, and rising in fame internationally. (Bad news for Husavik – the museum has moved to Reykjavik since my visit. Too bad. It’s a beautiful town, and you should go there anyway.)

You’ve come to the right place.

The building is crammed with penis specimens. Field mice, cetaceans -- just about everything under the sun.

Human? Yes, it’s on its way. You may have seen news reports of the recently deceased Icelandic man who pledged his manhood to the museum upon death. I guess he beat out the guy pictured at the museum: an American, sitting on a stool. Wearing nothing but a smile. I’m guessing the room was chilly.

Ready for a whale of a time?

Iceland, by the way, is also crazy for team handball. You can see casts made from the members of the members of the Icelandic team after winning silver at a recent team handball World Cup.

When you enter, the curator gives you a thick binder and a "how to tell what sort of wang you’re looking at" primer.

This attraction is definitely worth ejecting a few krona. The lighting could be better for photography. And it should open earlier (we had a flight to catch in Akureyri in a few hours).

Iceland, Husavik
Husavik – a pleasant town in the far north.

We started our day in Reykjahliđ, our base for nearly three days of tromping around Myvatn. We broke our camp at Vogar and headed west in our Suzuki Jimney. We headed in the back way to Husavik, up Road 87. The Jimney gamely cruised along, even after the road turned to dirt.

We saw few cars. The scenery was green, but not exactly lush. No surprise there: Less than one percent of Iceland’s land is arable. Yet there was still the occasional farmstead and meandering herd of sheep.

Husavik, Iceland, horse
A horse grazes near Husavik.

You have to be careful on unpaved roads, so it’s best to keep the speed down. Especially in the successor to the Suzuki Samurai! After a few hours, we arrived in Husavik.

30 Miles from the Arctic Circle

This is as far north as I’ve ever been. A chilly wind blew in from the water. Husavik is a very beautiful town, though. Since the Phallus Museum isn’t ready for action until 11 a.m., we had some time to kill. We roamed the town, had coffee, petted horses.

Grazing, horse, Iceland, Husavik
More horses!

It’s very tranquil. Groups of kids going to and from soccer practice roamed around. It’s the sort of place where people probably don’t lock their doors – ever. Some rolling hills, beautiful views of the ocean, snow-capped mountains not too far distant.

We also hit a bakery for a few snacks while we waited.

Racing to the Airport

Husavik, Harbor, Iceland
The harbor at Husavik.

I drove the Jimney for all it was worth. We pulled into Akureyri with time to spare, long enough to grab a falafel. We turned in our Jimney, boarded the plane and headed back to Reykjavik.

We checked back into Guesthouse Isafold, our reliable Reyjkavik base. And then we finally rested. Because our day isn’t over: Tonight, we’re running the MiÄ‘næturhlaup, a 10k race that starts at 10 p.m. The name means Midnight Run.

It’s perhaps the most pleasant 10k ever: Two laps through the zoo/botanical garden area, followed by a nice free soak at the Laugardalslaug swimming pool we’ve come to love. All in nearly full sunlight, by the way. The clouds broke and we had beautiful temperatures in the 50s. With sun and sweat, that was perfect. And the hot tubs were crammed with our fellow runners and their families. Good times!

How’d I do? First American finisher! You can read my full post about it.

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The Iceland Epic – Day 8 (Reykjavik – Akureyri – Myvatn)

dimmuborgir wandering justin
Wandering Justin gets all black metal at Dimmuborgir.

Can a cloud of flies lift a person off the ground? I am about to find out on the south shore of Myvatn (Mee-VAH-ten).

That name, by the way, means business. Vatn is Icelandic for "water." What’s "my?" Midge. As in those pesky flies that are threatening to carry me off. They’re everywhere. This means we are in a place that means "Fly Water." Myvatn is a shallow lake ringed by some spectacular scenery: more pseudocraters, and one of the most bizarre mountains ever. More on that later.

As for the flies, some folks at a convenience store sold Sarah and me a lovely matched set of insect nets for our heads and faces. Problem abated. Somewhat.

Suzuki Jimney
Our rented Suzuki Jimney

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Flight to Iceland’s Northern Big City

To get here, we started with an early Flug Island (or Air Iceland, the domestic arm of IcelandAir) flight from Reykjavik’s domestic airport. We walked from our guesthouse right to the terminal. Our fellow passengers were mostly English, and they were dressed from some horse-riding fun.

We landed in Akureyri, the main city of northern Iceland. We rented a Suzuki Jimny and rattled off to the west. We had some epic mountain scenery, and we enjoyed a brief stop at a waterfall. We made another brief stop to get our anti-fly nets – and had a nice lunch of soup and trout that had been smoked over sheep dung. Regardless of the fuel source, it was delicious.

waterfall iceland
One of Iceland's many waterfalls.

We followed that up with a 45-minute hike around the pseudocraters.

And then for a major centerpiece of my Iceland experience: We headed for Dimmuborgir.

But before we got near Dimmuborgir, I noticed something strange: One single mountain that seemed illuminated. It was an overcast day, and it was like one single ray of sunshine penetrated the clouds and fixed on this mountain. This is the Hverir thermal area. It stands out from all the surrounding terrain. We plan to make a thorough visit tomorrow.

This is also the name of well-known black metal band, and it means "Dark Castle." This region gets this name from the massive expanse of hardened lava that froze in all sorts of interesting shapes. It sprawls for quite a distance. There are massive spires, tiny lava tubes, holes -- it’s too unearthly to really describe well. It’s stark and scorched, and completely engrossing.

Hverfjall: As Cool as it Sounds

If you’re up for a long hike, you can follow a trail and climb to the top of Hverfjall explosion crater. Sarah and I circled the base, climbed from the (easier) northern trail, fully circled the rim, and descended the south trail before heading back to Dimmuborgir. Total distance is a little more than 6 miles.

pseudocrater
Part of the pseudocrater field near Myvatn

Relaxation, Trout and Stout

By this point, we were a little peckish. We’d heard about the Cowshed Cafe, so we stopped. It’s a working dairy in addition to a restaurant. You can eat while watching cows get milked.

As we were eating more trout, a salad and some fresh geysir bread, one of the cafe staff made the rounds to all the tables to pass out little cups. They were filled with fresh, unpasteurized milk straight out of the teat of the cow getting milked.

Warm, creamy, frothy -- but not as heavy as I expected. A clean finish!

Our next step was a little relaxation at the town pool (we were in ReykjahliÄ‘). Despite this being a town of 300, the pool facilities are superior to what you’ll find in my city of some 1.4 million people. Hot tubs, weight rooms, lap lanes -- nice!

From there, we headed to the Vogar campgrounds. We put our tent up on the northern shore of Myvatn. Here on the north side, the midges are considerably less active. Once we had the tent up, we wandered the main street a bit and met some of the local horses.

Hverfjall Iceland
Looking toward the huge crater of Hverfjall

We also wrapped up the day’s gustation with a nice chocolate cake and a shared bottle of Lava. This is an imperial-style stout brewed in the south of Iceland. It was the only good beer we found in Iceland, and it was the equal of just about any microbrew from the United States. I’d say it is on par with the Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy of Longmont, Colo.

Snoozing by Myvatn

After all this buzzing around, we were pretty tired. Though the sun only peaked below the horizon for a few hours and the sky never fully darkened, we got a great night of sleep on the soft grass of the Vogar.

dimmuborgir iceland wandering justin
Lava formations at Dimmuborgir.
wandering justin hverfjall iceland
Atop Hverfjall
dimmuborgir iceland wandering justin
Looking south to Dimmuborgir
myvatn wandering justin
Looking toward Myvatn.
wandering justin myvatn iceland
Our tent is right on the shore of Myvatn at Vogar campground.