Our trip winds up the eastern coast along the black sand beach of Djúpivogur. Leaving the Ring Road, we take the shortcut up Route 939 and 95. This dirt road switchbacks up the mountain, crests, and leads us down to Egilsstaðir. Because of the long drive today, we decide to get sandwiches and chips for the road. Beyond town, we rejoin the Ring Road and head west.
The sign to Dettifoss points us up Route 864. We turn and head north. The first part of the road soon becomes gravel, and the gravel quickly gives way to dirt and mud. First, driving on the washboard surface jiggles all of us awake. Then, the potholes get us. It’s as if a team dribbled basketballs down the road, creating craters pockmarking entire route. It feels like hours, and even as we dread the return trip, we push ahead. A turnoff brings us to the eastern side of the falls.
We hike the short trail to the viewpoint. The thundering water creates a mist that has a life of its own, roaring, enveloping, and obscuring the opposite bank. Far on the other side, tourists roam behind the canyon’s rim. Back at the car, vaguely remembering that our Lonely Planet guidebook gave a few ways to get to Dettifoss, I decide to consult it. Regrettably, there’s another road that goes along the western side that is paved the entire way; we should have taken that instead. But, the guidebook says the eastern side is favored by photographers. There, we found the reason for enduring hours of bumpy roads. We’re happy it’s a rental car.
On the way back to the Ring Road, we watch the rain clouds and storm advance westward. The forecast is for rain, and we’re prepared to set up camp even in the event of a downpour. As we drive toward our day’s destination, we hit patches of rain. It’s as if we caught up to the edge of the storm.
We pass some of the volcanic features—steaming fumaroles, heated pools. Cresting the hill, the view into Mývatn is spectacular. Storm clouds churn above, and sunlight peeks through scattered openings and glints across the lake.
In town, we pull into Bjarg. Online reviews have rated this as one of the prettiest campgrounds in Iceland, and we’re finding it to be true. The check-in staff asks me if I need to have our car close to our campsite. “No, it doesn’t matter,” I reply. After all, we’re used to backpacking. She tells me to pick any place I want.
The campground looks almost like a golf course minus the sand traps. Spread over some small rolling hills, the lawn is perfect. I scan the lakeshore for a spot. The shoreline remains wide open, since most people had set up their tents near their cars. There is a beautiful peninsula that juts into the lake, and right in the middle of this little triangle of land, the ground mounds up ever so slightly to make for good drainage while keeping our sleeping area flat. Here, Daphney and I set up our tent, taking care to not smear too much droppings from the resident geese population. Yan organizes the laundry, and we pay the camp office to do four batches—two loads in the washer and two for the dryer.
We get dinner at Mývatn Nature Baths. The cafeteria is simple. Having cut through cold winds before pushing inside, we savor the hot cream of mushroom soup. Unlike the policy at the Blue Lagoon, where I had already pre-booked our spots, Mývatn allows infants. We would later realize that the less-commercialized venue here along with the fresh water much more relaxing than the money-making machine of the Blue Lagoon. Jayden seems to enjoy this the most, giggling with joy as he splashes through the warm water. Daphney is busy taking pictures and videos with her waterproof camera. Yan and I just smile with joy seeing the kids so happy. The sky gradually turn cobalt blue as the clouds blow away and the light fades. We shower, get dressed, and jump into the car.
Soon, we’re drifting off to sleep in the most scenic campground in Iceland. Inside our little tent, it’s nice ad warm. Who’s afraid of the winds outside anyways?
In the morning we awake to condensation dripping from the tent’s rainfly. Outside, the ground is wet; a storm likely blew by during the night. We get dressed and grab a simple hot breakfast from the local supermarket across the street. Back at camp, we pack up. Daphney doesn’t want to leave. She had hoped to spend more time, perhaps to paddle in the lake. We collect our laundry just in time before the campground closes for daily maintenance.
Leaving the lake, we backtrack to visit areas we bypassed the previous day—Hverir Mud Pots and Krafla. Circling back around the lake, we peer at the figures of Dimmuborgir and I climb to the rim of Hverfjall.