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September 2023
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Iceland Day 2

If you just want to see the pictures, click here!

Saturday morning

We had a hearty continental style breakfast including our first picked whitefish (yum!) along with more muesli and yogurt.  There was fruit and pastry and boiled eggs as well.  After fueling up it was time to hit the road. We debated taking the ferry from Stykkisholmer but the drive was the same length so we decided to drive and see the fjords. (foreshadowing). The first dirt road we were on was quite muddy and bumpy but pretty straightforward driving.

By this time, we had calibrated civilization.  Any group of 3 or more buildings was “town,” or any intersection or stopping point with a petrol station/small convenience store and a guest house (sometimes a home with an outbuilding, maybe 5 or 6 rooms) was a notable spot on the map and guidebook.  Most had “cakes” that we came to understand as any type of pastry, mostly danishes  (from the Danish influence), made with either wheat or oat flour, and some with rhubarb or nuts as a filling.  We later discovered one tasty item we tried was called “Happy Marriage” – an oat bar with jam.  Arugula, peas, lamb and fish were plentiful, but most other provisions were imported.  A few types of green-house grown vegetables, such as tomatoes, could be grown locally using the plentiful summer daylight and geothermal heating. It was best to not worry about the cost or exchange rate and just get whatever sounded best, since everything was very expensive compared to the US.

Upon making it to the north side of the peninsula we turned onto another dirt road. This one was being re-graded which narrowed the road to one lane. On trying to pass the grader, we slid sideways and got stuck in the soft dirt on the side of the road. I was unable to move the car. Fortunately the road was fairly busy and a car with 3 young men stopped to help us. As we were debating the best approach, a tour van driver who saw us slide off hopped out, barked some instructions, and had us back on the road in short order. The whole thing probably took less than 10 minutes but it was a little more excitement than I was looking for.

A little more dirt road and we were back on pavement. We stopped at a town which had an N1 (petrol) station. I figured out how to buy a petrol card since many of the stations around the country are unmanned and US credit cards (which have no European style PIN) do not work.

The station was also a grocery store and sold appliances. Kinda the main store for the whole “town” of approximately 1000 people, and reminded me of the store in Herscher, IL near our cousin Eric. One or two units of a variety of standard items (like frozen fish, packaged dinners, a small array of meat, lots of kinds of yogurt and cheese, and an aisle of pasta and dry goods  that could be reonstituted when boiled for a quick meal or camping), but very little produce. We were lucky to find some bananas and an apple and plums, picked up some fig bars, and a yummy Skyr yogurt drink and got back the road.

Our next destination was a major waterfall about 2.5 hours away. As we left town we quickly started ascending and had some great views of flowing rivers. There was no rain so visibiity was much better than the previous day. We stopped at a small waterfall to take some photos. Along the way, we saw plenty of sheep.  Most were mothers accompanied by two lambs, and the two lambs were good about running to mama when cars approached.  At one such instance, a confused lamb ran into its sibling and mounted it in the road instead of getting out of way.  Silly lamb! Finally they both cleared the road and we moved along.

Then we kept ascending and descending. Then the roads turned to dirt. Then we were driving on a narrow road along the walls of the many fjords. Climbing one side, heading over the summit, and then descending the other side. We headed up each valley, usually crossing a one lane bridge where the glacial river emptied into the fjord, then heading back up the wall of the opposite side of the fjord. It was challenging driving.

We finally got back on some pavement at a small gas station/restaurant/swimming pool where the road split to the waterfall and the other way to our hotel. We decided to go to the big waterfall called Dynjandi (good decision). It was another hour of narrow dirt road but this time the scenery was not fjords, but instead a rocky open landscape with very little plant life. There were still snowpacks in the north and west facing cliffs and glaciers in the distance. It was much more brown (and red from iron in the soil).

Finally we descended to the falls. One huge main head fall about 1km from the road descended several hundred feet to a series of smaller falls (all named) that emptied into the ocean. Unfortunately this was our first encouter with bugs – there were swarms of small flies. Brian took lots of pictures, and Susan was glad they had a WC at the parking lot. Never take petrol or bathrooms for granted in Iceland. Also refill or unload (or both!) each time you see one.

After walking around the falls and enjoying the invigorating mists, we headed back over the dirt road to the gas station and filled up again (with a WC stop and another oat “cake” for a snack) before heading toward the hotel. Halfway to hotel the road turned to dirt. We saw a sign advertising a bar and big screen TV showing soccer so we decided we would eat there rather than at our own hotel. We considered a nice bistro in a fishing village across the fjord, but it would have required an extra hour of travel and I was tired of dirt roads.

We checked into the hotel, which was a former boarding school. Our bedroom was a dorm room with an updated bathroom. The bed was also very comfortable (individual duvets again). Su took a short nap and we headed the 10 minutes down the dirt road to the next hotel for dinner.

Due to the continuing rainy weather, bad visibility and being tired of driving we decided to change Sunday/Monday plans. We booked a spot for the car on the ferry back to Stykkisholmer so we wouldn’t have to drive the winding mountain roads farther north, and then a long drive back on Monday. It was fun to do once and great scenery but I didn’t need to do it again so soon. At this point we did not have a hotel for Sunday night but figured we would be able to find one. Su picked out some things to do in the rain Sunday (explore town, go to the swimming pool) near Stykkisholmer, which is a huge town of 2000 people.

Dinner was just ok (fish and chips for Brian, shrimp fettucine for Susan) but we were ravenous. After dinner we both wished we’d tried the grilled salmon and vegetables, maybe next time.  We were joined at dinner by a large group of motorcyclist who were staying at the hotel’s block of rooms in a second building.  They were enthusiastic but polite, and it added an air of energy to the dining room.  The site also had camping in addition to outbuilding and the main Inn. After dinner I watched a few minutes of soccer in the bar before heading out to the evening entertainment – the Latrabjarg bird cliffs. We discovered that after dinner is the best time to go see Puffins, and with daylight extended nearly all night, there was no reason not to head over.  It was a 30 minute drive on narrow dirt roads (again!). The car by this point was filthy and I was exhausted from driving.

The bird cliffs are the westernmost point in Europe (not counting the Azores). Thousands of black birds (terns and other varieties of sea birds) and gulls nest on the cliffs. We managed to see 3 puffins, cute friendly quiet little birds compared with the others, and I again took many photos. The ground was amazingly soft and it was so quiet other than the crashing ocean and birds. We walked about 1km up the cliffs before turning around. We came back down to car and read about a famous shipwreck and heroic rescue by the townsfolk before heading to our hotel. At this point it was 2200 and the sun was still in the process of “setting.” The sky would have maybe turned red if we had stayed until midnight but we were sleepy.



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