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Thursday, June 15, 2017

NORTHWEST ICELAND - WET & WILD

We are now deep in the Westfjords area where the roads are few and people even fewer.   We are heading out to Djupavik to see the old Herring Factory. It is a wild drive – lots of wild rugged scenery, with driftwood logs across from Siberia on one side and huge mountains on the other. The only downside is the continuing drizzle & the arctic wind. We miss the 10am tour so explore a bit further. There is another hotpot at the end of the road, but the wind is too frigid to head out in our togs, so instead we opt for the 2pm tour back in Djupavik. It ends up our own private tour – this place was very productive in its heyday. John is enthralled with all the old machinery.
But time to move on, and tackle that road back. Finally find the sunshine by the time we reach Holmavik. It is so nice John decides to tilt the cab to check the oil & water, so we have an early dinner before heading further along the fjord for a night beside the water.  We are now heading up the Trollaskangi Peninsula, but first a quick detour to Holar to see one of the oldest church’s here, with a marvellous altarpiece dating back from 1520 & then an old grass covered farmhouse, before heading on to Hofsos. There is a pool with disappearing edge we plan to try but sadly it is closed for cleaning. Still, there is pretty little port to explore.  Finally find a great spot with magic views high above the ocean for the night.
A slow start this morning as we are nearly at Siglufjordur, and we want to go to the Herring Era Museum, which doesn’t open until 10am. It gives us time to fill with diesel & water and to get some much-needed Danish pastries (oh and bread of course) The museum is amazing – very highly recommended. We spend hours there. I especially enjoy the reconstructed dock. The original engine room for processing the fish oil & fish meal was hmmm OK, but John sure enjoys it. Currently Iceland is still processing 10,000 ton of herring every day Unbelievable. Today the weather is perfect, so there is more to see. More tunnels – this time double lane, and we pop out at Olafsvik. Not much to see here so we carry on to yet another tunnel & more coastline to Dalvik.  Finally, on to the big smoke at Akureyri. This place is Iceland’s second biggest city with over17,000 people. It has got a pretty setting on the fjord, but really, we aren’t all that in to cities so on we go. We do stop at the lookout on our way out, where about 6 big buses pull up – they are tourists from the huge cruise ship that is in town. Glad they have left the waterfall that we are now heading to.
Yes, our next stop is a waterfall (or foss), and this one is a biggie. Godifoss! Hope you are impressed. Actually, it is pretty impressive. We walk both sides before heading away from the hordes of photo snappers & the selfies takers! Even though we have done so much today we just keep on trucking. On to the amazing volcanic/thermal area of Myvatn.   Here there are lots of touristy things to explore, so we are off. First stop a wander through the pseudocraters at Skutustadir (don’t you just love these names!) – looking like mini volcanoes. Second stop at Hofdi to walk amongst volcanic tufts. Third stop at Dimmuborgir to walk through a scoria field. And no, we haven’t finished yet. There is the volcanic cone of Hverfjall to climb up.  I suggest John goes for the hike while I cook dinner. After trekking not only to the top he goes right around the crater. Final stop for the night is the Myvtan Hot Pools – a huge expanse of powder blue steaming water. They are North Iceland’s Blue Lagoon (and a tad cheaper at $65 for us both). A good long soak in both the pool & the lovely hot hotpot, lots of chatting to people before leaving at 11.30pm, just as the sun is setting. The only downside is that we haven’t finished exploring this ultra cool area, & everywhere there are signs “No Camping/No Overnighting”, so we will have to bite the bullet and go to a camp ground.
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Needless to say, it is a late start this morning. I don’t think we will be staying at a camp ground again if we can help it. Not at $40 a night. But now we are off to explore the thermal attractions in the area. First stop is Grjotagja with its cracked lava bed hiding hot pools. Even though there are signs No Swimming we find 2 naked girls in one pool. John gets told to go away, and that it is private. Maybe they were just very cheeky tourists. Second stop at the geothermal area at Hverir - lots of steaming vents & bubbling pools (rather like a mini Yellowstone) Third stop right up in the hills in the Krafla area where we walk to the Viti Crater & around the rim – the lake is a lovely turquoise blue today. Final stop is to the Visitor Centre at the huge Geothermal Power Plant.
Finally, we are back on the road heading to our next tourist stop – the waterfall called Dettifoss. A fantastic new road out to the falls & lots of lookouts to walk to. Again, another amazing waterfall. Then we carry on along this back-road heading north. It is rather rough & very narrow so we are surprised by the number of cars (not even 4x4, although the sign says 4x4 only) that we meet.
We are now heading into the very remote northern area of Iceland. Dirt roads, very little traffic & huge cliffs above a river delta, followed by flat marshy land.  Even less people here, and the ones who live here collect Eider duck feathers and make quite a good living. We overnight right on the beach and I think only 2 cars went past.
Another grey morning that sort of suits the desolate scenery up here, nearly at the Arctic Circle.  We find Iceland’s very own Stonehenge aptly named Arctic Henge at the tiny town of Raufarhofn. It is a chilly walk out to look at the massive rocks, before scampering back to GR2. It will be amazing when completed in X number of years.  More coastline, more fjords & countless farms. After a lot of driving we find a swimming pool beside a river. Sadly, not a hot pot on the river, but a modern pool & hot tub. At the entry, we discover that it will cost us $20 each! John is inspired to pull out his Seniors Card (we have got reductions with this a few times already) and they let us in free.  Oh, the joys of being old. A good long soak & a good long chat to some locals.
Finally feeling very relaxed we head on past Vopnafjordur, another waterfall with swooping birds & onto a gorgeous mountain drive over Hellisheidiat 655m.  It is getting late, but we decide to tackle the mountain tonight while it is still sunny. It has grades of 12-15% & lots of hairpins. Quite a workout for John & GR2.  The top section is swirling in mist, & there is heaps of snow. Finally, down the other side we find a spot for the night. In the morning, we wake to snow where we camped at the beach. Glad we tackled that mountain last night

We have rounded the northern end of the country & will now head south, back in to tourist territory again. More coming soon.

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