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Monday, June 12, 2017

WATERFALLS & HOTPOTS


It is not a long flight from Nuuk in Greenland to Iceland, but with the time difference, we arrive too late in the day to get to the wharf. And yes, we have heard that GR2 is there waiting for us! And double bum, the next day is a public holiday.  I have booked accommodation online from Pia’s place & fortunately we can get another night. Bonus:  It has a full kitchen, so we can eat in. And it is right in the old part of Reykjavik. So, we have a full day to explore……and explore we do. Lots of tramping around the city. But first we trek to the wharf to see for ourselves that GR2 is really there. We spy her still sitting on her flatrack. What a good feeling. Now we can happily explore.

In the evening, we decide to join countless other tourists to eat out at one of the exorbitantly priced restaurants. My lamb is delicious & John enjoys his arctic char & whale (don’t tell the greenies). We have printed out all our paperwork, and in the morning, we pack up & leave our case at reception. This time we bus out to the wharf, arriving by 8am.  By 10am we are off! We highly recommend Emiskip. Only a few chores before we can really hit the road. Water, diesel, food, collect our bag & drop off our bag to be repaired (Yes, the airline broke off a wheel on our supposedly indestructible suitcase!) Let the Iceland adventure begin! North, south, east, west…… which way.

We head northwest & start following the coastline – there are hundreds of fiords in this country, & hundreds of waterfalls. To start with I am taking photos of them all, but soon ease back & concentrate on the big-name ones. The other great thing is that it seems to be continually light. I have not seen the darkness yet. So, it really doesn’t matter how late we stop, as it is still light enough to find somewhere to pull over for the night.

As well as lots of fiords, there are countless sheep. As it is spring (well that is debateable) there are lambs. Most sheep have 2. Some white, some black & some very mixed up. They are all happily munching on the amazingly green grass after being released from their winter accommodation. They are free & totally crazy. Maybe our roo bar will come in handy.

Then of course there are little villages nestled beneath huge brooding mountains (getting poetical here!) Each village has its own cute old church & a fishing port. The weather is changeable… very very changeable – misty, drizzly, sunny (briefly) and even snow. Always it is cold. Brrr cold. 

We are now on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Our first big hike, on our second day (I am not counting little strolls to roadside waterfalls) is to a volcanic caldera called Budaklettur. It is pretty eerie trekking through the lava field.   Our next hike today is between the village of Arnarstapi & Hallnar. The Lonely Planet says it is a great walk on a wet day, and so it is. The sea stacks & birds are amazing, but as the track deteriorates to mud (and yes, it is raining) we turn around, drive to the other end & do that section.  More walks, more rocks & black sand beaches before tucking away behind a lava flow for the night.

Wake to our favorite kind of day – cold, grey & drizzly, so stay in bed. Actually, the weather is often better late, so we are now going to bed late & sleeping in.  First walk for the day is a very civilised walk up Saxholl scoria crater. There are steps the entire way.  At this stage I will mention that there are lots of tourists – and this area is obviously on their tick box lists, so every time we see lots of cars stopped we know there is something to see. Next stop is some huge cliffs   - see photo, then out to a lighthouse at the most eastern point of the peninsula. This detour is pretty rough, but those rental cars just keep coming.

Finally, out of the national park & on through the towns of Rif & Olafsvik before reaching one of the big-name waterfalls beside Kirkjufell mountain. There is some more fancy walkway & lots of tourists. The buses are trying to manoeuvre in the pint-sized carpark. But the waterfall is lovely.

Next up is a little detour recommended by the LP. Hard to find – but simply amazing. It is named Berserkjahraunsvegur – a road through the lava field. What a stunning drive! And to top it off the sun is shining.  Would be a great spot to camp, but too early yet. So on to the extremely scenic town of Stykkisholmar with its sparkling harbour, sugar loaf peak topped by a lighthouse, quaint old houses & futuristic Church. Well what could top a day like this. Yes, I know – a fabulous soak in a hot pot! At the end of the day we find a great FREE (yes free) hot pot in Launger. My new favourite thing.

Wake to a fine day. Yahoo! Carry on over our mountain pass – we camped half way over at the base of a waterfall – before following the edges of lots more fiords. Sadly, the sunshine doesn’t last, so we decide to stop off at another hot pot (I am addicted) called Hellulaug – this one is a natural pool in the rocks right on the beach. We soak in it with our beanies on and chat to others who arrive – a fun way to while away a wet day. Finally brave the arctic air and get out. Then on towards Patreksfjordur. The sun is peeping through again so we change plans & head off down the Latrabjarb Peninsula – another dirt track – to see what it is like. Like it so much we carry on the whole way – it is another amazing drive. Scenery is tops, & there are a few great stops. First at an old shipwreck, then a shipwreck museum & finally (my favourite) the Puffin Cliffs. We can lie on our stomachs and wriggle to the edge, and there they are – just down from us…… so very cute! Back to the shipwreck for the night.

Many more fiords today, with lots more snowy peaks & very little traffic. We are well off the tourist route now and a lot of the roads are dirt. Again, we find another hot pot right in the middle of nowhere. Right beside the beach is a concrete pool & behind it a natural (and much hotter) pool. Now we are on to little winding mountain passes, covered in snow. Finally, we arrive at our next big-name waterfall – Dynjandi. First, we drive over the top, then descend to the bottom at the fiord. Truly amazing – just like a princess dress. Spray is everywhere so it is hard to take photos. After all that coldness, a hot chocolate is definitely needed. Then another mountain pass – this time it is snowing, before finally reaching the little fishing town of Flateyri. Naturally it is raining again. We overnight right beside the wharf.

Our first excitement for the day are the 2 long tunnels (4 & 3km) …. Single lane, dark & rough-hewn!  There are signs at the entrance denoting with arrows who has to give way. With our tall vehicle, it is funny watching the cars popping in to pull out bays before they meet us! We have now reached the town of Isafjordur (if you are following on a map) that is big enough for a large supermarket.  Before we head along more fiords we zip down the end of the road through another tunnel (5km) to Bolungarvik. Continue meandering around fiords – some glorious scenery here. At Ogur stop to watch some seals playing or in one case snoozing (the locals have even provided a picnic table with binoculars. I have located another hot pot – but bother it is empty for cleaning, so on over another very snowy mountain pass, then along the coast to Dragsnes where there is a hot pot. Wow. This is the best yet. Three hot tubs sitting right on the beach. Each is a different temperature. What a way to end our day. Sadly, we can’t camp there (or can you imagine how many campers would be parked on the street!) so head further around the coast to a beach strewn with logs. Apparently these all come from Siberia!

Coming soon: more of the wild west & deserted north of Iceland. 

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