The journey so far:
22 days on the road:
2020 miles by land, about 1000 miles by sea,
Days without any rain 5
Nights camping 17 Nights in hotels 2 Nights at sea 3
Countries visited 7
We had a lovely rest on Friday, only a little stroll through the vast metropolis of Varmahlid (OK a service station, a few houses, a gift shop, a cafe, a school a small hotel and a campsite) in the blazing sunshine, a bit of washing and a lot of reading.
It was delightful, especially as, when you stepped out from the camp site, there were the most amazing views in all directions. This tiny little town is in a wide, flat valley, which is framed by distant, snow capped peaks and there is a lovely river that meanders gently past.
Saturday morning looked fantastic- bright sunshine, bright blue sky, birds singing and no wind or clouds. There was also frost on the tent and neither of us wanted to get out from under the duvet. You can tell it is cold when you find that your breath has condensed on the blankets near your mouth and (as far as Tim is concerned)(not me honest) on your moustache.
Well, we managed to get up and going, eventually, and we drove along route 1 to Blönduós, a very pretty route that again passed dramatic mountains, lush valleys and the odd waterfall. It is, however, a bit of a letdown on the waterfall front around here. Having seen the cascades north of Seydifjiodur, Dettifoss and Gotafoss, the ones around here look like dribbles. It feels very churlish to say this, I would have been very excited to see any one of the local falls in the UK, but I guess I have been well and truly spoilt on the waterfall front.
From Blönduós with its one hotel and very weird looking church
we drove on round the Vatnsnes peninsula, which was well worth the extra 45 miles on a gravel road. To the east it has gentle fields with actual crops growing (this seems to be quite rare-the farmers mostly seem to harvest either hay or (maybe) silage. We saw a couple of fields of barley and even one of rape. These are framed by the sea on one side and towering, but smoothly sloping mountains on the other side. We stopped to look at the weird and wonderful Hvítserkur rock, a weird 10m high lump of granite in the sea which is meant to look like a troll and I can go with that. The story is that this particularly nasty piece of work was so intent on destroying the local monastery that he did not notice that daybreak was on him so he ended up being turned into rock.
Once you come back along the west side of the Vatnsnes peninsula, the terrain is much more harsh with rough volcanic rock and rugged mountains on one side and very little room for anything but grass on either side. The best thing about it is that there are at least two seal colonies very close to the coast and we spent a delightful hour watching the seals popping their heads out of the water.
We stopped for the night at a very pleasant campsite in Hvammstangi ready to tackle the ‘lobster claw’ of the northeastern fjords the next day.
Sunday was something pretty special. We left the campsite in good time (mainly because, unless you get up early, you have to queue for the showers) and drove along route 1 until we left it to head up to the west fjords. The route started as a classic Icelandic thing, and rather than bore you with repeated oohs and aahs, I will just give you a selection of photos I took along the way.
I always feel that I am switching between various film sets here. Is it Heidi, ‘Ooh look, the sun is kissing the mountain goodbye’, and “Oh what a lovely meadow’ or is it Lord of the rings/ the Hobbit ‘there are the misty Mountains/ oops we are heading to Mordor!!!!’ Then you feel that you could easily imagine Tina Turner doing her Mad Max thing, and of course there is always Game of Thrones (cold bits only of course). I also keep seeing those fluffy grass things that you always see in black and white arty films. We have also had our own, personal film moment when the local tern population decided to reenact ‘The Birds’ and dive-bombed both of us.
They were more stroppy than the gulls that nested on our neighbours’ flat roof. My mum always calls flocks of starlings in the UK ‘yobs’, but I can’t help feeling that arctic terns fulfil the role here. The hang around in huge groups, eating everything in sight and making a huge amount of irritating noise.
Having started our drive through the west fjords, despite the fact we were beginning to get a little blasé about the scenery, I can honestly say the scenery is stunning. What can be more beautiful than high, snow caped peaks sweeping down to the sea? We drove around a couple of fjords and decided that we ought to stop because there are no more campsites for about 80 miles.
We camped at Reykjanes, a tiny spit of land between two fjords and with a howling wind and the squeaks of a huge flock of arctic terns to keep us company. Interestingly, this campsite is owned by an hotel that looks like it was designed in Stalinist Russia.
There is some poor bod who is sanding off the paintwork with a hand power tool and the (usual) volcanic swimming pool looks ready to collapse. Inside it looks quite nice and there are some new cabins being built. I suspect that the place really suffered due to the collapse in the economy and now someone is investing in it. It is the only place for miles, so they should do well with all the nut jobs like us driving around the fjords.
Another thing they have going here is a salt works- unlimited salt water and volcanic heat, it just has to work.
Monday we drove as far as Isafjordur, the only large town in this area. It has over 2000 inhabitants, which makes it pretty happening by Icelandic standards. As we were driving along the narrow, winding (tarmac covered-yeh!) roads, we were pondering why most people seemed to be going the other way.
When we stopped for a cuppa we counted to see if it was a false impression, but no, there were at least ten times as many people travelling clockwise around the fjords than the other way. An Icelander that ended up following us gave us the answer. He was driving down the middle of the road much of the time and was obviously very concerned about the drop on the right hand side of the car. Tim wasn’t too happy about it, but at least he could see where the edge of the road was, due to Camel being right hand drive. This also probably explains why the Lonely Planet guide to Iceland goes the other way.
Well, the sun was out, the wind had dropped, we were driving round fjords, we had a stunning view of the most northerly peninsula which you can not drive around, only reach on foot or by boat, a forbidding, rocky harsh looking place, with snow almost down to the sea and a glacier visible on the top. The falls were flowing, there were more birds than you could shake a stick at, there were seals sunning themselves in odd and amusing positions as well as splashing around and showing off, the mountains were reflected most fetchingly in the water…. What can I say apart from WOW!!!!!!
We drove around a variety of fjords until we came to the only major town in the western fjords called Isafjordur. It is a ‘proper’ town with a variety of shops, cafes, a port and an airstrip.
We camped in a fairly basic campsite (2 loos and you have to pay to use one of the two showers) right in the port, which looked fairly sheltered but the wind blasted on and off all evening and, despite the sunshine, it was really chilly. We realised that the wind was coming straight off the glacier on the opposite peninsula. We put all of the guy ropes out, with the hope we would not take off.