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A second week in Iceland and we’re still in heaven!

Tuesday 30th June

We carry on painting today but the wind is really picking up so excessive paint is getting blown everywhere and it’s much colder but the wind is drying the paint so quickly that it becomes as tacky as glue in no time, making it even more difficult than normal.

Wednesday 1st July

The wind was blowing a gale last night and rain is forecast so we have an indoor job today.  We need to strip out all the cheap cladding in cottage number 2 and remove all the rubbish.

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We don’t start this demolition job until we’ve moved all the furniture and bric a brac that Ása wants to keep into the cellar of the B&B then it’s claw hammers, lump hammers and jemmy’s to the fore as we rip out the unwanted stuff in the cottage.  Great fun.  Then it’s off to the hairdressers – I’m having my hair chopped off and dyed orange.  It’s definitely shorter than it was but definitely not orange!

Thursday 2nd July

Today we’re on gardening chores.  Some weeding, grass mowing and strimming.  The ‘lawns’ around the cottages are either on steep banks or rough ground so both mowing and strimming are extremely hard work and we have the ‘lawns’ around 3 cottages to do.   By the end of today we’ve finished one and have started on the second.  So that’s our work for Friday.

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Friday 3rd July

Another day of mowing and strimming – think this might qualify as abuse!!!! The grass in most places hasn’t been cut in 2 years so under the new growth is the old straw from last year lying down and blocking the mower and strimmer, it needs a pass by the strimmer then several by the mower before it is cut, and after only 5 feet with the mower the box needs emptying so it’s stop start work for Daz on the mower as I wield the strimmer back and forth like the Jedi knight I am!! The birds love us and the cut grass.  We have white wagtails and redwings everywhere searching for the freshly disturbed insects. We also do some laundry as we occasionally rest from the grass clearing.

Saturday 4th July

After brekkie we’re off with Ása to Rauõasandur to do an environmental litter sweep along the coast. There are other volunteers there and Ása wants to socialise with everyone but instead we are told to work as a team.  The 3 of us are sent down the coast a ways to an area of beach and grasslands, more walking about on ‘babies heads’ grass, sinking and stumbling in the deep ravines as we look for flotsam and jetsam, rubbish that has ended up here.  There are old tyres, old fishing nets that have become entwined with the grass itself making it hard to pull up, old fishing net floats and lots of plastic tubs,pots and vessels which we pile up at regular intervals along the beach so that the farmer and his tractor trailer can pick it all up later.

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We find a pile of whale bones and see some nesting birds and chicks as we go about our work.

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After a couple of hours we get tired and head back to the carpark at the beach.  We eat some sarnies we brought then decide after chatting with the farmer to walk out onto the sands towards where a herd of seals are lying on the beach in the sun.  It takes about30 minutes for the 3 of us to get near them as we cross the gorgeous gold and black volcanic sands, but as we get near we realise there is a waterway between us.

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It looks shallow enough to cross so we can get closer, but as Daz tries to cross he suddenly sinks about a foot into the sand and struggles to get out, quicksand!!! We have to make do with watching the seals for a while with our binoculars and taking some distant photos before we head back along the beach to the carpark.  We walk back via the surf side of the sand spit and paddle in the water which is still cold but not as bad as last time.  In the distance, past the local hills,  we can see the glacial mount of Snæfellsnes in the distance, an amazing sight.

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Daz and I have brought our walking boots with us and on the way back to Bildudalur Asa drops us in Tàlknafjordur so that we can walk over the mountain between the two villages, along a cairn marked track.  It’s at least 10km over the top and as we sit on the grass putting on our boots we look up at the sight of the trek facing us, with the sun shining down it’s going to be a hard slog because it’s straight up the river valley as far as we can see!!  We say bye to Asa and set off over a small stream and head up a small worn track that is marked by regular wooden posts and we soon gain a lot of height.  Higher and higher in the heat we slowly ascend, one foot in front of the other, taking time and making sure we look up occasionally to take in the views behind us of Tàlknafjordur.  The path gets rockier as it progresses and soon disappears but we can still see the posts ahead and we continue on.  We are now also having to cross swathes of snow,the remnants from winter which makes it hard going as we sink a couple of inches with each step into the crust.

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We reach a plateau and continue along until we reach a lake of snow melt water.  With the sun still shining, we strip out of our sweaty kit for a skinny dip and stumble into the frigid waters. Wow it’s cold, but we have lots of fun seeing who will go deeper.

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We both make it to about knee depth and wait, in the freezing water wondering who will dare go further… In the end I take the plunge first then Daz takes a dive and comes up squealing with the shock of the cold!! What amazing fun alone on the hillside, nobody else but a few birds, the sun and our mad laughter.

We continue on across the rocky landscape, now following cairns in the distance as our only guide.  It seems like we are on the moon, and it’s quite surreal.  We have been stopping occasionally and watching the birds, including a Grouse that doesn’t want to fly but would rather wander about trying to hide from us. And then we spot a small black and white bird on one of the snow patches ahead of us,eating off the insects that are caught in the snow. It seems to lead us for a while,always sat on the next cairn as we approach and then off to the next snow patch, we later discover it’s a snow bunting or Snjotittlingur in Icelandic – snow cock.  We thoroughly enjoy watching it and hearing it sing.

Finally we reach the end of the plateau and can see Bildudalur below in the distance, but we still have a lot of ground to cover.  Fortunately it’s much easier going down especially when we follow one long line of snow which we can jog down.It leads us to another snowy lake, no dip this time, and we are soon below the snow line again, now crossing grass and low shrubbery as we leap across the many little streams tumbling their way down the hillside.

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Finally after 4 hours we reach the road and now only have a 3 km walk back into the village, but amazingly we don’t have to walk for long as along come Maggi and Ása who give us a lift to the village!!

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An amazing walk in Iceland’s beauty and we celebrate with a glass of wine and fish ‘n chips in the Vegamot the village store/restaurant.

Sunday 5th July.

We are off on another day out.  This time to Isafjoröur which is only 48km as the crow flies but an amazingly long 144 km away by mainly gravel road following round several fjords and under a mountain tunnel pass to get there.  But it’s to celebrate Heulwen’s birthday which will be on Tuesday, so it’s all going to be worth it!! As usual the scenery is stunning, the gravel road climbs along the switchback mountain passes, hair raising at times,

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but after a couple of detours to see some little fishing villages Ása recommended we should visit (typical Daz and Hels drive through!!) we reach the mountain tunnel that will take us into Isafjoröur.

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It’s a one lane tunnel with passing places so as you are driving through the 7km tunnel if you see car headlights coming towards you depending which way you are going and the priority you have to pull into one of the little caves alongside the road before you have a head on smash to allow the other traffic past!!! Scary to say the least as the tunnel is barely lit and we can only imagine what it would be like on a bike, that is if they are allowed!! No idea how you would get there if not!!

We pass out of the tunnel and Isafjoröur is laid out below us, it has a small ski lift,  a golf course and a harbour with more shops and cafes than we have seen in a while!!  Our destination however is the number 1 restaurant on tripadvisor,  an all you can eat fish buffet restaurant in a wooden hut near the harbour.  All the food is cooked fresh from the day’s catch with a soup to start and several different fish courses and cooking techniques to try from.

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It’s expensive but all the reviews say it’s worth it. Unfortunately…  we obviously catch them on a very bad day as the service is appallingly bad, the food choice is meagre and we seem to be treated completely differently to other larger group bookings, who get more choice and better service even though we booked as well.  We complain to the waitress but are getting nowhere so we ask to see the manager.  15 minutes later we are debating walking out,  but ask her again and finally we are seen by the chef/manager. We make our complaint and apart from “we had a very busy night last night” can’t seem to excuse himself, but we stick our ground and finally he says we can have our meal for free, Billy bonus!! We pop off and go to the local bakery and have coffee and cake to make up for it!! We then head off to the Arctic Fox Centre which is about 17km further out of town and for once pay for entry and immerse ourselves in the world of the only native mammal in Iceland.

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They even have a little orphan cub in an enclosure out back which we spend time watching as it played amongst the vegetation.

Finally we head off back towards Bildudalur,  a 2 hour drive ahead of us, but also a couple of stops on the way, one to a waffle coffee shop in the middle of nowhere that was in an old turf roofed hut,

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and was fab and then onto Dyjandi, the largest waterfall in the Westfjords.   It’s an amazing scene as the waterfall cascades off the mountain top to fall 186 meters to sea level and you can walk all the way up to its base past smaller raging waterfalls, which we do, getting wet and windswept in the process!!

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The most incredible thing is that we can see this most amazing natural phenomenon for no charge.  This would never happen in the UK and also we are able to walk right to the edge – there aren’t safety barriers everywhere!

Finally we’re nearly home and we see flocks of Arctic Terns in the fields and we can see their nests just on the roadside.  And there are eggs!! We sit and watch (from the safety of the truck) and get some great photos.

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Monday 6th July

Late start today.  The alarm didn’t go off because it ran out of charge.  After such a busy weekend we’re both tired anyway.  We struggle to the B&B for breakfast and then it’s off to finish the grass cutting.  It takes us the rest of our work day to finish cottage 4 and take the grass to the grass dump.  However, Ása says we still need to do her house and house number 1 so there’s still more to do.

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