Thursday 6th August until 16th
OK not much to report. We’ve done nothing other than B&B and rental cottage chores. The weather has been wet and windy so just getting the linen dry has been a battle. We have started duolingo – learning French. We hope to make more effort language wise than we have done so far on this trip. So we’re preparing for France!
Tomorrow we’re going up to North Iceland for our penultimate week in Iceland.
Monday 17th August
Today we’re off to Akureyri, In the north of Iceland. We pack our gear including a tent and air mattress we’re borrowing from Ása into her Skoda, have breakfast and we’re ready to go. Last time we took the Skoda we were supposed to get an oil change but it didn’t happen so Ása wants Daz to check the oil. All is good and we hit the road. 15 minutes later there’s an almighty smash as the bonnet flies up straight into the windscreen, cracking it in a million places. Daz can’t see because he has a bonnet in his face but manages to keep the car on the gravel road and brings it to a stop without dropping us into the fjord. The damage is extensive – smashed windscreen and a dented and buckled bonnet. Fxxk Fxxk Fxxk.
We turn the car around and limp back to the B&B, dreading showing Ása the damage. Back at the B&B Ása takes the news well but we discover she isn’t even sure if she has insurance. After some frantic phonecalls it turns out the windscreen is mostly covered and the garage in Patreksfordur will do that but for the bonnet – no cover and her best bet is a friend in Reykjavik who will try and get one from a Breaker’s yard. We’ve told her we’ll pay. After all it’s our fault. We decide our only option is a hirecar but only because Ása can get us a really good rate from Europcar. So tomorrow we’ll be off again. In the afternoon Ása hurts her back and can barely move so we greet the evening guests. Even though we have a hirecar booked, Ása offers us the use of the red truck and finally Daz accepts. He’s worried about damaging another car. So the hire car is cancelled.
Tuesday 18th August
Today we set off again. It’s going to be a long drive. And it is and mostly uneventful, gravel, tarmac, gravel, tarmac, fjord, cliff, cliff, fjord until about 5 hours in we pass a traffic cop who suddenly starts flashing all his lights. Daz can see him trying to turn around in the rear view mirror, and with me silently shouting ‘floor it!’ in a vain attempt to enliven the days drive Daz pulls over. I say it can’t possibly be for speeding because he was coming the other way, little did we know the Icelandic Police have forward looking radar!! Daz is asked to step out of the truck and into the back of the police car with licence and wallet. Twenty minutes later £180 poorer he’s been done for driving 115 km/hr instead of 90. He’s livid. But it could have worse. The trucks speedo doesn’t work, we’re not sure if we’re insured or even if it’s road worthy. Thank goodness Mr police man wasn’t interested in these issues. Now it really is a tedious drive – it feels as if we’re driving at 90km/hr.
We stop and watch a helicopter carrying avalanche protection to the top of the valley. After a mooch around we decide there’s nowhere we fancy for food so head on to Dalvík. Ása was born and brought up in this area so she’s called in favours and got us a great deal on whale watching tomorrow, 2 for 1… go Ása! She’s also recommended a restaurant, Gisli Eirikur Helgi which does fish soup and fantastic bread… all you can eat!! We stop and have dinner and it’s amazing.
We then head to Hussibakki campsite where we set up camp.
Wednesday 19th August
Today we’re up early and head back into Dalvik to the whale watching shop. We’re given warm coveralls and get on the bus and head for Hauanes – 20 mins away. There we go out on a large boat with approximately 50 tourists on it.
Even from the shore we can see plumes from the whales’ blow holes out in the fjord. There are certainly a lot of whales out there. For the next 2 hours our skipper drives around the fjord towards the whales. We see many whales just swimming through the water and then as they prepare to dive they arch up high in the water and then their fluke (tail fin) comes up before they dive.
Each fluke is as individual as a fingerprint. We’re seeing mainly hump backed whales. Then right in front of us a humpback whale breeches – comes up right out of the water. Then the same whale breeches again. It’s fantastic – we were both on the right side of the boat.
We’ve been so lucky and seen far more than we expected and it’s a glorious day out on the fjord – the sun is shining and the water is so calm. Then we’re watching 2 whales and then they’re alongside our boat. It’s so clear we can see their flippers.
Finally the skipper announces a quick break for fishing. The fish sonar shows plenty of fish beneath us and out come the rods. Disappointingly there are only about 8 rods for 50 people and there’s plenty of people hogging those rods but soon there’s some bites and some really large haddock are reeled in.
After the boat trip it’s off to Gisli Eirikur Helgi restaurant for lunch and we chat to Ása’s friend, Heither who also has workawayers. Ever since coming to Iceland we’ve wanted to go fishing. We ask Heither if she knows anyone who would take us. She does and she makes some phone calls and one potential fisherman says he’ll pop by. As a result we’re sat in the cafe for over 3 hours. The fisherman finally arrives and will gladly take us but only if the wind dies. So unfortunately we’re left waiting for the wind to drop but it never does!
and then drive back into town and walk around the harbour. There’s a guy fishing from the jetty using pork as bait who catches his second flatfish as we watch. We also see the Grimsey ferry come in and crates of cod on the harbour side being moved by forklift to be processed.
We grab a quick bite to eat and then drive to Hauanes, where we got on the whale watching boat, to see what the whales are up to. The fjord is choppy now but we see another whale breech but it’s some way away.
Thursday 20th August
We pack up our tent and head for Akureyri, making 2 stops en route. The first at the local brewery,
the second at Hauanes where we see only one whale boat and can barely see any whales. But we do see what we later decide might be a Gyrfalcon with its catch – it’s a bird of prey feasting on a dead rodent. The wet miserable weather is going to make todays whale watchers experience much less special than ours yesterday.
We also visit all the outdoor clothing shops which has become our latest compulsion. Daz’s favourite – 66 degrees north – the most expensive Icelandic clothing ever created. We were going to use Akureyri as our next Base but it is really unremarkable – although our visit did cost us a parking ticket.
So we head to Myvatn. We stop at Godafoss waterfalls so named because the the chieftain of Ljósavatn had to decide whether to embrace Christianity as the faith of Iceland and having done so throws all his pagan statues into the river.
We also stop at Skútustaõir pseudo craters,
formed by steam explosions when burning lava encounters lakes or wetlands and have a walk round and then Dimmuborgir to admire the spectacular lava formations, created by the eruption of Laxárhraun from Threngslaborgir, 2000 years ago.
Our last stop of the day is to Hverfjall crater. It was created in the 1700s and so no vegetation has seeded here so it’s rather barren.
From here it’s into Reykjahlío and our campsite and we choose a pitch next to the lake. It’s beautiful. Mývatn basin sits squarely on the mid Atlantic ridge. Mývatn is Iceland’s 4th largest lake 37km2 and has a shoreline deeply incised by numerous small creeks and is speckled with about 50 islands. The area is famed for its birdlife.
Friday 21st August
4 am and it sounds as if there’s torrential rain. 6am the rain has stopped but now there seems to be a gale. It’s so noisy in the tent and we’re not sure this tent will prove weather proof – there is no air gap between the fly and the inner.
Finally we manage to get up about 930ish but now there’s both wind and rain but we have a plan. There’s walks at Hverir, an area of hotsprings where there are bubbling mud pools and the smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) is overpowering; Leirhnjúkur mountain to Hófur crater and up to Viti crater.
Throughout the whole area which is a ‘hot zone’ we constantly see steam rising from the ground, lava flows cracked and tumbling over each other, steaming ponds of hot water and the ever pervading smell of rotten eggs, like being under a quilt with Daz!! But its all very barren, hardly any flora and fauna to be seen.
Saturday 22nd August
And it’s raining. Daz thinks he can outwait the rain but that’s because he has a good book on the go. I leave him to it and go for a shower. The water really smells of sulphur – a common occurrence in Iceland with geothermal water. Then I persuade Daz to get up and we’re on the road by 9am. First stop today – Dettifoss – it has the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, 500 cubic metres of water per second plunge over the edge. It’s 45m high and 100m wide. It’s awesome!
Then we drive 37km on a gravel track to Ásbyrgi. Daz is convinced there isn’t a rock or rut that I’ve missed. He says I’m steering into them – all of them… I’m just happy seeing his head bounce off the roof!!
Ásbyrgi is one of the wonders of nature. It is a well forested horse shoe canyon. It is 3.5km long and roughly 1km wide with perpendicular cliffs of close to 100m in height. What caused this canyon – some believe it was formed when Sleipnir, Odin’s flying horse, touched the ground with one of his eight hooves, others think it might have been an earthquake, you takes your pick!!
At the head of the canyon is a small pond, which was once home to a beast, a farmer’s son who was bewitched. His girl could break him free by confronting the beast and throwing her dearest possessions into its jaws. The Icelandic are very much into their mythology as you can see.
From here we drive to the quaint seaside village of Húsavik – another popular spot for whale watching. We have a late lunch here at a fabulous fish restaurant and then walk around the harbour and town centre.
Sunday 23rd August
After a bit of a lie in (1130 we hit the road) we decide to go round the next peninsula so that we can see Hvitserkur -a bit of upright rock, bit like Durdle Dor but far less impressive described in the guide book as a 15m high monolith on the eastern side of Vatneses peninsula.
Vatnsnes is also renowned for having the largest seal colonies in Iceland which we go to see. They are tame and are content to laze on the rocks or swim in the sea very close to all their fans, eager to photograph them in any position.
And that concludes our sightseeing and we head home. Our very last stop is the hotpot just 20minutes from Bildudular where we enjoy a long soak in the warm water. We’ve covered some serious mileage in the last 7 days so it’s nice to relax those knotted muscles. We’ve only got one week left in Iceland, it’s been a magnificent place to visit; waterfalls, whales, puffins, seals, birdlife and majestic scenery, no wonder they have 1.2 million tourists a year and rising (against a populace of 320,000) we hope that it doesn’t get spoilt in the future and that the people of Iceland can fully benefit from this much needed influx of money.