We get to have a slower start to the day, enjoy the home we are in and head out at a leisurely pace. As we finally pack our belongings back into the Landcruiser I saw Hanna in the house about 60 metres away up the hill, so went to say hello, goodbye and especially thank you for the tea cake and the home. Nutmeg and Ginger went into the cake. I could pick the ginger, but I always get nutmeg and cinnamon mixed up when it’s used in cooking.
We wind alongside the mountains that fall into the ocean. The clouds are all around us and we see no blue sky for pretty much the entire day. The road is precariously perched on the edge of the mountains and over the sea in many places. I’m not one for heights, and driving on the wrong (right) side of the road I drive very slowly. There aren’t even guard rails in some locations. Life’s a challenge right?
The options to stop during today’s trip aren’t many, but I found something that might be interesting to see. A stone collection! Petra’s stone (or mineral) collection in fact. I know many people who walk along the beach as a child, or even an adult and find a shell that takes their attention. They pick it up and take it home, put it in a box or maybe on a shelf of theirs in pride of place. They find another, or a beautiful rock that has been carved into a smooth finish, lying in the bottom of a creek. This was Petra’s life. Living in the fjords of Iceland in a place called Stöðvarfjörður (it sounds like ‘stoad’ – ‘var’ – ‘fy-ord’ – ‘ur’. An easy one to say). As a child, Petra would collect these rocks. As an adult she continued. Her love of the beauty of nature was her inspiration and this continued throughout her life. I really recommend you look into the story of her life that was almost cut short by illness as a child. A wonderful story from a person who dedicated much of her life to her passion for ‘hunting’ for beautiful gems, fossils, bones and loved to share them with others despite not being one for fanfare. She received a decoration from the president of Iceland in 1995 for her collection and passed away in 2012 at the age of 80 years. We all thoroughly enjoyed her collection, certainly much more than I thought I would. There is something special about this place, no doubt. Have a look at the webpage dedicated to her history. You won’t be disappointed.
We continued up through the edges of mountains as we left Stöðvarfjörður and made our way inland. What it was easy to forget was that we were travelling during summer. The snow was supposed to have melted, the rivers full and the sun shining brightly. That was what I expected anyway. In the mountains of the East Fjords of Iceland, there is still snow on the mountains, the rivers are still full, but the sun isn’t always out. Driving along, you could see the clouds actually forming as the sea air hit the mountains. Trevor made the suggestion that you could see a waterfall actually rising with the wind, the spray turing upwards. Upon closer inspection you could see there was no waterfall and the cloud actually forming and adding to the blanket that was covering the mountains. It was yet another surprise along the road on our trip around the country.
We drove up the final mountain to a height of slightly over 600 metres. And then we descended that entire elevation on a very steep and thin winding road that led to our destination of Seydisfjordur. A stunning town built into the side and base of the mountains that overlooked it. It reminds me very much of the town used in the TV series of “Trapped” that as I write this, is being aired on Australian TV. A wonderfully clever suspense filled crime show made in the northern fjords of Iceland in 2015. Seydisfjordur is another easy town to say. ‘say’ – ‘dis’ – ‘fy-ord’ – ‘ur’ but you say it in 2 parts. Seydis-fjordur.
As we entered town we saw a couple of people walking in. Above a man waving a stick frantically above his head were 3 birds, I later found out were Kria’s, or Arctic Terns. They are a very territorial bird and especially when they are nesting. But they are also very aggressive and cunning. This is their Modus Operandi. They see a person who is a threat (or usually not actually a threat); they call out for reinforcements (and the noise sounds like their name “kria..kria..”. When reinforcements come they attack their threat, one at a time, taking turns to dive bomb them. Note to self.. “Kria. stay clear” … more on the the Arctic Tern later…
We arrived a little early for checkin and had lunch before getting to our home. Trevor and I had a conversation with our “booking.com” host and he us the low-down on where the best waterfall was in the area. There were some quite magnificent sights as we arrived in town of the waterfalls streaming down the mountain on both sides. A large one was right behind us in our house and probably a 5 minute walk. But he described where a cascading waterfall, hidden from view could be found on the other side of the water, just 5 minutes away (Map). He also told us that there would be some huts, built in the 1800’s, that had been crushed under an avalanche that killed about 2 hundred people. A law was then passed to stop people from building there. The fact was that it was about 25 people that died (according to records), but it sounds better to say hundreds… The saga’s of an Icelander.
A night nestled between the 2 mountains of Seydisfjordur, with the sun breaking through the clouds a bit before 10pm for a sound sleep and a long day ahead to the north of the country to see the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss.
North to Húsavík
Trevor and I were the sole 2 drivers of our car, as we only had our names on the vehicle hire contract. Jane and Julia would have been happy to take the wheel I am sure, but it costs considerable money to hire a car for 2 weeks in Iceland, and especially a good 4 wheel drive. Adding another couple of names would have made this even more expensive. So Trevor and I swapped driving duties each day. These gave each of us a break from the 5-8 hours behind the wheel each day (including stops) and the person not driving really got to enjoy the scenery as we made our way along Route 1 – The Ring Route. Driving was also a joy as we got to navigate our way around Iceland, and having the excitement of rounding a bend to see a wonderful new landscape experience. Our trip to Húsavík would be a fairly lengthy, and not a super interesting drive, so I was glad Trevor would be behind the wheel. There was not much to see over our 4 hours of commute as we made our way back over the mountains, drive the lengthy period though uninspiring landscape and see a waterfall or 2 before stopping in a sleepy fishing village at the end.
As usual, I was wrong! I thought the land would be flat, but it wasn’t. We continually climbed hills that turned to mountains before they dropped back down. The landscape changed continually. The “craters of the moon” as they are known are a brown/black area of the landscape that has been scarred with the history of Iceland caused by volcanoes erupting and lava flows burning through the ground. Not much was growing around here. The snow was slowly melting leaving very many small streams to run into larger ones and finally into rivers. They eventually combined in a very rocky and desolate area, used in several films including Prometheus at a place called Dettifoss. The road to Dettifoss travels for about 30 km on a dirt/gravel road after you leave Route 1. This is the eastern route. There is a bitumen road on the western side of the falls, but from all of the photo’s I have seen, the view from the east is more spectacular. Like we really need to take the more spectacular view right?
When we arrived we saw that the access was much more restricted on our side too. The paths were simply gaps between rocks that had a guide rope marked to show the easier route. Steep steps made of rocks that had been moved into the path making a form of stair. Along the western side, you could see the streams of people coming down the timber stair cases to view the waterfall.
Selfoss (the waterfall, not the town) was about 1.4 km away, and only accessible by walking through a very rocky track, where you had to literally climb boulders. On this day, it would be a stretch to get there and return without taking an hour or so, which we didn’t really have. Even though we were 2/3rds the way to Húsavík we were only half way there in time. We had a lot more driving to do. Saying that though, there really are some great views from this side. I would say we made the right choice. We had a much better view of the waterfall because it directly faced us. People could walk right up to the edge without fear of falling because the river bank that turned into the falls was on our side. The green western side of the falls also made for nicer photo’s. Even more, as you look away from the falls to where the river continues, we had a fantastic look along the canyon that takes the river all the way back to the edge of the island and to the ocean.
Two hours later we were in Húsavík. A reasonable size town by Iceland standards with a population of 2,200 Húsavík is the capital of Whale Watching. We found our house after bit of hard work (the address just didn’t make sense) and we ended up locating it by matching photographs we had seen on the Airbnb site. There was no mistake in the end because houses are definitely not the same. They often have a similar design in that they are painted, with symmetry in their design, but are all painted differently. Green roof, blue walls or red walls, yellow roof plus the many other colours available in paint and seemingly an infinite variation. It’s always a colourful experience going into a town in Iceland.
You are pretty much guaranteed to see whales when on a charter boat from Húsavík. Puffins too it seems. We signed up for an excursion to a Whale & Puffin Sightseeing tour aboard the “Fanney” with Salka Whale Watching. An experience we should all try if you get the opportunity and should be on most peoples bucket list. What I particularly liked about Salka as the tour group (there are very many who do it) is that they showed a greater respect to the Whales and Puffins by not getting too close than some of the others. Saying that, a whale came up right beside us and was within a few metres of Jane. A great day, starting early at the docks at 8:45 a.m., a 3 1/2 hour tour and then continued to our next destination. A tip for those going whale watching. Bring your camera and a long lens (big zoom) and a fast shutter speed. It was amazing to watch and photograph these animals.
Our next destination was Akuyeri. The northern capital of Iceland, barely over an hour away. Akuryeri is the 2nd largest city in Iceland and we had 2 nights there. A nice break at the halfway mark of our trip where we could relax, take a moment and get set for the Westfjords that would be next on our trip around this volcanic rock.
Enjoy the photo’s from our last couple of days in Iceland from the south east to the north.