Jul 23, 2006

Driving through northern Iceland

Sunday: Part 1

We get going early--this campground isn't our favorite. Cabin too small and too expensive; bathrooms too far; campground too crowded; not convenient to food. John completes his "sketch of the day" before we leave. He is becoming more smug each day that he draws and we don't. We put up with this attitude because we love his drawings! (Just kidding, John.)

We take a dirt road to the waterfalls in Jokulsargljufur National Park, which includes Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in Europe. It is a very powerful waterfall, full of grey water with lots of sediment in it, roaring over rocks. We follow a rocky path alongside it, and see people on the far side of the river/waterfall, where the path is very green and grassy. The canyon has the feel of the Grand Canyon in many ways: the cliffs are full of light, shadow and color, the water below changes velocity, direction and color, the landscape is varied. We could spend several days here, hiking and exploring. Time is too short.

We travel farther up the river canyon to a horseshoe shaped valley. This valley, Asbyrgi, was created when Odin's eight-legged horse left his hoofprint here. I am guessing this was quite some time ago. The valley is enclosed by high, rocky cliffs, and in the valley itself are lots of low trees--birch and pine--as well as grass and wildflowers.Continuing on along the north coast, and heading west, we stop at some wonderful overlooks to enjoy the ocean stretching northwards on this sunny day; as usual, the birdlife is extremely varied. We arrive in Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, and walk around the downtown area before settling on a nice restaurant, Bautinn, for lunch. John says,
Gabe and I are adventuresome and order the whale. It is much different than I expected--deep red meat, a little stringy, a faint tast of fish and beef. It is quite good, and I may never have a chance to try it again.
At expensive restaurants we find that sharing a dish among two people works well, both for the budget and because of the ample portions. Today's lunch/dinner (no coffee, wine, or dessert) is $75. USD with four of us sharing two dishes! Of course we must sample a local coffee shop before leaving.

The weather today is cloudless and perfect--at least 70°F! (To see the actual temp., instead of what I thought it was, look at the end of the posting. I guess by this time I am getting well acclimated to Icelandic temperatures!)

The drive from Akureyri to Hofsos is stunning. A line of mountains to the west of Akureyri consists of 4 or 5 glaciers, so the snow-capped peaks rising up are really impressive. Huge peaks, huge shadows, sunlight behind them, snow...Today was a long driving day, about 7 hours total, made shorter by the lovely views around each bend in the road. Yesterday was an 8 hour driving day. We hope not to drive this many hours again in one day.

The fog is starting to settle in as we come in to Hofsos, one of my most-anticipated destinations of this trip. It is a lovely village that is special to me for several reasons: it is where one of my favorite authors, Bill Holm, spends his summers, and it is our base for the journey to Drangey Island. I have read a number of Bill's stories that feature Hofsos, and this is prime saga country, so it is thrilling to be here in person.

High 56°F Low 41°F


Joel said...

O, I should have read on - the cabins are "expensive". I'm thinking the tent/volunteering on sheep farms option will suite my budget.

Rose said...

Hi Joel,
See my comment under July 22...