Sunday, September 29, 2019

Iceland, Day 4 (Tuesday, September 3)

The next morning, we set off a little south and then turned just north of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and made our way to Vestfirðir. The Westfjords are a northwestern offshoot of Iceland, connected to the rest of the island by an isthmus. It's located on the Denmark Strait and faces Greenland.
The roads were rougher and less traveled than the Ring Road and we often had to wait for sheep to amble out of our way. Much of our drive was over unpaved, gravel roads.
We found a self-service gas station, but nothing open to get so much as a cup of coffee. We even detoured down a peninsula to Reykhólar, but everything was closed up tight.
But it was so beautiful! Every turn presented another breath-taking view. The Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland, and began forming 16 million years ago with a series of volcanic eruptions.
Finally, we stopped at the Hótel Flókulunder. It was nice to sit in their restaurant overlooking Breidafjörður Bay and have a breakfast of smoked trout and eggs on bread and good coffee.
The main reason we went there, though, was because of the wonderful geothermal spring down by Vestfjarðarvegur beach. For a good while, we had it to ourselves.
Then back on the road. There are swans in the water everywhere.
Our directions told us the driveway to the farm we were headed for was at Dynjandi Falls. But we weren't expecting such a huge series of waterfalls.
There were six smaller falls there: Bæjarfoss, Hundafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss, Göngumannafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss, and Hæstajallafoss. The name of the main waterfall, Dynjandi, means "thunderous."
And then it was a 10km drive along the Arnólfsfjall peninsula, on a curvy road right along the edge of the mountain.
To Laugaból Horse Farm, our Airbnb for the next two nights.
We were greeted by María, an excitable little arctic fox that our host, Árni, had found as a kit.
Our room (and all the guest rooms) were upstairs on the top floor.
There was also a shared bath on the top floor, and kitchen, living room, and dining room on the floor below. Our host lived on the lowest floor. After we'd unloaded, Árni suggested we hike out to the end of the peninsula to see the whales.
His farm is the entire second half of the peninsula - about 10,000 acres! As we set off, we passed a couple of old rock pens.
He told us to head downhill to cross the stream below the little glacial melt waterfall.
We crossed on stones and elected not to wade in this time.
After we'd hiked a way, my husband told me to look behind us - there was the Laugaból herd heading toward us. I guess they like the same hiking path.
As the passed, many of the horses veered out of the line to come over to be petted.
The foals were a little more skittish and as this one passed, the horses circled around to surround me.
I'm not really a horse person so at first I wasn't sure how safe that was. But after nudging each other aside to greet me, they fell back in line.
And they are just gorgeous creatures. For the life of me, I don't know how Icelanders can eat them.
Finally, they moved on past and headed up and over the ridge.
As we continued to hike I was struck by the sea anemones scattered around. We were up way to high for them to have been washed up by the water.
At the end of the peninsula was a little orange light house. It was unlocked so we went up inside to check it out. It was stuffy, but in a snowstorm I imagine it would be a welcome shelter.
We had brought a picnic lunch and ate on the edge of the cliff.
The rocks below had big flocks of white seabirds. And out in the Arnarfjörður, there were humpback and minke whales swimming! We would spot a jet of water and then see a fin or tail as they surfaced.
Hiking back down from the point, we passed a volcanic formation our host had told us to look for - it was formed when lava extruded from a vent and then, over time, the earth around it eroded away leaving a wall with a door-like opening at the bottom.
Finally, we saw the house again, off in the distance. You can really see here how very isolated it is.
Back at the house, María gathered up her courage and let me pet her.  She had sharp little claws and teeth but it was impossible not to laugh when she climbed up my back to get a closer look.
It had been a long travel day and we settled into our room for the night, with a view of the farm and the fjord.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Iceland, Day 3 (Monday, September 2)

Before we left Akureyri, we made a stop at the Bónus, the biggest and least expensive of the grocery stores in Iceland. Our next couple of lodgings were located far from grocery stores and convenient restaurants, so we needed supplies. If you ask me, the Bónus logo pig looks like it was in a drunken brawl.
On our way, we took a little detour off the Ring Road to visit the Glaumbær farm, near Skagafjörður. The book I was reading when we left for Iceland was a book about Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, a Viking woman born in 980 who appears in both the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders. She and her husband sailed to Newfoundland, and lived their for a year, returning to Iceland after their son was born. She's known as Gudrid the Far-travelled and Glaumbær was her last home.
Although Glaumbær has been a farm for 900 years, the buildings have obviously changed. In Iceland, there aren't many very old buildings because homes and farms were built primarily of blocks of turf, which eventually degrade back to the earth. These homes are in the Danish-Icelandic style which came later, and were built in the 19th century.
The insides of the houses are open to view so that you can see how the rooms were used. This one had a forge in it.
I love the chevroned look of the blocks of turf.
Icelanders name every possible building, landmark and even boulders. This house is Gilsstofa.
And, in front of the building Árbús, was a wonderful bench with carved dragon heads. I wish I could have brought it home with me.
Just before we left, a rainbow appeared over the fields at Glaumbær.
Then it was back to the Ring Road to a little cottage, Skjól, in Reykir. It's located near Stað on a small peninsula.
Oh, bunk beds. Somehow I overlooked that on the Airbnb site! But it was just a night and otherwise, we really liked the little place.
Our view from the cottage of Húnaflói bay, part of the Hrútafjörður. Across the fjord is the beginning of the Westfjords.
It's an area with a lot of geothermal activity, and you can see the steam rising from the ground. These streams fuel the tubs and showers.
The cottages were near the Sæberg hostel, and we had the use of their geothermal tub, on the edge of the bay. I'd asked my breast surgeon about using the tubs in Iceland and she thought the lymphedema risk would be minimal. As it turned out, the tubs are just comfortably warm and so I didn't worry. We had it to ourselves and it was so relaxing!
We decided to drive back up the peninsula to get dinner in Hvammstangi.
Sjvárarborg restaurant is in a building that used to be a slaughterhouse. You'd never guess it.
We had their seafood soup and langoustines with pasta. Both were really good.
We did a little exploring after dinner and happened on this unusual (for us) sight. Fish drying on a rack.
These become hardfiskur, the dried fish that is served with smjör (butter). And yes, I tried this, too, in Akureyri. While not as revolting as the fermented shark, I can tell you I don't care for it. And I think I'd like it even less now that I've seen the fish drying.
I mean, yikes.
My take-away is that I don't want to encounter any of these guys in the ocean.
Then back to our little college for a glass of wine and some time spent just watching the ocean and planning the next day's travel.
After the sunset, my husband stayed up later than me and woke me around midnight - to see the aurora borealis! None of the photos turned out, but it was mesmerizing to sit, bundled up on the little porch of our cabin, and watch the surreal shifting of the northern lights above us.