Day 19–Ferry ride and Northern Lights

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Today we leave the West Fjords and head south on the car ferry Ferjan Baldur. It’s a 3 hour boat ride and we had internet connectivity the whole way. I still got a little bored and had a nice nap on the way.

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Looking at the forecast for tomorrow it was going to be overcast so we decided to take advantage of the sun and see the sights this afternoon.

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We decided to make it a loop as we have all afternoon.

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First planned stop was Búðakirkja a little black church.

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This one was built around 1703. There are what seems to be a large number of churches in Iceland and they seem to be from a similar template. There’s something about the couple of little black ones that really stands out or maybe I just like black and white.

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Of course we had to see another waterfall – Kirkjufellsfoss.

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This one had the fullest (yet small) parking lot we’d seen with people parked awkwardly on the side of the road. We luckily arrived at a car turnover and managed to get a safe spot.

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What makes this one worth stopping for is you can get Kirkjufell Mountain in the same photo is you take a panorama.

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Or you have a wide enough lense and can get a good angle on it. Here I was approached by some men (you can just see them in the pic) to help them with their photo mission. One was dressed like a caveman and wanted to get a pic of him with the mountain…sure … not sure why his buddy couldn’t take the photo. Once agreeing to assist his mate then quickly disrobed and put on a gag. Hmm…ok. So about 10 photos and high five’s later they seemed happy. Not sure how they’ll look as it was just on a phone and the difference in light was difficult but they seemed happy.

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I’d been refreshing the aurora forecast a lot. It had been forecast to be cloudly and activity of 1-2 but stubborn as I am I just kept refreshing. As the afternoon drew on it was going to be clear with a 3. By night it was a 4.

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There wasn’t much around on our scout worth driving out to so we opted to stay up till midnight and just walk up the hill behind town to the lighhouse.

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As we tried to find shelter from the town lights which totally wipe out your ability to see the green wisp across the sky we started to see colour changes.

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It’s very subtle as it’s early in the season but it looks like a thin cloud. The cloud will glow slightly. You actually see the colour come out better on the photo and I wonder if people don’t even realise they are seeing the lights.

Day 18 – Dynjandi

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Today’s highlight was the trip to Dynjandi.

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We’ve seen a lot of waterfalls by now but I think Dynjandi is the prettiest with it’s wide veil.

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You see this waterfall many k’s away and it gets more impressive the closer you get.

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It’s actually a series of waterfalls with a total height around 100 meters.

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Surprisingly there’s not a lot of spray so you can get quite close up.

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On our travels we passed Garðar BA 64 – the oldest steel ship in Iceland.

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Launched in 1912 (same year as Titanic) it had a varied history before purposely being run aground in 1981 it’s now slowly rusting away.

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I’d seen a couple of pics of this ship but hadn’t found it’s name or location other then the West Fjords till we literally drove up to it.

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Heading down to the Red Sand beach we came across this little black church. There’s another one similar that I have my eye on for a few days time.

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The light and the tide weren’t the best for the beach and it is more orange than red so we didn’t stick around here long before heading back.

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The clouds here seem to spill over the tops of the mountains just like the waterfall.

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Day 16-17 Rainy West Fjords

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Saturday – Our run of good weather has ended for now.

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It’s been a pretty bleak drive to get to  Ísafjörður.

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We’re taking the opportunity to rest and enjoy staying in the one hotel for 2 nights in a row and to try and get some washing done in the sink and make use of the heated towel rails to get things dry.

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Sunday – it’s still miserable, cloudy and rainy but we venture out to find some food and wander around the small town.

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In the afternoon I venture across the road for another swim. This one is an indoor heated swimming pool.

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The guy collecting my money asks if I’ve been to a pool here before and if I’m familiar with the “sacred shower ritual”. When I look at him and ask “Do you mean having to use the shower 1000 times to swim”… he replies “I see you have been initiated. At first the pool is a bit full. People swimming up and down and across and kids playing. It’s a bit like Frogger trying to time your lap just right to avoid collisions. It starts to think out and left with swimmers but all of them so slow even I look fast. By 4:30 it’s down to me and another guy and he’s there to do laps too so I just follow his feet. After about an hour I’m done…my arm is starting to ache (it’s going to be so sore tomorrow) and I’ve done 2k’s of swimming so time to have yet another shower before I head back to the hotel.

Day 14 15–Heading West

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Day 14 – After a disappointing night, and a bleak outlook we weren’t keen on an early start so took out time to head west today.

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First stop to break up the drive was Goðafoss. I’d had it on my list originally, then removed it as there were more impressive waterfalls but last minute to add it back to give John a rest. Then a quick stop in Akureyri for lunch before heading to our guesthouse for the night. I’ve got a cracking headache – the type when John is eating cornchips on the other side of the room it sounds like a drummer playing right inside my ear. After crashing on top of John for a few hours I move to the otherside of the room to continue my attempt to sleep off the headache.

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Day 15 – Feeling super drained after my headache last night. We were going to go hiking yesterday afternoon but I wasn’t up to it. Big drive ahead today but we first head up to our original hiking spot at Þórðarhöfði to stretch the legs and see what the view was like.

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Needing more things to break up the drive I picked Skarð lighthouse as somewhere to stop.

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Once you stop you give other people the same idea. Had 2 other cars try and stop in out not even a pullover area we found. The side of the road was quite marshy and required concentration to not fall over and roll my ankle.

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By now our car is kinda dirty – I think we win dirtiest car on the road at this point. We spot a washbay in Hólmavík so John gives it a good clean down. This is good because the servos here don’t have the bucket and squidgy like home to wash your windscreen so ours is pretty manky by now. Don’t want to put too much pressure on the window though…case the crack becomes a giant hole.

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Once at our accommodation for the night we notice there’s a pool next door that closes at 6pm. Quickly grab my togs and off I go. Not quite up there on Icelandic poll etiquette so I clearly look like a noob. It’s a bit of a process….

1. Leave shoes at the door

2. Pay

3. Have a shower (no togs)

4. Goto pool (but not through the front door … through the shower area I clearly missed the first time

5. Swim (oops was supposed to leave my bag in the shower area). Seems noone else is actually swimming but just sitting in the spa pool things. So I swim till close time. Oops again….probably needed to get out 10mins before.

6. Have another shower

7. Get shoes back on

8. Say sorry to the pool lady who looks upset I’m running out the door with my shoes half on at 6:05pm

Day 12–Dettifoss

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This morning we set off on a little adventure to find the location of a photo I’d spotted – Bjolfur. It’s just before the turnoff to Seydisfjordur. It’s a small gravel road and all I have is my memory of the photo and a rough lat/long other than the name. We find the sign that matches and it is indeed a gravel road. We putter along and the road gets a lot rougher and rougher. We hit a steep bit with pretty large rocks…at this point if I was driving I would have stopped. John seemed to think it was fine so I held my breath and all that came to mind was the fact we don’t have a real spare…just goo and hoped we didn’t tear the inside wall of the tyre or we were stuffed. We made it over that bit and continued on. I don’t remember reading it being this bad. We hit another really hairy bit – very steep, loose and rough…again I think I wouldn’t have gone up….but up we went…meanwhile I’m hoping we don’t lose traction slide backwards and sideways and roll. As we continue on, it gets quite narrow and while we can drive now I wonder if we’ll hit something too 4WD and not have room to turn around. Eventually we pull over and find somewhere we can turn the car and continue on foot.

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The local sheep look up as we walk by – not sure if the ram (not pictured) is grumpy or inquisitive at our presence.

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We continue on over the ridge and walk up to the bigger rock area – this is it…this is the shot I’ve seen. So we grab a few photos and admire the view and head back to the car. As we head back down towards the road I re-check my notes and I’ve definitely written “passable by normal car and bus”. Hmm…me thinks I’m missing a NOT here and then also see my notes say 2.5hr walk. I think we should have stopped at the first sign…oops.

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We continue on to Seydisfjordur cause we’ve come all this way we might aswell have a look at the town we could see from up high.

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We go to the end of the road and admire the big cliffs around before heading back to town where we thought we spotted a restaurant that has real coffee.

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We pull into Hotel Aldan and they indeed do sell real coffee and as a bonus their “mains” are buy 1 get 1 free for lunch time which starts in just over half an hour…so we hang round drinking our coffee and then order some steak which would be hideously expensive but it’s half price so now it’s only expensive.

We continue north to our hotel for the next 2 days in Reykjahlíð, were we dump a few things and do some hand washing before heading to Dettifoss.

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As we have the whole afternoon we try both sides. First the west side (via the 862) which is a paved road.

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This side gets you really close but doesn’t give you a great view (in my opinion). Good if you like to stand in the spray and get wet. This also gives you the west side access to Sellfoss – again I think the east is better.

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On the way back to the car we notice what looks like a giant rainbow way up in the sky but like a crescent moon.

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Next the East side (via the 864) which is gravel. This is the side you’d be familiar with if you’ve seen the opening scene of Prometheus.

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This waterfall has a massive amount of water coming out of it.

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Upstream there is it’s little sister Sellfoss (not to be confused with the town of the same name just of the Golden Circle in the South of Iceland).

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It’s also very cool as it has so many little cascades entering it. The west side is also the best outlook on it. The path is a bit sketchy so I take my old lady walking pole. I’ve been irrationally overly cautious with rough surfaces and I thought this might give me more confidence. I have 2 big fears on rougher ground at the moment. The first – slipping in general and falling on my elbow which would be insanely painful. The second is using my left arm to push off or lower around bigger boulders and me not being able to hold the weight and toppling. I’m usually a slow scrambler but currently I’m tortoise pace. Eventually I get there.

Then back to the hotel for the night. This hotel shows last night’s webcam sky footage and the last 2 nights It’s had northern lights so fingers crossed we’re awake it it appears.

Day 11–Bye Icebergs, Off to The East

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After being told about the previous night’s Northern Lights I woke about once an hour and looked out the window in hope of the elusive green in the sky to no avail. Up early for sunrise to head back to Jökulsárlón to get the Icebergs in the morning light. We headed for the beach and noticed as we crossed the bridge it appeared empty. We pulled in and confirmed the beach was clear other than a few oversized ice cubes.

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We decided to check out the lagoon instead. As we crossed the road everything was still – the icebergs just sitting there and then like something out of Dark City the switch was flicked and the icebergs started to move.

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We wandered around the other side of the lagoon to where we explored yesterday. The sky had a light cloud cover when combined with the light on the lagoon gave it a sheet look. It was really beautiful and only 1 other person there. I was expecting to at least see a dozen keen photographers. We wondered if those that did turn up just left when they saw the empty beach.

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After wandering around for a good hour we ventured back to the beach. There are quite a few campers etc. here and even they aren’t up yet.

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By now some of the iceburgs have washed ashore and the beach is again littered with bits of ice.

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We have this completely to ourselves while everyone else is asleep. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Bonus is because everyone else is sleeping there are no footprints – it’s like we’re the first people to walk this beach.

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After about an hour I’m getting a bit cold – even with decent clothing 6 degrees gets cold after awhile and we’ve probably taken way too many pictures of ice we head back to our accommodation to get breakfast etc.

We head into Hofn to get some fuel as we’re quite low and then head towards the “Viking Café” as on his land is access to Stokknes Beach. After paying, we drive down and for a moment I think I’m in the wrong place till I turn around.

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The big mountain as a backdrop, then black sand dunes with green grass tuffs and a tidal lake with just enough water for a good reflection – this is what I came for. We rand into a couple of blokes who’d been here yesterday and had a bit of a chat. They’d found Jökulsárlón disappointing as the beach was empty. Ha – they must have been there at the turn of the tide – it did catch some people out.

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We wandered around the black dunes – again finding spots with no footprints. The sand is so fine and a little sticky it almost feels like ash.

Getting on in the day we head back to the ring road and through our first Icelandic tunnel. This one is a good introduction as it has 2 lanes.

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Stomachs are getting rumbly and so we pull into the first town we find at Djúpivogur to get some lunch.

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Now with full stomachs we make the final drive to our accommodation for the night just outside of Egilsstaðir. Both quite tired from all the travel we crash –  so that’s us done for the day. Hoping to snooze for a bit and then wake up to look for more green skies through the night.

Day 8–The Golden Circle

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Today was a massive day – lots to see and a long way to drive. We’d  made the right sacrifice as the weather gods were in our favour today. We had clear skies and amazing light.

We picked up our CX-5 – probably the grubbiest rental we’ve ever had. The good thing is we don’t have to be too careful with the interior – there’s marks everywhere. We got picked up a bit later than I’d originally planned and spent a long time going over the car so we were down on time from my original plan.

First stop was Efstidalur II –  a farm guesthouse. We stopped here for some coffee and ice-cream. The cafe overlooks the cows with glass dividers between you and the animals.0V7C2202

The next adventure was finding Bruarfoss Waterfall. Finding the correct place to park and enter was the challenge. I chose poorly at first and we hit a barbed wire fence. Me not wanting to jump fences, stubbornly turned around. After thinking it might be too hard/too dodgy finally settled on parking a lot further away and walking up what we think was the right path.

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It was worth the walk. While not a big waterfall, the colour of the water was breath-takingly blue.

The ultra-touristy part of our day now started with a trip to Geysir. The massive carpark was full and all you could see was people everywhere. After scoring a spot we followed the crowds to all stand in a circle to wait for Strokkur to blow.

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My goal here was to get the water bubble just before it exploded. The timing is challenging and not all the explosions give you a nice sphere. Even though there was a lot of people, most moved on after an eruption. So after 6 or so eruptions and 2 different view points we thought we got some ok pics. We were never going to get the isolated shot with nobody there as we just don’t have the time to be here at sunset.

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By now we’re both a bit hangry….better eat before we get too grumpy at each other. The Geysir centre is pretty big but still struggles to service all the visitors. We settle for some overly priced sandwiches, eat and on our way.

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Next on the big tourist list is Gullfoss. It’s a decent-sized waterfall with the watet plumetting 32 metres over 2 stages. The spray is pretty strong – but nothing in comparison to Vic Falls.

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Again, every man and his dog is here. The challenge here is to get a photo (preferably with a bit of a rainbow) before your lens is so covered in spray you don’t see anything.

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Phew the 2 big tourist spots done and I managed not to punch somebody!

As a stretch task I wanted to see Haifoss – it’s the 2nd tallest waterfall in Iceland at 122 metres. It’s over an hour’s drive from Gullfoss,, I’m not totally sure of how to get there and it’ll add at least 3 hours to our day on the road. John seems up for the task so off we go. The road gets a lot worse towards the end but it doesn’t start with an F so it’s all good right. After following the powerlines for what seemed like eternity I know we must be ok as there’s other cars literally in the middle of nowhere.

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The waterfall is different again and amazing. The other amazing thing is he WIND! I’ve been in high winds but I’m literally struggling to stand. The wind grabs my bag and makes it a sail. I bob down to take off my lens cap and as I stand I’m almost blown on my butt. I think I take a photo..who knows if it’s in focus, steady or remotely well framed. My jacket is getting whipped in the wind so hard I’m just waiting for it to tear.

It’s now 4:30pm and we’ve still got at least 2.5 hours of driving to Vik so I’m pretty keen to just go there and do a bit of back tracking tomorrow. We stop at one of the bigger service stations to fill up and grab some food for tonight from the grocery store next door and then back on the road.

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I’m pretty tired now but as we approach Seljalandsfoss which is just off the side of the road the light is just too amazing to pass up. We decide to at least suss it out for tomorrow as it’ll be 45 min drive back here. This is the first place we’ve hit that has paid parking – 700 ISk ($8-9). Something about paying which I totally don’t mind and think is a good thing if it helps maintain these place makes me think may aswell look properly now.

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The goal with this waterfall it to get up close – you can walk behind it – and get some good pictures (preferably with rainbow) without destroying your camera. Our cameras and lenses are pretty tough but lets not destroy both at the start of the trip so I’m just taking my phone. It’s also going to test out my really expensive – yet so comfy hiking pants I bought – how wind and water resistant are they.

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It’s wet, wet, wet but so worth it. The light is amazing and not overly crowded.

Last push onto our home for the next 2 nights – Black Beach Suites. I took a bit of a gamble when I booked this place. It didn’t’ exist yet but I wanted to be close to Vik for access to cool stuff. Well by bet paid off.

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This place is awesome. It is pretty big, brand new, has a kitchen and the most amazing view- I think I want to buy one.

Then for some washing, eating and crashing hard!