Wednesday, August 24: After leaving Seljalandsfoss, we continue west on the Ring Road until we reach the unsurfaced Rt. 264, which we take north through the Rangarvellir valley. Our destination is the medieval turf-roofed farm at Keldur. On the way, we see a sign for horseback riding and follow the directions down a long private dirt track through fenced pastures. At the end we find a strange farmhouse that seems to have no entryway, and though we look around for humans, we don’t find a soul. Feeling defeated in our attempts to ride the Icelandic horses, we at least stop to visit with them and take some photos.
We continue bouncing down this dirt road, seeing Iceland’s usual grand views spread out before us.
We arrive at Keldur and park our car, walking past a picturesque stream and what looks like an ice house.
Keldur is the site of a unique cluster of turf farm buildings from bygone centuries. Most of the buildings date from the 19th century, although they include timber from older structures, some with decorative moldings. A sill in the hall, for instance, is carved with the date 1641. A tunnel which leads from the hall down to the brook has been excavated; it was probably built for defensive purposes in the 11th-13th century, a period of conflict and unrest in Iceland.
Keldur and its inhabitants make appearances in various Old Icelandic sagas, such as Njáls saga, Sturfunga Saga and the Saga of St Þorlákr. The farmhouse was inhabited until 1946, since when it has been part of the National Museum Historic Buildings Collection. The farmhouse contains domestic articles from the Keldur family.
After completing the loop that brings us back to the Ring Road, we stop to enjoy our last Icelandic gas station hot dogs.
The rest of our drive back to Reykjavik is uneventful except for one stop to wash off all the gravel and volcanic ash that coats the underbelly and wheels of our little red VW Polo rental car.
Saturday, August 20: The drive from Djúpivogur to Höfn is about 105km, stretching around Iceland’s southeast corner. There are no towns along this stretch, and thus no place for breaks. We get one last glimpse of Bulandsdalur before we leave Djúpivogur, and, though we don’t know it at the time, we won’t see blue skies for the rest of the day.
Fog settles over the southeast Ring Road as it winds between sloping mountains and the North Atlantic Sea. The sloping mountains look like giant piles of gravel that seem avalanche prone, made up as they are of gabbro (dark, often coarse-grained igneous – i.e. volcanic – rock rich in magnesium and iron) and granophyre, which has a fine texture and smaller grain size.
We pull off at the bottom of one of these strange mountains, and I feel unsettled, fearing that one loose rock could start a rush of all the rocks to the bottom, engulfing us and our economy-sized car.
The black sand beach is pretty, but it’s very cold and windy out here today, and foggy as well, so we don’t stop here for long.
As we drive on, we come to a pull-off overlooking Lón (“lagoon”), a shallow bay whose 30km-wide estuary is framed by Eystrahorn and Vestrahorn, two granite spikes to the east and west. A long sand and pebble beach stretches out between the two mountains and almost connects them except for some small estuaries.
Here, we can see the black sand and pebble beach reaching out into the lagoon. A cold wind is howling across the lagoon here, and after taking our pictures, we huddle back into the warmth of the car.
We drive a bit further and see people walking out over the pebble beach. Of course I have to get out to see what there is to see. Mike by now is so sick with his cough and sore throat, he opts to stay in the car with the heat on. I’m also getting sick, and this little jaunt over the pebble beach, which isn’t easy to walk on, probably does me in for good.
From this pebble beach, I have a great view of Eystrahorn, a mountain with barren and gravelly steep cliffs, at the eastern end of Lónsfjördur.
You can glimpse our little red car in the parking lot; Mike is sitting inside, warming himself by the heater, while I’m being buffeted about by the gale-force winds.
Of course I have to take some pictures of the pebbles. Between the wind and walking on these, I feel like I’m struggling through a sea of quicksand.
A little farm sits nestled in the folds of Eystrahorn across from the pebble beach. With all those slopes of gravel surrounding this farm, I don’t know how the people can live here without being in constant fear of a rock avalanche.
Even though my throat is hurting and I’m freezing through and through, I must take some pictures of the pretty wildflowers that are growing stoically from the amidst the pebbles.
Finally, I stumble across the quagmire of pebbles and make it back to the car, where I am grateful beyond belief that Mike has stayed in the car and kept the heater on.
We continue on around the lagoon. Spotting a few dapples of light on mountains, I beg poor beleaguered Mike to pull over for a few more shots.
Finally we’re reaching the western end of Lón.
We’re not too far from Höfn now, but we have one stop to make before we get there: the Viking Cafe and Stokksnes. 🙂
Saturday, August 20: This morning, after another wonderful breakfast at Hotel Aldan, we leave the pretty town of Seyðisfjörður to make our way south on the eastern part of the Ring Road. Our destination for tonight is Höfn, a fishing town in the southeastern part of the country. We cross over the pass to Egilsstaðir, where we fill up with gas and buy orange juice, coffee, and snacks. Mike picks up some earplugs so he can sleep despite my snoring. We then head south on Route 1 through Breiðdalur, the longest and widest of the valleys in Eastern Iceland.
As we head south, we go through another pass, and we see majestic views to the south and west. We pull into a gravel pullover to get out and explore. The wind here is fierce and icy. I walk around trying to get decent photos, but the light isn’t good and it seems an exercise in futility.
We do find some cairns left by some hardy souls.
We jump back in the car to escape the wind and cold and continue on our way. I ask Mike to pull over for a couple more photos, but he stays warm and cozy inside the car. He’s already sick, and, though I don’t know it this morning, I’ll be sick by the end of the day. 😦
The low-lying fog makes for spectacular views, but sadly these views don’t come across with the camera.
Much of our drive through this valley is on a gravel road, and it’s a long drive! The Ring Road is definitely not paved all the way around, and this is the longest stretch we’ve encountered. I don’t know how long this unpaved portion of the road is, but it takes us well over an hour, with a few stops, to get back to a paved surface.
We stop at a bridge over the impressive Breiðdalsá river, famous for salmon-fishing, which winds its way across the valley basin to the sea.
We see little civilization in this broad valley, but every once in a while, we find a farmstead and some sheep scattered here and there.
After leaving the valley, Route 1 takes us to the coast at Breiðdalsvík, a town of only 139 people. From this point we will drive along the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean until we reach the little town of Djúpivogur.
Tuesday, August 16: After we finish our hike, we get into our car for the long haul to Akureyri. Unless we see enticing hikes along the way, we don’t plan to stop, except to take pictures. Our first stop is on a bridge over a river where we see a couple of horseback riders in the middle of nowhere.
a river runs through it
horseback riders in the distance
When we see these sheep close to the roadside, we have to stop to take a picture of the horned fella scratching his back on the bottom of the sign.
A field of yellow flowers with a barn on a hill also entices.
Sometimes it’s the sky over a grand sweeping landscape that beckons.
A mountain bathed in sunlight with sheep in the forefront seems unspoiled and pastoral.
Luckily, we’re seeing a lot more blue sky than we have so far in Iceland.
Some of the farms seem to be huge operations.
We pull off at a spot below where a bridge crosses a river; here we find a woman out salmon fishing. Later, we hear that Eric Clapton likes to go salmon fishing in Iceland. An article in Ice News, published on August 6 of this year, tells of how Clapton nailed one of the biggest salmon so far this summer, at 28 pounds. You can read an article about it here: New York Daily News: Eric Clapton catches giant salmon, breaks local record in Iceland.
a fishing spot
While we’re at this spot, someone drives up in a car, and, voila!, it’s Wang Wang and her mother, who we last saw this morning at Freyja Guesthouse in Reykjavik. What are the chances that, having left at different times, we would meet again at this minor pull-off?
Of course in typical Chinese fashion, we take pictures of each other and then do a selfie. 🙂
By the time we leave, the fisher woman is thigh high in the river. She doesn’t seem to have caught anything by the time we leave.
We continue on our way, making a couple of stops for more scenic views.
I adore this little church, which almost looks like someone’s private church, all lit up as if from the heavens.
Finally, we come in our journey to the narrow 30km long scenic valley known as Öxnadalur on the Ring Road between Varmahlíð and Akureyri.
At one spot, we find glimmering intertwined ribbons of water flowing over a rocky terrain.
We pass multitudes of waterfalls falling from the rock faces in the gorgeous valley.
At long last we are approaching Akureyri. We stop for this magnificent vista right before the road heading north to Dalvik. Finally, we have blue skies!
We leave our little paradise viewpoint and continue our drive through Akureyri, in route to our hotel, Lamb Inn Öngulsstadir; it is 6.2 miles south of the town. Before we head out of the town, Mike searches in vain for a Vinbudin, the state-run liquor store (the only place to buy booze aside from the Duty-Free, bars, and restaurants). There are 48 Vinbudin locations across Iceland and they all seem to close between 4:00-6:00. We usually arrive too late to find one open, and tonight is no exception. Oh well, I guess we’ll have to buy wine with dinner later in Akureyri. Buying alcohol in a restaurant or bar is never an economical choice in Iceland. That won’t stop us though. 🙂