– Vík, Iceland to Grundarfjörður, Iceland –
We didn’t get up until 8am this morning, which was pretty fantastic. I was pretty sleepy since yesterday was such a long day, so it was a good thing that we planned today to be a bit lighter. The morning began with the promise of sunshine, and that promise actually held, for the most part. It was partly cloudy for some of the day, and it did rain (and even snow) just a bit, but it was nothing like yesterday.
It took us a while to get showered and packed up, although we were out of the room by 9:30, which isn’t bad, but the goal was 9. We drove over to our gas station to grab some skyr, but they were still out, so we decided to wait until the grocery store opened at 10am to pick up our breakfast.
Mark has recently decided that we are a family that collects sand, so he wanted to go back to the lava beach and collect just a bit of sand to fly home with for his new sand collection. I was fine with this, since we had time to kill. Between the sand and the rocks, though, and the recent suggestions that I should take an introductory geology course in the fall so I know the terms the things we see on our travels, I’m starting to worry that Mark is developing a new (rock-related) hobby. Sometimes it is hard to tell he’s a librarian, and other times, when he starts collecting new things like a magpie, it’s rather obvious. As long as he doesn’t make me catalogue them, we are fine.
When 10 finally rolled around, we ran into the grocery store and picked up a different brand of skyr than we are accustomed to, along with a pack of breakfast-type crackers we couldn’t read the packaging for, and some juice. The skyr was a little disappointing, since we could taste artificial sweeteners in the ones we had today. I hate the taste of aspartame. I’d rather have something totally unsweet than eat that stuff, but I digress. We will be sure not to buy that brand again. The crackers were delicious though- almost savory with just a tiny hint of cinnamon and sugar. Those will be part of breakfast tomorrow, too, I’m sure.
We didn’t spend a lot of time rehashing the territory we’d already soon, so we fairly raced back toward Reykjavík. It’s amazing how quickly you can get places here when you aren’t stopping every five minutes to photograph a new wonder.
It was snowing a bit in the higher pass we crossed through the other day, and the countryside was fairly covered in the stuff. Once again I thanked our snow tires for being there for us, even though the roads were obviously clear. We couldn’t stop in the snowiest part, since there wasn’t anywhere to pull off of the highway, but we stopped near the edge to grab a few pictures of the weather before we went down in elevation once again.
We did stop at one of the waterfalls we’d visited earlier, trying to catch it in better light, but other than that, we only stopped for bathroom breaks until we made it back to the city. In Reykjavík, we stopped at a grocery store to get our lunch. We found hummus for the first time, so we bought that and some pita bread, seedless grapes, tomatoes, and more juice.
I wish Icelandic food had a bit more in the way of vegetarian options, since I feel like we are missing out a bit on some of the travel experience, but not very many things here are made without meat products, so we don’t have much choice. Still, we’ve been able to easily feed ourselves at grocery stores for the entire trip, and I’m grateful for that.
As Reykjavík passed, so too did most of the clouds, and we drove into some sunshine that lasted for a few hours. There’s a tunnel with a toll under a long stretch of water leading toward our goal city of Grundarfjörður, and we decided to forgo the tunnel and take the long way around to catch the views of the water inlet that the tunnel cuts off. It added perhaps an hour to our drive, but our best pictures of the day came from that hour, so I’m glad we did it. It was at my suggestion, and Mark kept telling me what a good wife I was as we pulled over again and again to take more photographs. I’m so glad that he was pleased with my performance.
One of my favorite stops happened not long after we’d turned down the side road. Mark saw some Icelandic Horses gathered in a small herd overlooking the inlet, and he decided that he was seeing an iconic Icelandic photo opportunity, and he pulled over and trotted out his film camera to get his shot.
He’d forgotten, I suppose, that ponies like to be patted, and he was mobbed at the fence by sweet little horses that wanted scratches and treats. It was pretty cute. I guess they are shedding at the moment, and they kept rubbing their necks and heads on the fence posts. When they pulled away, they’d leave giant tufts of fluffy horse hair in their wake. He did get an almost iconic shot, I guess you could say, but most of them were just adorable, which is as it should be, in my opinion.
To be honest with you, it seems like most of Iceland would have to try pretty hard not to be beautiful. About the worst-looking thing we’ve seen has been dirty snow, which is unavoidable, and trash left by tourists, which is unacceptable and hardly Iceland’s fault.
Along the little inlet, we stopped I would say six or more times, and only one of those stops was a bathroom break. It rained a bit when we made it to the far side, but overall, the sunshine held, and the day was much warmer than some of our previous ones.
We did come across what I believe was a training center for Iceland’s police officers. We saw a large group of young people, dressed in black police uniforms and boots wearing numbered vests, running a course that was partially behind a fence. Some of them were at a portion with an obstacle course, and others were just running. I wouldn’t want to run in boots, but I know many people have to for various jobs. It seems like it would be terrible, though.
As we came away from the inlet, we passed through a relatively large city, Borgarnes, and came across our first construction. The bridge leading to the city across the water was down to one lane (it actually had two, unlike many of the others here), and we had to wait at a light to cross. Considering it only took about 2 minutes, I think that might’ve been the shortest construction stop we’ve ever made on a trip.
It had snowed in the mountains leading back to Grundarfjörður, and we stopped again to admire the stuff with some degree of awe. Some people actually had a winter this year! In fact, they’re still almost having it, even if the date says it is spring.
The road we took was surrounded by volcanoes, which can be unsettling at times, especially when you pass field after field of thick stacks of lava rock. We weren’t in any real danger, of course, but it is sobering to consider just how many volcanoes are here.
Iceland has 130 active and extinct volcanoes, but only 18 have erupted since the island was settled. We are in the Snæfellsnes volcanic zone, and tomorrow we are going to go see the central volcano here. Iceland is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, according to Wikipedia, and averages an eruption every 3 years. I can’t say I feel better knowing any of that.
We made it to Grundarfjörður and our guest lodge with time to spare, and we decided to toodle around the area and take some photographs and call it an early day. It was just after 5pm when we got here and got checked into our hotel, and we spent perhaps an hour looking around the town.
It is an interesting place. The ocean is on one side, and massive white-capped mountains hover on the other, where the recent snowfall has covered them pretty close to the town itself. From what I understand, the area received about an inch of snow just last night, although the town itself is entirely clear.
Grundarfjörður is famous for Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain, which has been photographed many times. The mountain stands alone out in the water, only just touching the mainland across a thin land bridge. According to a sign for the mountain, the lower parts were formed by sediment with fossils during the last Ice Age. The top, which gives the mountains its stacked appearance, was formed from layers of lava that were eroded by glacier activity. The glacier is much further inland now, so I am not sure I’d have even guessed that to be the case.
Apparently one could hike to the top of Church Mountain, and people do it regularly, but signs warn that the climb is for experienced hikers, and it is not for those who are afraid of heights. You can count me out, for sure. I like looking at pretty mountains from the bottom, not the top.
Across from Church Mountain is Kirkjufellfoss, or Church Mountain Falls. Many of the photographs of the mountain use the falls in the foreground. We didn’t take any pictures like that, but we did hike to the top of the falls to have a look around and take some pictures of the snowy mountains. Iceland is just full of darling waterfalls.
With that done, we had seen all we really could for today, and we were starting to feel a little hungry. Our lodge has a communal kitchen, so we went over to the grocery store and bought some things to cook a simple dinner. We ended up having couscous and canned tomatoes with buttered pitas. It wasn’t fancy, but it was easy to make, and it was warm, which we’ve missed the last few days.
Tomorrow we have a trip planned around our little peninsula, and then hopefully a jaunt over to see the Arctic Ocean, which we haven’t touched yet. So far, all we’ve seen is the Atlantic, which we can see anywhere on our own East Coast. The grocery store has our brand of skyr, so tomorrow has that going for it, but the forecast says rain. I bet we make the most of it, either way.
– Trip Total : 5,024 miles –