Posted by: nmancini04 | August 22, 2011

Day 4: Into the Fjords

Today was a travel day. Much of the eastern coast of Iceland is cut by narrow fjords, making for typically beautiful topography…but there’s not much to do. For the first time on our trip, Maggie and I had no clear plan today, other than that we knew we wanted to reach Egilsstaðir, the last major town before we cut inland and make for the north, so we took the scenic route along the fjords and spent most of our time in the car, unfortunately. This means fewer stories today and blurrier pictures, as many of them were taken from the car, but we did manage to find some things to do……and waterfalls. Are you sick of waterfalls yet?

An early start
I’m happy to announce that Rental Guy was mercifully absent from today’s proceedings, and Suzuki 2 performed admirably, driving long distances over windy, hilly roads without troubling us. We woke early in Höfn, the first town we’ve seen that actually looks like a town, with actual businesses and street signs and a police station! We started the day by going to the local lookout point, which had decent views of the glacier across the bay.

Vatnajökull across the bay from Höfn

But we soon were headed north along the coast and we would pass through (or by) several cute fjord towns along the our drive from Höfn to Egilsstaðir, which, including several stops, lasted from 9 am until about 3:30 pm. We also passed this, along the way:

Uh…………

We thought that was…odd.

Our first stop was just after the area of Lón, where the Ring Road goes right along the coast. We pulled over at a lookout point to get our first pictures of the rocky and jagged coastline that marks the start of the Eastfjord region.

The coastline, north of Lón

More coast

Soon after, we made our longest stop of the morning, spending nearly an hour walking through the springy turf, wet rocks and black sand along a beautiful stretch of coastline where one particularly interesting outcrop of rock rose like a platform at the edge of the sea (I should know what that’s actually called, but sorry, I’m tired). We finished our excursion by climbing the platform and looking out at the ocean.

The rocky coastline

The "platform" on the shore

The waves crash against the rocks

Maggie at our stopping point

A rocky beach

A cairn on top of the "platform"

The Eastfjords
We soon were heading into the fjords, of which I took so many pictures it’s a little embarrassing. The mountains rise on either side in huge, often sheer cliffs as the water cuts inland. The towns are ridiculously scenic. We passed first through or around the towns Djúpivogur, Breiðalsvík and Stöðvarfjördur, not stopping long anywhere until lunch. When we finally did stop to eat, it was in Stöðvarfjörður at a combination restaurant, rest stop and souvenir shop called Brekkan. Their menu was heart-clogging roadstop diner fare — and I mean that as a compliment — a palette of hot dogs, hamburgers, ham and cheese and bacon and eggs.  The proprietor, a stocky, tough-looking lady with a limp, seemed to do everything herself while we were there — stocking sodas, taking orders, serving food and cooking. There was only one other couple patronizing the restaurant with us, so it wasn’t exactly busy, but I was still impressed. And man, could that woman fry up some bacon.

The fjords

The fjords

A typical farmhouse, at the foot of a mountain outside Fáskrúfjörður"

We continued on from there to Fáskrúfjörður, a factory town on the edge of the last fjord we drove through, where we stopped for gas. Having already spent most of the day in the car, we decided not to drive around the arm of the next fjord, but take the 6 km tunnel through the mountain of Kollufjoll from Fáskrúfjörður to Reyðarfjörður.

The tunnel was astonishing. The entrance and exit were typical concrete tunnels, but the concrete soon gave way to solid rock. The tunnel was literally just carved out of the mountain, with the mountain rock — in all its strange and beautiful shapes — bare above and beside. Unfortunately, it was too dark to get a decent picture on the move and everything I took came out blurry and dim. We didn’t stop at Reyðarfjörður itself, but there was a fantastic lookout point just above the town with views of the valley and a glacial stream running to one side.

The valley near Reyðarfjörður, from the lookout point

The glacial stream at the lookout point above Reyðarfjörður

 

Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður and everything in between
From there, the last leg of our journey north cut between the mountains to Egilsstaðir, our home for tonight. The town is pretty big and is a major transport hub for the eastern side of the island. It’s modern (founded in the 1940s) and looks like a pretty typical suburban town…except with no nearby urban area. We checked into our hotel early, because we wanted to head east to see Seyðisfjörður, a nearby town at the end of the nearest fjord that we’d heard was lovely and had some beautiful houses.

The drive to Seyðisfjörður was practically as rewarding as the town itself and we found several surprises along the way. We hand’t realized that the road there was a mountain road, which took us up higher than we’d yet been in our vehicle. The road goes up through a rocky, spooky and beautiful cleft in the mountain, with a small mountain lake running to one side, and the cloud coverage was so low it cut off the peaks on either side of us. Maggie and I agreed that if we were to encounter any trolls, this is probably where they would live.

The drive to Seyðisfjörður

The drive to Seyðisfjörður

We also came upon yet another waterfall off the side of the road, just outside of the town. This one, called Gufufoss, was a complete surprise and it didn’t show up on any of our maps or in our guidebook. It was easily accessible, yet secluded and lovely.

Gufufoss

Me at Gufufoss

Gufufoss

Seyðisfjörður itself is probably the prettiest village we’ve seen yet. There’s a lovely harbor which is a stop on a prominent ferry line that goes to the Faroe Islands and Denmark and there was actually a cruise ship docked there when we arrived. Seyðisfjörður has a lot of cute houses and a distinctive architecture that our guidebook calls “chocolate box architecture”…whatever that means. We had heard rumors of hiking trails here, but couldn’t figure out where they started, so we decided just to go for a walk around the town.

Seyðisfjörður

The cruise ship at Seyðisfjörður

A house in Seyðisfjörður

The bay and houses of Seyðisfjörður

On our way back to Egilsstaðir we suddenly got crushed in a dense, eerie fog that seemed to come out of nowhere. “The trolls are going to eat us!” Maggie declared. Just as the fog seemed to be its densest, suddenly it was gone. We went from “zero visibility” to “partly cloudy” in a matter of seconds.

The fog on the mountain…

…suddenly lifts.

Egilsstaðir from the mountain

On the last leg of the road, just above Egilsstaðir, we decided to pull off and see one more waterfall, Fardagafoss. It looked like a halfway decent hike and mostly we were itching for a legitimate one after the Skaftafell hike proved so crowded and touristy. It was short (an hour at most), but it actually turned out to be fairly strenuous and at least it traversed an actual hiking trail, unlike Skaftafell’s gravel paths. The hike actually brought us to TWO waterfalls, one which fed the stream that became the next. Which was Fardagafoss? Or did the two together comprise Fardagafoss? We still don’t know. But it was beautiful and secluded and we didn’t see a soul…until the end.

The lower falls on the Fardagafoss hike

The upper falls on the Fardagafoss hike

Maggie on the Fardagafoss hike, with Egilsstaðir in the background

We finish the Fardagafoss hike

As great as it was, at the end of the hike we began to fear for our lives. Not because of the hike itself, though. Four people were heading up as we were making the descent and when I saw the leader my first thought was, “If these people try to murder us, how am I going to fight them?” His beard was down to his nipples, his hair down to his buttocks and he was carrying a huge number of reindeer antlers and animal skins. “Shit,” I thought. “I don’t even have a penknife.”

But they allowed us to pass unmolested and trekked up to Fardagafoss to conduct some pagan ritual while we went down to Egilsstaðir, ate mussels and salmon and ignored the reindeer on the menu.

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Responses

  1. I repeat: more impressive even than the fjords is Nick’s ability to spell Icelandic place names.

  2. Aw, no picture of Mightly Antler Man?

    • We were both too worried that he was going to stab us to death. We didn’t want to provoke him further.


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