Reyjkavik: Museums, Penises and Puffins.

We started off the morning bright and early – well, by bright, I mean it didn’t get light until nearly 8am today, and by early, I mean we didn’t leave the house until nearly 10am!  We were heading out first to go searching for a monument… the Eve Online Monument.  Eve Online is not technically ‘huge’ in the world of MMORPGs (Did I get that right? I’m am guessing I probably didn’t and by my comment, you are probably guessing correctly that I didn’t care enough to Google it!) with roughly a million die-hard players – but it is huge in Iceland. So big that they have erected an actual physical monument to the in game plaers which is engraved with all the player names on it. We went hunting it out for a friend of ours who plays so we could take a photo of his avatar engraved on the monument… It’s not exactly easy to find – but there is an online map telling you roughly which area each name is located – and yes, we found Drakey’s avatar!  It’s something to do with spaceships and wars in space or something.  I dunno.  #computergaming #notmycupoftea After ferreting out the Eve Online Monument, I convinced yale to swing past the Sun Voyager (again) so I could see it in the morning light.  This is still such a stunning piece of art.  I love it… so evocative, you can imagine it sailing out across the fjord.  🙂   This time fewer tourists were there hogging prime spots – but there’s always one jerk.  This time a Kiwi, who stood around while his wife took his pictures and then he went wandering all around the sculpture – if it had been a car, he would have been kicking the tyres – while about 10 people are standing around shivering in the freezing cold waiting for him to fuck off out of our photographs! Urgh!We were then heading indoors for a while (thankfully!) to the National History Museum, which is quite an impressive building in its own right.

I have started doing up a full post on just the items we saw in the museum – most of them are items I have not seen published in other books and catalogues, so I have done my best to capture them (in the dodgy museum lighting conditions) and to keep their detailed descriptions accessible too.  I hope to get this done when I get on a train to Prague day after tomorrow… but we will see!  There were lots of wonderful artefacts from the dark ages and medieval periods, and the second floor contained the 17th to 21st centuries – which as per usual, I skimmed through and barely took any notes at all because, well it’s just too modern for my interests.  So here is a hint of what is to come in the full musuem post:

Around the corner from the museum is the famous Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran church which I have written about previously in my past travels.  It is said to be designed with the volcanic basalt columns as an inspiration and influence.  Having seen the columns on the beaches of Iceland now – I can see it a lot more clearly and have a new appreciation for the building.  Previously, it just looked like a stark, way too modern, design to be a comforting place of worship – but now it kinda seems like it belongs here. We did a little poke around the shops here a little – I stooped to buying a t-shirt… which in my defence was only marginally more costly than a tea towel at the end of summer sales.  🙂
So, lunchtime rolls around and we find ourselves hunting for the Bæjarins Bbeztu Pylsur stand, which quite literally means in English: ‘The Best Hot Dog in Town’.  We find the little food truck exactly where is supposed to be not far from the Reykjavik harbour and to my surprise, it is surrounded by people standing around in the cold, which is about 3°C but with the wind feels about -1°, eating hot dogs!  I’m not so sure about this al fresco dining thing in this weather, but we dutifully line up for a hot dog. In August 2006, The Guardian newspaper selected Bæjarins Beztu as the Best Hot Dog Stand in Europe – big call. Since then plenty of famous people have come along and tried the now world renown, Bæjarins Beztu hotdogs.  Among them are former US President, Bill Clinton, and even cooler, James Hetfield of Metallica fame… and now borys and yale join this illustrious companie of people who have stood around eating hot dogs in sub-zero temperatures.

It was so cold, but the hot dogs were tasty enough, I guess.

Across the road from the hot dog stand is the moorings for the Icelandic Coast Guard.  This ship has been here each time I have been in Reykjavik – either that or they have three identical ships (not out of the question).  I have kept meaning to take a photo of it – it’s pretty impressive.  The Icelandic Coast Guard is primarily responsible for Iceland’s coastal defences and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue processes, but they have also been called upon to do things like bomb disposal?

So… after lunch, we made our way to the famous Icelandic Phallological Museum, aka the Reykjavik Penis Museum or the Reykjavik Dick Museum. *titter titter*.

It was founded in1997 by a now-retired teacher named, Sigurður Hjartarson.  It is now run his son Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson.  Apparently, the museum grew from what was just a private collection that started when Sigurður was given a cattle whip made from a bull’s penis when he was a kid. He then started collecting penises of Icelandic animals from sources around the country and has dicks in his collection that range from the 170 cm front tip of a blue whale penis to the 2 mm (0.08 in) baculum of a hamster, which is displayed under a magnifying glass.

The museum also houses many other phallic items and artworks.  Longtime poet and environmental activist, Danish Sculptor, Pjarne P Ejass (1945 – ) created this “Viagra Phallus” in the form of a scorn pole.  The work displays the artist’s contempt for all things that deviate from the normal course of nature, and the work is intended to convey his statement, “Stop Fiddling with Nature,”  The artist donated the work to the Icelandic Phallological Museum in the summer of 2004 and it was erected in May 2005.
yale for scale. A rather painful looking toothpick holder: Dried sperm whale penis: Preserved pilot whale penis: Various penises belonging to different dolphins and porpoises: And this magnificent specimen – is a Narwhal! Narwhal! Living in the ocean…!
(Only not so much this one anymore, he’s been lopped off and preserved in formaldehyde.) African bull elephant: An eland, a dromedary and giraffe penises: Killer whale penis:  yale for scale An artwork based on the penises of the National Icelandic Handball Team that represented Iceland at the Bejing Olympics in 2008.  😮  Freyr – Viking God of Fertility:

All up the Phallological Museum was kinda interesting – it seems to be a bit of a ‘must see’ when in Reykjavik, but only because you’re literally not able to see a collection like this anywhere else in the world.  The gift shop missed some huge opportunities though – can you imagine the dick related paraphernalia they could be flogging?  Instead, there is a handful of magnets and keychains and a few bad taste aprons and knitted elephant penis socks.

While we were leaving – some of the ladies working the reception at Dick Museum were about to have some lovely looking cinnamon scrolls for afternoon tea which smelled just divine.  They told me that they were from the food hall across the street, so naturally, we decided to go find some.  Fantastic!  Cinnamon for me, and liquorice and blueberry for yale… still warm from the oven, perfect for this sort of weather.

From here we did what was probably the first bit of real touristy shopping we have done since we arrive in Iceland.  We wandered down the main shopping street which pretty much leads from the Hallgrímskirkja church down towards the waterfront esplanade.  I got to stop in the Tuilipop shop this time, which was closed when I was here last – luckily their plush Freds are not very soft or I would have found myself buying a rather expensive and unnecessary plush toy to take home! 

Icelanders have come to have a love/hate relationship with the tourists that saved them from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.  They love the income and the jobs that are provided from the huge boost they have seen in tourism over the last decade, but they hate what it is doing to their island.  Downtown Reykjavik used to be full of useful shops for locals to go do their shopping and meet with friends, now it is full of what they derisively refer to as The Puffin Shops.  Any/all souvenir shops are known as Puffin Shops and for obvious reasons…
There is so much shit here with puffins on it – and because I have been here three times now and have yet to see a single goddamn puffin that isn’t stuffed (like the AUD$450 ones in the top left hand picture!), I flatly refuse to buy so much as a sticker with a puffin on it.  I think the puffins here are like the trolls – just some sort of myth.

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After a little wander down through the town, we decided to head towards the Perlan which is a landmark building with observation decks and gallery spaces, created from some old water tanks that were high on a hill overlooking the city.  Unfortunately, the Perlan was closed from 1 Oct to 14 Oct, so we didn’t get to go in or go up.  I guess it’s that time of year – they need to do maintenance before the winter sets in properly, but don’t want to be doing it when it is going to affect too many visitors.

Then it was sadly time to head back to our AirBnB and get packing!  Oh no… time to pack to leave Iceland.  I am feeling a bit sad about going actually.  We have had almost two weeks here and seen soooo many truly beautiful places and things, but I am left feeling like there is so much more we could see and do if we had more time and way more money.  I’ve never been in a country more expensive than this place – it really makes you weigh up your travel plans – How long have I got? How much do we think we can see? Can we afford to actually eat once we get here? If we make the trip longer to see more things, can we even afford the extra night’s car hire and accommodation?!  It is just nuts. For our last night in Iceland, we thought we’d go out for one final nice, but predictably, overpriced meal.  We ended up at the Geysir Bistro near Ingólfur Square.  It was a more relaxed environment that the last two restaurants we went to and the menu looked likewise slightly more modest. But the food – still fancy AF.  We toasted our last night with some Brennavin and congratulated ourselves on having only had one shit fight in two weeks in close quarters!  😛  It’s bound to happen – travelling with people is one way to really test the friendship/relationship!  All your best and all your worst will eventually come out.  🙂 

So here’s ‘Skål..!’ to Iceland.  I have no idea if I will ever be back.  I know there is still plenty of wonders here to discover – but there’s so many places I have never been, that doubling back here again seems highly unlikely*

*I said that last time… and look what happened!  Hoping the trick works again!  😉

Spelunking Víðgelmir and Whale Dung Beer

Heigh ho! heigh ho! A spelunking we will go!
First thing this morning we were heading inland from Borgarnes to Víðgelmir to go spelunking! Víðgelmir is a lava tube situated in the Hallmundarhraun lava field that was created in around 900 AD.  The lava tube is on a private farming property but the owners have made a few sections of it very accessible for visitors.  There are two main openings to the lava tube which were formed when the roof of the tube collapsed. Víðgelmir is 1.5kms long and the largest areas inside the cave are as big as 15.8 m high and 16.5 m wide.  It is by far the largest lava tube of its kind in Iceland – a country that is literally covered in volcanic cave action.

The cave has some wide entrance but narrows down in one area that we traversed… it could be a bit claustrophobic for some, but given I am all of 5′ tall, I was able to just duck my head a little and skooch down the passage.  At this tight point, the owners have installed an iron gate in the early 90s to preserve the of the delicate lava formations which tourists and geologist had a habit of souvenir’ing or accidentally destroying.

So TIL from our very friendly geologist-guide, Johannes, that Icelanders have a running rivalry with Hawaiians.  Who’d have thunk, right? Iceland vs Hawaii.  Why? you may ask, well as it turns out, Hawaiians think they have authority when it comes to naming lava formations. However, the Icelanders have had their own Icelandic words for most lava formations for over 1000 years.  So for every ‘traditional’ (ie: Hawaiian) term that Johannes gave us for the lava formations, he also gave us an Icelandic term.  Which made for a bloody confusing time of it. This one was quite distinct though – apparently the Hawaiians cause these piles of drip formed lava, ‘lava roses’, in Iceland, however, they are a bit blunter in their descriptions and they call them, ‘lava shits’ – and fair enough too, they look far more like a cow pat than a flower!
The colours in the rock formations were simply astounding.  Unlike the sedimentary type caves we are used to seeing back home when water filters down through the rock into the cave, it doesn’t form sparkling stalactites and stalagmites, instead, it forms ice columns.  The water drips down in the same spot each winter and given it is usually around 0° in the cave, the water freezes on top of the last drop making icicle stalagmites that can reach as high as 3m. Each year in the summer, the ice formations are diminished only to return each winter.  Normally there are no ice formations in the cave this early in the year – it’s only autumn – but this year has been a ‘really shit summer’ and rather wet, so there were ice formations that hadn’t disappeared since last year. The cave has recently had quite a bit of construction work done with walkways to protect the delicate lava formations and to make it more accessible to visitors. The lava tube caves are formed when a low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust as it cools, which then thickens and forms a roof above the molten lava stream. When the eruption subsides, the still-molten lava moving beneath the crust will continue to drain downhill, eventually emptying out and leaving an open lava tube cave.  The cave will usually have larger tubes with smaller tubes protruding off from the main caves – Johannes used an analogy of a human body (body metaphors, love it!).  The volcano is the heart pumping out the lava/blood, into the major arteries, which also forces the lava into smaller capillaries. As the lava is dragged along inside the tube with its cooling roof and walls, the level/height of the lava flow is evidenced in layers on the walls, leaving a texture and coloured rock that looks like chocolate cake. There is approximately 80-90 steps to traverse to get into the lava cave – and the same again on the way back out. At the end of this section of lava tube is a collapsed roof which marks the end of the ‘amateur’ spelunking tour.  For people with a bit more experience, you can go much deeper into the cavers, but apparently, that takes things like, fitness, agility and strength. There is a large platform at this point in the cave and Johannes had us all turn off our headlamps before turning off the cavern lights.  It is totally pitch black.  You can open and close your eyes and not tell any difference, you can wave a hand in front of your face and not see a thing.  Johannes said to us, ‘Now you don’t have to come to Iceland in the winter, this is what it’s like.’  Yep, he was a bit of a funny bugger.

On the way back out all the features we had passed looked completely different. The cave opening forms a bit of a love heart if you stop at the right place on the way out… awww.  Back above ground the light is way too bright, even though normally the light quality this far north has a wonderful soft feel about it (compared to the harsh Australian light, I guess everything does though!).

After leaving the caves we went for a short drive to Hraunfossar which is a cascading series of waterfalls formed from the runoff from the Langjökull glacier. The name for these falls is made up of the Icelandic words hraun, (lava) and fossar, (which no doubt everyone has now picked up is waterfall).

Literally, two minutes walk upstream from Hraunfossar, is another waterfall called Barnafoss. Its name means ‘child’s waterfall’, stems from a tragic accident which is said to have taken place here. There are several Icelandic folk tales associated with Barnafoss, the most famous being about two boys who lived at a nearby farm, Hraunsás. One day, the boys’ parents went with their ploughmen to a church. The boys were supposed to stay at home, but they grew bored they decided to follow their parents. They took the shortcut across the natural stone-bridge that used to be above the waterfall, but fell into the water and drowned. Their mother was obviously distraught and was said to have destroyed the natural arch so this could never happen again.  Depending on which story you read, you either don’t hear how she achieved this, or they say she put a spell on the bridge and it was shortly destroyed in an earthquake. The natural arch went across the rocks in the top of this image – you can see how dangersous this woud be the water volume is incredible.

After this, we made a very quick pit stop at the Háafell Icelandic Goat Farm – a very quick stop because we didn’t realise they were closed today for a funeral. Go us, way to intrude on people! We had seen some flags flying at half mast as we drove around today, and I had looked up to see if someone of importance had passed away, but Icelandic tradition is to fly flags at half-mast whenever someone from a local community has died.  However, even surprised as the owner was to see us, she didn’t mind us having a look around as they were getting ready to go to church.Icelandic goats are also known as the ‘settlement goat’.  They are an ancient breed of Norweigan domestic goat that were imported to Iceland over 1100 years ago. This breed was nearly extinct by the late 19th century, but recovered around World War II, only to then see numbers drop off again.  A census in 2003 saw only 348 goats in 48 flocks throughout the entire country.  A concerted effort to increase their numbers has seen that number improve to 849 in 2012.  Because the breed has been isolated for centuries, the Icelandic populations are highly inbred. Even though the Icelandic goat has a coat of high-quality cashmere fibre, they tend to be kept more as pets, and are currently of limited economic value – so the Icelandic government subsidizes farmers to ensure the survival of the species.Not long after we left the goat farm, we found ourselves stopping on the side of the road to take more photos of yet more stunning scenery and when we went to drive off, we heard a rather disconcerting scraping noise under the car – it sounded like something metal stuck behind the read drivers side wheel. 

We stopped to investigated and drove forwards in tiny slow increments to try and hear where it was coming from.  Ultimately there was nothing there obstructing the wheel and we think it was just dust and grit and shit on the brake pads… but once we were sure we weren’t compromising the vehicle or our safety, there was nothing we could do but move one.  The noise eventually went away.  It’s a mystery!?

By the time we got to the Deildartunguhvergeothermal hot spring that feeds the hydro system that heats most of the Borgarnes region, the brakes were quiet and forgotten.

Deildartunguhver is a natural hot spring that a very high flow rate – about 180 litres/second – and a very high natural water temperature –  97 °C. It is the highest-flow hot spring in Europe and a good deal of the water is piped 34kms to Borgarnes and up to 64kms to Akranes. So much steam and sulphur and hot water bubbling away.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

On leaving the hot springs we were headed to the Snorrastofa research centre which is dedicated to Iceland’s greatest medieval writer, poet, scholar and statesman, Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241). However, the centre is located right beside a rather large church, which today was overflowing with people attending a funeral and the research centre was closed. So we missed out on seeing the residence of the man who wrote many of the Icelandic sagas into the written record.

Instead, we decided to do a quick detour to the Stedji Craft Brewery – known for some of the most err… interesting and even controversial concoctions known to craft beer.  The brewery is in a paddock at the end of a long rather quiet dirt road.  There is not a lot of signage, but this rather uninviting looking sign told us we were in the right place.

The brewery is described on the internet thusly:

“Steðji, which translates as Anvil, named after the rock formation next to Stedji Brewery and family house. A place of folklore and magic that today is the home of one of the most innovative, exciting and exuberant family brewery in the world. Steðji beer is not just a beer, it’s an alchemy of pure genius.”

I’m here to tell you, boys and girls – it doesn’t get further from pure genius than this! We tried a tasting tray of five different beers –
Steðji Lager – described as a very easy drinking light German lager
Verdict: not bad, light, tasty and definitely inoffensive

Steðji Jarðarberjabjórr – described as a light and refreshing beer with a great taste of strawberries.
Verdict:  sweet beer, marketed literally as a ‘chick’s drink’, shame on them.

Steðji Dökkur bjór – German malty slightly dark stout beer.
Verdict:  not my thing, but yale seemed to enjoy it better than some of the other offerings.

Steðji Icelandic Northern Lights – medium dark larger with liquorice flavours
Verdict:  this shit is an abomination and if I didn’t like their puppy so much who was lurking near our table I would have spat it out all over the place.

Steðji Summer beer – an IPL with New Zealand lemon flavours. BBestseller
Verdict: This one too, was ‘not tasty’, though as yale noted, we were feeling somewhat scarred after the licquorice incident.

And finally, there was the Whale Beer…
Hvalur 2 / Whale Beer – (from their website):  2015 – 2018 Hvalur 2 Þorraöl Steðji are even more controversial , again it was an ale purposely brewed for the season of Þorri, the Icelandic midwinter festival but instead of using milled whale bones we took it a step further and used sheep dung-smoked whale testicles from a Fin-whale mixed with pure Icelandic water, malted barley and hops.
Verdict:  Yep, whale testicles smoked in sheeps dung!  Far out the winters around here must get boring!  But we tried it, and honestly, it wasn’t too bad… much better thant he licquorice incident. The nicest thing I can say about our brewery stop is they had a gorgeous little farm dog hanging around – she had the softest fur and such a sweet face.  The beers – were interesting?  Unusual?  Too bloody hipster? Trying too hard? All of the above?  Shudder. Traumatised.

We then had to put up with an hour or so over more gorgeous scenery as we made our way back to Reykiavik.  Our lap of the entire country nearly complete.
Every corner.  I swear you drive around a corner, a mountain, you cut back on the road you were on to look behind you and were greeted by an entirely different vista. We went through the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel, which takes drivers directly under the fjord in 7 minutes saving what used to be an hour drive. And before we knew it, we were heading back into Reykjavik. Harpa Concert Hall in the afternoon sun:

So we got back to our AirBnB place and were really hoping that there would be a letter here for us – you see, I had left Brisbane in a bit of a distracted state and had forgotten to get our International Drivers Licenses out of the safe.  Iceland carhire companies don’t care – they can read your English license – but we are not going to have the same benefit of the doubt on the rest of the trip, so I had asked Mr K to mail them for us.  Between not having an address to send it to, and a public holiday last week in Australia, we were cutting it pretty fine to receive it before we leave Iceland. It should have been delivered today, but wasn’t.  So we hightailed it to the post office, 15 mins before they closed to find out what had happened to the documents.

Initially, the post office lady couldn’t find it at all – the tracking number was coming up with no info, my name was coming up with no infor, but thankfully she was able to search by intended address and ta-da!  Our letter was right her the back room of that very post office waiting for us!  OMG, all the reliefs. One less thing to worry about tomorrow.

We had an hour or so before we were supposed to be heading out to Grindavik to see the famous Blue Lagoon.  Many people recommend flying into Iceland and visiting here to recover from your long haul flight – personally, I think we have done this the right way around, and are visiting to recover from our two weeks of unusual beds, unusually cold and wet weather and the running around like tourists.

The Blue Lagoon is a huge thermal hot spring located in the middle of a lava field with warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur. It’s supposed to be good for your skin, but I have to say it did nothing but dry me out. It’s also known to trash your hair so they give you loads of conditioner to put on *before* you get in the hot springs.  Being a bit of an indoor sort of girl most of the time we had opted for a nighttime booking – I am not keen on standing around in the hot water in the full sun (not that it’s been sunny much since we got here!), but the booking was made before we left home.  So night bathing it was.

The place was a madhouse – hundreds of people everywhere, ‘conductors’ standing on stools telling people how it works and what to expect, and just people, people everywhere – even though it’s offseason, freezing cold (literally 1C) and nighttime?!   We got out towels, had our showers and head for the springs.  It was very relaxing, or at least it could have been if there were not so many young people boozing up and yelling and yahooing at each other  :/  Not my idea of a relaxing time at a hot spring.  Anyway, the lagoon is enormous so we managed to stay away from those peoples as much as possible.  Because of the water and the abrasive nature of it – I didn’t have a camera with me, so I found some quick promo pics that are similar to our experience there today.
It was lovely and steamy, and the water was just the right amount of hot. After our soak, we had a dinner reservation at the Blue Lagoon Lava Restaurant.  When looking at the place from home, we were shocked at how overpriced it was… thought it must have been tourist central prices. But now we have been here a while, we realise, it’s not really – it’s just Iceland prices.  So we made a dinner booking.  The Lava restaurant is lovely, it caters to the spa clients and you can turn up in your bathrobe at lunchtime if you so desire.

My only complaint is the lighting… the ceiling has strong pink lights in it, which makes everyone look ruddy and red-faced.  It also makes your food a little hard to look at, which seems a bit of a design flaw rather than a design element:

Cured beef w~ Brennivín, blueberries, black garlic mayonnaise, beer bread

Langoustine soup – Garlic marinated langoustine, dulse

Lamb fillet and shoulder of lamb w~ Rutabaga, carrots, rhubarb, thyme

Grilled beef tenderloin w~ Wild mushrooms, crispy potatoes, onion jam, dijon mustard

Crispy potatoes – that is what you call french fries when you are a pretentious git writing a menu.  All delicious though (well except the fries, I didn’t eat them).

The only down side of our night bathing and then dinner on site?  Having to brave the cold to get back to the car park (about 500m away) and then drive the 40 mins back to Reykjavik in a car that was just warming up nicely as we got back to our AirBnB.  🙂

Huge day, with much seen and so much done.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Borgarnes

Right outside our guesthouse this morning is the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland’ – Kirkjufell.  Kirkjufell is 463m high and located on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður. And this tiny looking waterfall, Grundarfoss, is probably a big part of that claim to fame… Because when viewed from a certain angle these two landmarks are literally ‘postcard Iceland’.  This image and this view can be seen on postcards everywhere… well maybe not looking like this, all overcast and moody but you Google image serach ‘Kirkjufell, ‘ you get the idea.
Getting a starring role in Game of Thrones probably also helped with the whole, ‘most photographed’ title; Kirkjufell featured as the “Arrowhead Mountain” that the Hound and the company north of the Wall see when capturing a wight in seasons 6 and 7.

Today took us around the Snæfellsnes peninsula which is famous for its gorgeous scenery.  It was looking a bit dismal when we set out – but one thing we have learned here, is that there is always a completely different view around the corner… and sometimes completely different weather too.

Olafsvikurkirkja – one of the more unusual churches we have seen here.  Traditionally churches appear to be white buildings with red rooves, but this 1967 modern design is unique compared to most others we have seen. There are so many churches dotted around the landscape that it sometimes feels a bit, ‘Oh there are three farms meeting in one place; we need a church’. Svöðufoss. There are so many waterfalls in Iceland that they are starting to feel like ancient ruins on a trip through the Mediterranean…

The welcome into the town of HellissandurA Hellisunder local, Kári Viðarsson who grew up and lives in the town started a street art project painting this local fish factory… we even spied some murals on some residential homes. Now the project has taken on a world of its own and he has murals on many local buildings including the local hostel.  The eventual plan is to have a mural on at least one wall of every building in town.  

Further down the road, we found ourselves driving through some now familiar but still dramatic lava fields to get to Djúpalónssandur beach.

Djúpalónssandur is a sandy beach at the base of Snæfellsjökull (the glacier on the Snaefellsnes peninsular). There used to be a thriving fishing village here with up to sixty fishing boats but today the bay is uninhabited and there is no sign of the old village.

On the beach, there are the scattered steel remains of the Grimsby – a British fishing trawler that was wrecked here in 1948.

Djúpalónssandur is also known for its four ‘lifting stones’ which were used by the fishermen to test their strength.

They are Fullsterkur (“full strength”) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (“half strength”) at 100 kg, hálfdrættingur (“weakling”) at 54 kg and Amlóði (“Useless”) 23 kg. Traditionally the stones were used to decide if men were strong enough to qualify men to work on fishing boats, A would-be fisherman would have to be able to lift the Hálfdrættingur onto a ledge at hip-height to get a job.  yale took these pictures and had a go at lifting them… he managed to lift the ‘weakling’ stone, so maybe he could have got a job as an oarsman.  😀

Snæfellsnes has several lighthouses, this one is the Malarrif Lighthouse, which is situated right beside this extremely rugged and rocky beachhead above.

We stayed for quite a while watching the rain roll in, as the waves crashed over the craggy black lava rocks. The power of the surf hitting rocks like this is always impressive.  This is the first place that I *didn’t* suggest that yale take a swim…

We left our Jeep at the visitor’s centre when we went to go for a walk to the lighthouse, but someone turned it into a Matchbox Car by the time we got back…Again, as we drive around, everywhere we look is simply stunning scenery – I have so many photos taken out the car window from discovering more pretty sights around every corner.

This is a monument to Guðríður Thorbjarnardótti who was orn at Laugarbrekka in Snæfellsnes. Guðríður appears in the Saga of ERik the Red and also in the Saga of the Greenlanders which combined make up the Vinland sagas.  She and her husband, Þorfinnur Karlsefni, led expeditions to Vinland,

She appears in the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders, known collectively as the Vinland Sagas. She and her husband Þorfinnur Karlsefni led an expedition to Vinland (which is what the Norsemen called, areas of North America that they explored in approximated 1000AD).  Their son, Snorri Þorfinnsson is believed to be the first European birth in the Americas.

She became a bit of an early explorer taking many voyages.


Bárðr Snæfellsnes is another character from Icelandic sagas; Bárðr’s mother was human, but his father was half giant and half troll. Growing up, he lived with Dofri, the “mountain-dweller” of Dovrefjell (in central Norway). He had three tall beautiful daughters with his first wife, Flaumgerðr (who had a human mother but was also Dofri the mountain dweller’s daughter): Helga, Þordís and Guðrún. With his second wife, Herþrúðr, who was human, he had six more daughters.

Bárðr and his family emigrated to Iceland at Snæfellsnes which they named Djúpalón and he built himself a farm which he called Laugarbrekka. Bárðr’s also had a half-brother, Þorkell, from his human mother’s second marriage, and Þorkell lived at Arnarstapi with his two sons, Rauðfeldr (Red-cloak) and Sölvi, who we will get to shortly…

The peninsula here with its amazingly tall basalt columns and natural arches is breathtaking.  Anyway, back to Bárðr and Þorkell and their children.  The sons of Þorkell and the daughters of Bárðr used to play together, as cousins do. However, one day, when there was pack ice along the shoreline, the sons of Þorkell, Rauðfeldr and Sölvi pushed Helga out to sea on an iceberg thinking she would drift for a while and come back. Unfortunately, she drifted out to sea, and unbeknownst to Bárðr, she drifted unharmed the 300 nautical miles to Greenland, where she ended up finding a lover and settling down. Bárðr, of course, thought she was dead and was infuriated. He pushed Rauðfeldr off the Rauðfeldsgjá, the high ravine at Arnarstapi and he threw Sölvi off a high cliff on the coast east called Sölvahamar. Þorkell was then infuriated too, and he and Bárðr fought until Þorkell ended up with a broken leg and moved out of the district. Rauðfeldsgjá ravine appears to be just a crack in the cliffline, but it is quite a long and steep chasm. 

More beautiful scenery appeared as we were founding the southern side of the peninsula – rainbows, mirror like lakes, snowcapped mountains and rolling green hillsides. This is a reflection in the lake! (below) We weren’t the only ones stopping to take photos… we were (mostly) the only ones taking photos of the scenery.  yale doing his best Chinese tourist impression and posing in the now way too familiar, and no doubt already Chinese-Instagram-Famous, Airing The Vagina Pose…!  We don’t know why they do it, but they are always standing around on one leg like this with their arms spread out in front of things?!?
Hitting the road to Borgagnes…

At Borganes we deliberately made a decision to drop a few IQ points and go to the Settlement Centre, where we were spoonfed some Icelandic sagas in easy tourist sized chunks with a handy audio tour and interactive displays. Personally, I fucking hate audio tours – they disconnect you from experience and your fellow traveller and put people in an even more self-centered bubble of not paying attention to those around them… but it is what it is, I guess.

The top half of the audio tour was about the seafaring voyages of the viking eras… where they went how and a little bit of the who.  I am hoping to get more solid/academically presented information on all this at the National Museum in a couple of days but it was interesting enough. The bottom half of the Settlement Centre’s display is an artistic representation of what is called Egill’s Saga.  Egill Skallagrímsson was a Viking warrior and poet, whose story is told here through a wide range of art pieces in varying styles, by many artists, in a diverse array of media.  I very much enjoyed the artworks – though it seems Egill was a bit of an arsehole. Wood carvings of the gods, Floki and Odin. Egill’s father, who was a very harsh man.  A representation of Egill’s first killing at age seven, when he became enraged in an ice game (a precursor to modern ice hockey perhaps) and took an axe and killed a man.An artwork showing his parents reaction to the killing – Mum: You good warrior you, one day we will buy you a ship.  Dad: Bad boy. You shouldn’t kill people.  (Shortest version of that anyone ever wrote)
Egill’s fantastically handsome brother who look nothing like his father… mentioned repeatedly. A scorn pole made to curse Egill by someone else he had crossed.An artwork representing some magic and shamanism.
Egill in his melancholy after losing his two sons.

The Settlement Centre was interesting enough – if you have no actual interest in dark ages history and don’t mind being treated like a school kid.  I am glad the place was empty when we were there – or I think I would have left.

After this, we went to find our guesthouse, Hotel Hafnarfjall and ferret out some dinner.  We checked in and I was disappointed to see we had been allocated a room looking towards the mountain and not over the fjord. Not that it wasn’t a very pretty snow-capped mountain behind us, but we were finally expecting a really high probability of an opportunity to see the northern lights tonight, and it would have been better to have a more open view. No sooner had we walked into the room when the owner came around to get us, walked into the bathroom and tut-tutted about the ventilation fan not working and he moved us to a fjord view room!  Sweet.  😀

So, the aurora forecast, that I have been watching like a hawk since we got here was finally showing levels of 4 and 5 over most of Iceland… it had been hovering around 2-3 for most of our visit.  But the bigger problem was that with all the snow, rain and overcast weather we were having – even if it had been peaking, we were unlikely to see it wherever we were due to the dense cloud cover.

Well tonight, we were near those three sunny patches on the left-hand side of the country… so I had high hopes we would see at least a little something.  yale just made me a supercool .gif of all the screen grabs I have been taking as I watched the forecast today!
And just after dinner we went for a little drive away from the city lights and managed to spot the aurora peeking out between the clouds. It’s a stunning phenomena, and very hard to capture with a handheld camera and no tripod!  😛  Yeah, well equipped photographer I am.  We drove around a bit chasing the brightest green in the sky. I had to include this – we drove to a dark space behind the Settlement Centre in town and found others attempting to photograph the aurora too… and would you believe this:  it’s pitch black, the sky is green and a Chinese couple are here and the guy is trying to photograph his partner in front of the northern lights.
*rolls eyes so skyward, I think I am going to fall over*
ALL the portraits – WHY?Later on – just before we were getting ready for bed, we stuck our head outside the door and saw what looked like lights… so we quickly got dressed and ran outside. As I said, I didn’t have a tripod, so these are 8 second, handheld exposures… but I didn’t really care too much about the photos – the experience was the important bit.  I took a handful of photos and then stuffed the camera in my pocked to just watch.  We’ve had so much cloud cover, rain and bad weather that we didn’t think we were going to see the aurorae at all. Stunning!  And on that note – bed time.

Eiríksstaðir and Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum

This morning’s view from our guesthouse window! Watched the sun come up and hit the mountain it was spectacular.  We had another lovely farmhouse breakfast – the Icelanders are calling it a continental breakfast, but either they’ve never been on the continent or they missed the memo about the croissants and pasties. Breakfast was ham, cheese, boiled eggs, fresh baked bread with spreads etc, cucumber, tomato, cereals, juice and all good things. Before we left we went to say a quick goodbye to the ponies. Poor things have to stand around in the cold wind al day and all night – they don’t get stabled at night.  According to Kristoffer, our host, the horses get uncomfortable if it gets over about 15C so they actually like it colder. It must be truly hard living in the cold conditions, but I swear the views would make it worth it.

On our travels today we passed through the towns of Sauðárkrókur in the province of Skagafjörður (I love all these Icelandic names, though I struggle to pronounce the half of them) on our way to firstly, Eiríksstaðir – former homestead of Eiríkr Þorvaldsson, who was most commonly known as  Erik the Red!  Vikings, yay! Someone in Sauðárkrókur has a sense of humour – this was painted on the wall of what appeared to be a fish processing plant. Out on the road towards Blönduós, just more stunning scenery in every direction. A very modern random church called Blönduóskirkja, oddly enough near Blönduós.

Eiríksstaðir is believed to be the home of Eiríkr Þorvaldsson, aka  Erik the Red. It was also where his son Leif Eiríksson was born, Leif being the first European known to have discovered the Americas – something that our guide was quite surprised to hear I was already aware of because most of their guests (Chinese, Americans and southern Europeans alike) tend to believe the Christopher Columbus version of events. The site is thought to be the original farm has been analysed archaeologists and the remains of two buildings dating to the 9th–10th centuries have been identified.

he open-air museum contains what is considered to be ‘the most accurate Viking period longhouse in Europe’ which has been established based on the findings of the nearby dig.
The Eiríksstaðanefnd created the longhouse based on the 1997 archaeological investigation and aims to reproduce Erik the Red’s house as accurately as possible – the longhouse was built to replicate the excavated ruins using driftwood from Siberia and was built using replicas of period tools. The recreated longhouse was built in 1999 and formally opened in 2000 to coincide with the 1000 year anniversary of the discovery of Vinland and it is located only 100 metres from the period ruins, which are a protected site. Now, all of this is very exciting to someone who is interested in medieval/dark ages history, right up until we find out that the longhouse is CLOSED for the winter.  Sadly it only opens from May to end of August each year.  However for the truly crazy (read: obsessed) you can arrange a private tour during the off season to see inside the longhouse and have a guide share their local knowledge of the building – which we dutifully arranged, at exorbitant expense to the management, because who knows if we will ever get back here. It was supposed to be a 30-45min ‘private guided tour’ of the museum, but I don’t think Óli, our garbed guide, was counting on all my questions… and we were still engaged in enthusiastic conversation with him nearly him two hours later.

I took so many photos inside the longhouse. As you can see from the next few pics – there is limited light inside coming down from the one square hole in the roofline that is designed to allow smoke to exit the building. The screen/cover of the sky-light, for want of a better word in English, is known as a ‘skjár’, which is made from stretched and dried cow placenta.

Incidentally Óli told us that Icelandic, due to Iceland’s isolated location is the closest of the spoken Scandinavian languages to early Norse languages.  Icelanders are working hard to find the balance between keeping their language and rapidly adapting to more globalist goals (especially in light of recent tourism trends). The word, ‘skajár’ which is most commonly translated as ‘screen’, is an example of how traditional words have been appropriated and recontextualised to be useful in a modern context.  The word is now used as the word for a computer ‘screen’ which is the way Icelanders of minimising Anglicisms creeping into Icelandic.  But I digress…

I took many photos inside – the first few were taken with ambient light, and then I gave up and resort to the flash in a desire to capture as much detail as possible. A box of old bones and horn that are replicas of children’s toys:

According to Landnámabók and the Saga of Erik the Red, after first settling in Vestfyrðir, Eiríkr married Þjóðhildur Jǫrundardóttir and established the farm of Eiríksstaðir near the Vatnshorn in Haukadalur. His son Leifr was born there, but Eiríkr had to leave the area after a couple of incidents – one where he killed two men in revenge for the deaths of two of his thralls (slaves) when the proper legal restitution would have been a cash payment to the value of the thralls – the taking of lives of freemen in revenge for killed slaves was unheard of at that time. The second incident involved his wife’s loom being stolen by a supposed friend, and she pushed Eiríkr to seek out the friend to get the loom back – upon threat of her leaving him in humiliation if he did not. Eiríkr, with his hand forced, sought out the friend and killed him, and his two sons in order to recover the loom.  In doing so, he found himself an outlaw in Iceland.

A replica of the loom that Erik the Red’s wife, Þjóðhildur Jǫrundardóttir, would have owned:So – flash photos time so I could capture the details better in the low light environment.  In the absence of tallow or bees wax candles, the only light sources these early settlement farmers had was from the ‘skylight/chimney screen’, opened doors (not ideal in winter) or from the fire.

The most valuable thing a farmer who went viking owned was his sail. Sails were made from wool and would take the wool of about 2500 sheep and about 2-3 years of weaving to make one sail.  Much of the weaving would have been done by female thralls. Oli tells us that a woman weaving for a whole day walking back and forth in front of the loom, would cover about 35kms in those few meters. Sleeping spaces for the master and mistress of the house  – the ‘bed’ is barely 1.4m wide which would have made for squishy sleeping quarters. The sleeping quarters for the ‘husband and wife’ of the home were usually located in the centre of the longhouse, closest to the fire, but up to 20-25 people would have lived in this space – the immediate family, children in the loft, extended family members of the husband and wife, and thralls would have slept on the ground. The carvings on the ‘bed head’ were roughly designed on the Osberg bed and used to keep bad ghosts away – something a murderous arsehole like Eiríkr probably desperately needed.Replica casket/trunk to store small valuables inside the house and to transport same. The back door that leads to the pantry – all made of driftwood.  Most of the driftwood that appears in Iceland originates in Siberia of all places.  It has always been highly valued as forest timber is thin to non-existent in Iceland after half a millennia of over harvesting for firewood. Tool storage near the pantry entrance. The view of the ceiling up to the skjár, Rafters – in the bottom left hand corner is a loft above the entrance vestibule that was most likely used as sleeping quarters for children. View down the longhouse from the main entrance doorway: Lock/latch crafted on the main door –  The children’s loft: yale for scale:
Flatirons used for making Viking flat bread:Some of the period style tools that were created to build, and to be used in, the long house:

In the ‘pantry’ room, a millstone for grinding barley – barley was used for the flatbread as well as for a mead type drink. A barrel used to make a sour yoghurt style dairy product – able to be kept for up to 8 months. Mead flask: Drying space for fish and meats… preserving meats was an important part of subsistence living to survive the harsh winters. A lantern with carry handle: Crockery and wooden eating items: The walls of the pantry are not timber lined – it is designed to be as cold as possible and for people to be in there as little as possible. The back door enters directly into the pantry: The gabled roof of the pantry: Back in the main section of the long house – additional warmth came from skins and furs. The entrance space at the main entry vestibule was possibly used as guest quarters when required, and likely used as storage or even animal stabling if required. As we had taken up way more of Oli’s time than planned, we were all quite surprised to step out of the longhouse and find the blue skies were gone and it was snowing.
The back of the longhouse:

I’m including a bunch of info here that is probably only of interest to a few SCA friends that are keen on Viking construction etc., hopefully it will be of use to some of them.
Below: a diagram of the longhouse – showing pantry on the left, the main living area in the middle, and the children’s loft over the entry vestibule on the right:

The house is a replica based on archaeological facts, here is a transcript from the plaque explaining the theory behind the recreation:

“The general shape of the house with the outlines of the wall, doorways and the open fire in the centre, were revealed by archaeological excavations.  The hall was up to 4m  wide and about 12m long.

No timber remains were found that could serve as an indication of the house-frame, but the doorways, with stone paving in front of them, were clearly discernible.  The house was built in two stages, the older doorway in the centre of the hall having been filled in; this change has been made visible, but only one fireplace is shown.

The design of the bearing structure is based on the oldest type of hall design known from Iceland and its neighbouring countries, with turf walls enclosing wooden structures.  An outer line of posts runs along the wall, with an inner line marking the divisions between the benches.  The interior walls of the hall itself are panelled.  The rafters are covered over with twigs, on which a layer of turf forms the roof.  The turf walls are built int he way indicated by the excavated remains.  Driftwood was used for all the timber.

All the tools used in building the hall were replicas of tools used in the Age of Settlement, and markings and ornamentation on the woodwork are based on models from the Viking Age.  The conjectural replica was completed in 2000.”

Roughly 100m away are the footings of the original 10th century house that the replica is based on: Again the diagram of what the archeological dig had found, and a transcript of the description of the longhouse:

A – North side, later wall; B – Eastern gable; C – Southern side; D – Older entrance and pavement; E – Later entrance and pavement; F Later Fireplace; G – Older fireplace; H – western gable; I – Position of Storage Vat in Pantry; J – Back door; K – Bench

“Ruins of the farm Eiríksstaðir

Excavations carried our from 1997 to 1999 showed that a small hall stood on this site in the 10th century.  The walls were made of turn above a foundation of stones.

The northern side is straight, and seems to have been built up against material from a landslide. The southern side is curved, as is customary in hall buildings of this period. The entrance was in the middle, but was later filled in and another was made close to the eastern gable of the hall.  The area in front of both doorways is paved with flat stones.

The older of the two fireplaces is closer to the northeastern corner of the hall. From the fact that there are two fireplaces and two entrances, it seems that the farmhouse at Eiriksstadir was altered, probably because of an avalanche of mud had hit the farm. The north wall was rebuilt and moved on wall’s breadth inside the house, with the result that the ground plan of the ruin is narrower than is usual for a Viking Age hall. The hall seems to have been abandoned at the end of the 10th century.

A plan drawing made during the 1998 excavations, showing he outlines of the hall, the two fireplaces and two entrances revealed by the excavation.”

We’ve been seeing dotted around the countryside the only forrest that Iceland has anymore – tiny birch forests.  The landscape was once thought to be about 50-60% covered in forest and now it is estimated to be more like 15% thanks to trees being the primary source of heating fuel for over 400 years.

yale for scale: The place names are so long here they are truncated for road signage:

Next stop we made our way to was Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum which holds a truly eclectic collection of historical items connected to generations of shark fishing and processing. The shark that is used to make hákarl – the traditional Icelandic “fermented shark” dish – is the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus). Nowadays, the cost of specifically fishing for greenland shark is prohibitive so the Bjarnarhöfn processing farm (?) relies primarily on by-catch. This must be the fourth or fifth stuffed puffin I have seen since I got here…

The Greenland shark is primarily distributed in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean though has been found as south as the Saint Lawrence River in northern Canada.  It has the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate species and is estimated to have a lifespan of between 300–500 years!  It is also the fourth largest shark species in the world.

As an adaptation to living at depth, it has a high concentration of urea in its tissues, which is kinda used in the body like antifreeze, but which causes the meat to be extremely toxic.  Greenland shark flesh is allowed to ‘rot’ as a process to reduce toxin levels so that it can be eaten.

Traditionally the skin of the shark was used as sandpaper – it is certainly rough enough.

The sharks are carnivorous and primarily eat fish, birds and small mammals.  They are also scavengers so will happily eat dead animals they find.  Their large jaw will allow them to eat most things whole – but if they find prey larger than they can handle in one bite, their jaw allows them to ‘scissor’ their prey by gripping it with the top jaw and using their bottom jaw to cut side to side to get a more manageable chunk.

After a short talk on the Greenland shark and how it is processed, we got to try some.  I have had it before and it was disgusting – strong ammonia smell and an even stronger chemical taste. But this wasn’t so bad – these guys are obviously connoisseurs at fermenting the shark meat to perfection.  😛

yale trying his first piece of shark meat… see it’s not so bad (we will ignore the fact that this man will eat nearly ANYTHING.

This National Geographic video, while slightly sensationalised, shows the process of fermenting the shark meat…

We then went for a walk to have a look at the drying barn, which apparently normally stinks to high heaven of ammonia and piss smells – but today thanks to the high wind and snowing conditions, we could stand around under it and hardly smell a thing.

It was a bit of a long drive today (by Icelandic standards anyway) but the countryside is so beautiful that you don’t really mind.

Tonight we have made camp in a very pleasant Guesthouse in Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula which we are hoping to explore tomorrow, weather permitting.

Goðafoss and Tröllaskagi Peninsula

Woke up this morning at the Skútustaðir Guesthouse to see the entire landscape covered in a fresh layer of snow. Which is probably very commonplace if you live somewhere like Canberra 😉 but for us Brisbanians, it’s quite the novelty.   We got ourselves sorted, packed our backpacks, had a wonderful farmhouse breakfast made almost entirely from produce grown locally on the property, scraped the ice off the car, wrestled with doors that were frozen shut, and then made tracks.

To directly across the road from the Guesthouse to see the Skútustaðagígar craters – they’re actually considered pseudo-craters because they were formed by gas explosions that occurred when boiling lava flowed over the wetlands, rather than explosions from actual eruptions. The only craters I’ve ever seen at home are from meteorite strikes, so I am not sure why the distinction.  Still, they’re beautiful all frozen over and covered in fresh snow.

From here we hit the road and were heading to Goðafoss falls. It started out as a beautiful clear day but the roads, of course, were covered in ice and snow which makes for interesting driving when you come from the subtropics.

Goðafoss, ‘waterfalls of the gods’, is on the Skjálfandafljót river and must be my favourite waterfall in Iceland (so far). It is only 12m high and 30m wide, so not as large or as impressive as some others we have seen, but the story from which it gains its name is why I think I have fallen in love with this place.

It is said that in 999AD the lawspeaker at the time, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði had decided to make Christianity the official religion of Iceland. According to the legend, when he returned from the Alþing at Þingvellir, Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse pagan gods into the waterfall.

We passed lots of sheep farms on the way to the falls, only every time you get near the poor sheeps, they start walking away from you – I don’t think they like tourists very much… all those noisy cameras and no food!

Excited snapshot out the car window of the Skjálfandafljót gorge below the falls as we approached the visitor’s area!
When we finally got there and made the short walk out to the areas, we were confronted by this:Repeatedly.  He fluffed her and posed her and told her to look this way and that; to smile to look away, to lift her leg above the falls, to point, and to pout.  Finally, after about ten minutes when I thought he was bloody finished with this monumentally important mobile phone photo shoot… he then handed HER the camera, and told her where to stand how low to crouch, how to line him up with the falls and pfaffed around for another five minutes before moving in front of the camera himself!  Then he came back and checked the shots of himself and he made her do them again!  Like, seriously!?  Standing around narcissistically for over twenty minutes taking photo after photo after photo of yourselves while you have people standing around everywhere waiting for a decent view of the object we have all come to see – and these inconsiderate arseholes are in everyone’s way for just as long as you please trying to get the perfect photo.  Let you in on a little secret here, people – there’s no such thing as a perfect photo. If you take two pictures, ONE of them will be your favourite, if you take ten pictures ONE of them will be your favourite, if you take fifty fucking photos – ONE of them will be your favourite! Eventually, he came back to look at the camera again, and then I became *that person* as I then walked out in front of everyone before another pair of self-indulgent, self-absorbed tourists decided to repeat their performance.  I am so frustrated at this shit behaviour, that I resorted to fucking up everyone else’s view for all of 60 seconds to take my three or four pictures so I could move on… and do you know how many pictures I took of ME in front of these waterfalls?  Exactly none.  I know I probably shouldn’t be posting pictures of strangers on my blog – but fuck them and their privacy. You want to take up a public space like that and be completely ignorant towards the people around you, then you get what you get.

I am so totally over people’s obsession with taking all these selfies and twenty million pictures of yourself in front of </important cultural icon>.  Want a photo to show your friends that you were there? Great. Take ONE, maybe two, and then move the fuck on.

Deep breath…  I didn’t let it get to me for long – the falls are simply stunning covered in snow.  It hadn’t occurred to me that we would end up seeing them looking like this, as it was mid-September when I was here in 2015 and certainly didn’t feel like there would be snow any time soon. The weather patterns this year are apparently out the window (which is not helping our hunt for the northern lights).

Looking back through my pics tonight, I did take a selfie of myself all rugged up in the cold… See? I was actually at the falls, but I’m not in front of them blocking anyone’s view! Behind me is a field full of snowy lava formations that no one is trying to photograph. After Goðafoss, we were back on the road towards Akureyri, with is the second largest city in Iceland at the base of Eyjafjörður Fjord.  The weather was not playing nice with us again and the road conditions were still dicey for these Queenslanders. 

Akureyri seems a little sleepy today, probably due to the weather – everyone is sensibly indoors.  We did a little bit shopping and picked up some supplies, but weren’t in town very long.

When you look up ‘Things To Do’ in Akureyri, you will find a list that includes things like Goðafoss, Dettifoss, the Myvatn Nature Baths, the Geothermal lava fields of Krafla and all those places we had just travelled some distance over icy roads to come from.

There is a Herring Museum here – but it isn’t open during the winter, and a Natural History Museum, but it too wasn’t open. It’s a nice little town, but thankfully the 66° North and the Icewear stores were open, and we found a supermarket or we would have kept driving I think.

As soon as we left Akureyri, the landscape changed dramatically – lush beautiful green meadows, with the snow capped mountains somewhere in the distance.

And then you would come over the crest of a hill or around a corner and the vista would dramatically change again.  The temptation to keep picking up the camera was really strong.

We didn’t really need the reminder that the roads were treacherous – but we did see a few upended vehicles which drove the point home more than adequately.

The varying landscapes above are views from north of Akureyri heading towards Dalvik.

Dalvik was a little bit, ‘blink and you’ll miss it’, in spite of its multi-coloured, multi-storeyed buildings, it’s a sleepy looking fishing village.  As we left Dalvik, though the road conditions seemed to be worsening and we were back in the snow again. Seeing snow at sea level always seems somewhat confusing to me, even though I have been many places now where it’s quite common – I think the association of snow only being on mountain tops is such a strong image imprinted on us in childhood, that it is a bit hard to let go of.

We were about to hit the first of several long tunnels on the Trollaskagi Peninsula.  These feats of engineering have made it much safer and much quicker to travel around Iceland – roads that would have routinely been closed off during much of the winter were now re-routed through mountains instead of around the coastline.  The first smaller tunnel, Múlagöng or Ólafsfjarðargöng goes from north of Davik to Ólafsfjörður and is only 3.4kms long.  The much longer tunnel system goes between Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður – you can see on the map below the straight lines they take through the mountains.

Héðinsfjörðargong is the larger tunnel system – comprised of two tunnels of 7.4kms and 3.9kms long… over 11kms of single lane road going through the tunnel with occasional spaces to allow oncoming traffic to pass.  😮

Out the other side of the tunnels and the landscape changes again! We stopped for a bit of lunch and while the view was amazing – it was a bit too cold for us to use the outdoor picnic tables, so we made do with the dashboard.  🙂  A quick drive through tp Siglufjörður and then onwards around the peninsula. The lighthouse and lookout at Tröllaskagi.

Further around the peninsula, we came to the town of Hofsós, which is one of the oldest trading ports in northern Iceland dating back to the 16th century.  Interestingly, there is little sign of trading here now but for a weird Icelandic Immigration Centre?!
We found a pretty church, the famous Hofsós hot springs infinity pool (which we considered going in for a dip, but at 31C and an ambient temp of about 2C – we thought we’d get too cold too quick and it wouldn’t be worth it), some very cool black beaches and some more volcanic formed basalt column rock formations.
After leaving Hofsós we were heading to our guesthouse for the night, Helluland Guesthouse which is set in a heritage farmhouse built in 1909 and which is still a working farm.  Helluland is known for their Icelandic horse riding tours – you can go for a recreational ride for an hour or you can pack yourself up and go out overnight trail riding (though probably not at this time of year!).  Being a bit of an indoors sort of girl, I’ll probably leave the horses for ‘other people’.  Yes, I know these aren’t horses… The views from our windows are incomparable – I can’t wait to see it in the morning light.  In the meantime, tonight we are on aurora watch… even though we could both do with the extra sleep!