Iceland 2016: Ahh, Iceland!

2 07 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

After a sound night’s sleep, we get up far too early, eat breakfast in the hotel (skyr, yum) and meet our van to get us to the Thrifty Car Rental agency.  We make the wise decision to get car insurance (more on that later) and head east down the road out of Reykjavik:  Brian, Annalise and I in a Peugeot and Dave and Nancy following in a Ford Focus.  We will be doing the Ring Road, the road that circles Iceland, in a clockwise direction.  Most people seem to do this counterclockwise; don’t know why or which way is better, we just follow the itinerary set up by IcelandGuest!

After going under the fjord through the Hvalfjörður tunnel, we stop at the first of the thousands of waterfalls we see from the road.  Not terribly impressive as far as Iceland waterfalls go, but still a beautiful sight as we make our way through the countryside.

5-25-16 first waterfall (1)

Next stop:  Borgarnes, where David and Nancy tour the Settlement Museum while the rest of us take a stroll through town.  It’s windy, but not too cold and the sun keeps popping out of the clouds.  We have high hopes that the weather will stay nice. Ehh…

5-25-16 Borgarnes (2)

A bit windy…

5-25-16 Borgarnes

Typical church in Iceland

At our next stop, we pull out the food bag and eat lunch in front of a magnificent waterfall.  Ahh, feel the stress of planning and air travel melt away.  The air is fresh and crisp, the waterfall roars its dominance over the landscape, the skyr slides down your throat (with cookies as spoons), and big boulders provide climbing challenges as car-cramped muscles loosen up.  I’ve waited three years for this.

5-25-16 lunch falls5-25-16 lunch falls (1)5-25-16 lunch falls (2)

We don’t make it far down the road before we pull over for another stop.  No waterfall is in sight, but several cars are parked in a small parking lot and people are seen walking up a path to the cliff’s edge.  Must be something good.

It is. Rauðfeldar Canyon, a narrow canyon with a legend of sibling murder and the hope of seeing the half-troll Bárður Snæfellsás who killed his remaining two sons in disgust.

5-25-16 Rauðfeldar Canyon-b

The entrance to Rauðfeldar Canyon

5-25-16 Rauðfeldar Canyon (3)

 

After wending our way through the canyon and out again, jumping from rock to rock over the creek, I spy a narrow but steep trail up the edge of the cliff over the grassy tussocks. 5-25-16 Rauðfeldar Canyon (16)

I begin to climb but am soon overtaken by Annalise, who scampers like a squirrel up the trail.  When I reach as high as I dare, I turn around and look down.

5-25-16 Rauðfeldar Canyon (12)

 Yipes. How to get down.  Should have thought of this ahead of time.  Finally I decide that I will have to crab walk down on the seat of my pants, in spite of the fact that I only brought three pairs to last the entire trip.  Slowly I inch my way down, only to be overtaken by Annalise who bounds down in front of me.  I get the last laugh, however.  When she gets down, she discovers that her cell phone is missing.  It fell out of her pocket at the very top of her climb.  Up she goes again, not quite so fast this time.

5-25-16 Rauðfeldar Canyon-a (5)

The troll of Rauðfeldar Canyon

Always travel with someone will lots of energy and a good sense of humor.  Love this girl!

Our last stop of the day is at Hellnar Nature Reserve.  This Nature Reserve on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (which no matter how many times I hear it pronounced by an Icelander, always comes out in my head as Snuffle-up-agus) is a seaside area with interesting rock formations, crashing waves, and cliffs stained with white smears of bird poop.  What’s not to like.

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (11)

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (8)

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (6)

Brian and Annalise get out of the wind and spitting rain

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (5)

Mind-boggling geology

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (3)

More climbing challenges

5-25-16 Hellnar Nature Reserve (15)

No more stops as we travel around the peninsula to our hotel in Stykkishólmur, the Fransiskus Hotel which was once a Catholic monastery and still houses a chapel used by the sisters in the hospital next door.  Our itinerary gives no address for the hotel other than the city, but when we do find it, it turns out that the street doesn’t have a name anyway.  Nothing unusual for a village in Iceland, even though this one is bigger than most with a population of more than 1,000 residents.

5-25-16 Fransiskus Hotel

Fransiskus Hotel with the red roof

After a fish dinner by the harbor, Brian and I decide we haven’t had enough for the day, so we climb to the top of the island next door.  Unfortunately, we don’t bring a camera.  Fortunately, the images in my mind of the endless ocean, the fierce wind at the top, and the squatty lighthouse will burn just as brightly.  From Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur, with such sights in between.  What a day.  What a day.

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