Iceland 2016: East Fjord Frivolity and Failure

30 07 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Lately each morning I’ve awoken with a sense of urgency, and particularly so this morning.  With only five more days left, we are on the down-side of our trip, and I don’t want it to be over.  My “Bucket o’ Adventures” is still not full.

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Good morning, Sunshine!

And so, after loading up the car, we drive over to the camping area and start climbing the hill toward the waterfalls we saw last night.

After a couple of false starts, we finally find a trail, scaring a pair of graylag geese along the way.6-3-16 Faskrudsfjordur hill hike (15)

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Brian, David, and Nancy stop at the first falls and amuse themselves with their cameras, settling in on comfortable rocks as they take in the scenery.

Annalise and I look at each other, look up the hill and take off.

6-3-16 Faskrudsfjordur hill hike (52)She quickly is out of sight and I am thinking hard about turning around as the hill gets steeper and steeper and the trail disappears.

6-3-16 Faskrudsfjordur hill hike (21) But as long as Annalise is up ahead and out of sight, I feel it is my motherly duty to climb onward, if only to save her from disaster (as I did when she climbed a cliff as a two-year-old).  I use nature photography as an excuse to catch my breath.

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Alpine bartsia: a hemi-parasite whose roots tap into other roots for nutrients


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Wooly willow


And really, it’s not about the speed or distance to me; sometimes the most breath-taking views are the ones up close and underfoot.  But then, in Iceland I rarely look out to see a view that is not spectacular!

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Stopping numerous times to “admire the view” I finally spot a tiny figure on top of the ridge.

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Annalise heads down, thank goodness, so I don’t have to rescue her.  As if.

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Annalise and I stop at a particularly beautiful cascade, and I can think of no more appropriate spot to leave some of Marie, who I just happen to have in my backpack.  (Later I am to find out that Marie was afraid of heights, so maybe this is not the perfect spot I think it is.)  Regardless, I thrust Marie’s ashes out into the rushing water, but just then a gust of wind catches them with Annalise downwind.  Ahh, well, I always thought Annalise had a bit of her Aunt Marie in her.  Now there is no doubt.

6-3-16 Faskrudsfjordur hill hike Marie

Marie’s Spot

We race down the hill just for the sheer joy of it.  The beauty of this place is overwhelming and it occurs to me that Iceland is a place of seasonal manic depression.  I’m not much for the cold and dark winter months, but this season of sunshine, flowers, and sparkling air makes my spirits soar.

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Annalise rolls down the hill, just because.

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High jinks

We meet back up with Brian, David, and Nancy who have been waiting patiently for our return.  What a perfect mix of fellow travelers: always someone up for a little extra adventure while the rest hangs out good-naturedly!

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We are now in the East Fjords, and if I thought the West Fjords had a lock on grandeur, well, I’d be dead wrong.  With the rugged coastline to my left and the jagged mountains on my right, I have a hard time deciding where to look.

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We stop frequently to explore: a lava flow, a lighthouse, and then a place I am sure must be a tourist trap, Petras Stone Collection in Stöðvarfjördur.  With so much else to see and experience, I’m not eager to spend time at a place I assume is like the roadside attraction, South of the Border, in South Carolina.  But we go anyway, and boy am I wrong!

Petra Sveinsdottir was a woman after my own heart.  She was a self-taught naturalist who from a young age scoured the hills around her home for stones, amassing what is now one of the largest privately owned collections in the world.

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Petra herself


The gardens around her home are filled with beautiful displays of her rocks and minerals and are lovingly tended by her children who have opened her home to visitors.

6-3-16 Petras Stone Collection Stodvarfjordur Marie

Marie would have absolutely loved this place, so for the second time today I pull her out and quietly fertilize a cluster of flowers with a bit of her.

We eat our lunch at a picnic table across the road from Petra’s house and then take off once again.  After passing through areas where slopes of scree pose the very real threat of landslides, we pull off at another scenic area, a valley and a fjord named Breiðdalur and Breiðdalsvík.

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Layers of basalt with vertical intrusions fascinate us, as does a wall of fog that is leaping toward us across the fjord.

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We watch for a while, then get back in our cars and take off, with our car in the lead.  We don’t see David and Nancy pull off, but think nothing of it as they usually take a minute or so to settle in.  This will become important.

Another pull-off, this one down a short driveway to a creek and waterfall.  Brian, Annalise and I get out and mess around for a little while.

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Annalise takes off her shoes and quickly wades across the shallow creek.


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Me, not so much.  I decide to follow, but the water is deceptively cold, freezingly so, and the rocks are hard to walk on.  With ice cubes for feet, I get stuck in the middle, but Annalise comes to my rescue and helps me back across.  So much for The Adventurer!

We keep an eye out for Dave and Nancy but don’t see them, so we assume they’ve passed us by and we will catch up later.  We go to the top of the falls, take a few pictures of people taking pictures, and then continue on our way.

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Waterfall selfie

Reindeer, a whole herd out in a field!  I don’t have any pictures of reindeer yet, so again I ask Brian to pull over and he complies.  I take off across the field toward the herd, but other people are doing the same and the herd gets spooked.

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Reindeer tracks and scat

Still, I’m enjoying the feel of being in a field far from civilization when I turn around and see a golf course.  A golf course.  Apparently golf is Iceland’s fastest growing sport, but I am not a fan.

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Of course, I’m teed off.

Still no sign of David and Nancy, and text messages and calls are not going through, so we drive on to our hotel in Hoffell, fully expecting to see their car already in the parking lot.  But it’s not.  The hotel receptionist says, no, they haven’t arrived yet.  She goes on, they called several hours ago and said they would be late due to car trouble.  Uh oh.  I start to worry that they are stuck out on the road somewhere.  But when I turn around, there they are!

It seems that back at the pull-off at Breiðdalur, a sharp rock punctured their tire.  They honked, waved their arms, and tried calling us, to no avail.  Dave was able to put on the spare tire and they stopped at the next small village, where they got the tire fixed in a relatively short time while they relaxed at a café.  Lesson learned:  Stay together!

We dine out on the porch of the hotel restaurant, in view of a glacier.


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A glacial reflection

A broad valley surrounds this farm hotel, with horses grazing in the field while snipes make constant winnowing sounds with their tails as they swoop and climb in the air.  We relax, knowing that for only the second time on our trip, we get to stay here two nights.

This hotel boasts five open-air hot pots fed by geothermal waters, so I head down the path through the horse pasture for an evening soak.  The water looks a little murky, and each pot is already inhabited by other soakers like myself, but turning around is not an option, so I overcome my awkwardness and slide into one with only a couple of people from Canada in it.  We are soon joined by a girl from Spain who is smoking a strange-smelling cigarette, and we all exchange stories of our travels around the island.  And while it is interesting to hear from other travelers, I am also slightly weirded out by sharing this murky warm water with strangers.  So when I get back to the hotel, I scrub well in a long hot shower before I feel clean again.  I crawl into bed in our room with a glacial view and dream of the puffins we hope to see on tomorrow’s excursion.

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