Day 3, June 18, 2005: the drive to Grundarfjörður
The scenery of coastal Iceland is unlike anything we had seen before. There is usually some body of water – either a fjord, a lake, a waterfall or a river – nearby and on a sunny day like today, even the smallest streams shine sparkly blue. And it seems that there is always some mountain either threatening to loose rocks on the right of us, looming behind us, rising out of the ground in front of us or holding up the Earth’s crust beneath us.
Being the geek that I am, the scenery of Iceland is the scenery reminded me of fantasy worlds from books, movies and computer games. It’s my third day of driving, but I still half expect an Orcish army to come thundering down the next mountain. The colours are so vivid, they almost look unreal. To my eyes, the sky appears a little too blue, the clouds a little too white, their shadows a little too distinct, and the greens, browns and greys of the mountains have boundaries that are just a little too clear. It feels like we’re inside someone’s painting.
There are no buildings to drive around but the things that you do need to drive around – fjords and mountains mainly – are so large and obvious, that you can often tell where you are on the map by comparing it with what you see through the windows.
Always in the background, the magical glacier Snæfellsjökull.
There was a beach at Snaefellsbaer that was full of stones that had been rubbed smooth by the waves. As we walked there, we crossed this grassy plain and saw some sea birds hovering above our heads. They would hover in one spot, as if unable to overcome the wind, but after awhile we noticed they were only doing this above our heads. At first, we thought they were being friendly and hoping to be fed. We took a few pictures but soon, they were swooping down on us. We then realized we were stepping on their nests and that their aerobatics were not meant for our amusement. We got off the grass immediately and ran towards the pebbly beach.
Later in the day, we were talking to Shelagh, the friendly lady who operates the information center at Grundarfjörður and we mentioned that we’d been at Guesthouse Langaholt. She said she loved the place except for “those crazy birds.” They are arctic terns or kria and they have been known to attack people, and apparently, we were “very brave” to have tried to photograph them.
On the drive towards Grundarfjörður, we came across this big bulge on the ground. We’re not sure what it means, but I think there’s a whole lot of lava waiting to come out of it.
On one of the mountain roads, we stopped by Sönghellir, the singing cave. The cave didn’t look too impressive so we didn’t enter.
In old days, people passing through the area used Sönghellir as a shelter. Legend has it that Bardur, a tenth century Norwegian shaman raised by mountain dwarves, stayed in the caves while he built his farm at Laugarbrekka
nearby. When he became a hermit, he moved to the glacier and wasn’t seen again. People started worshipping him as a Spirit of the Glacier.
Further along the way, we also passed by Arnarstapi, which had a nice natural fishing dock.
Forgot where this was. It was a lava rock sea cliff with lots of birds and you’re not supposed to stand near the edge because the ground is not very stable.
This picture was taken by a Merja, a Finnish hitchhiker we picked up. We were supposed to drop her off near Hellnar, but we had a miscommunication and took her all the way to Hellisandur before we realised. In the end, we dropped her off at Grundarfjörður, where she was at the day before. Oops!
Ground Control and Major Tom soaking in the view from the car.
Late in the day, we arrived at a place surrounded by mountains called Grundarfjörður. I had noticed that many things in Iceland – towns, power lines, roads – are often built below mountains, and I thought it had something to do with the wind. I asked a local here (Svenni), if the mountains helped to block out the wind and he said “No, they um….”
He paused to search for a word, then said “….magnify it.”
I looked at him blankly.
“The wind is stronger because of the mountains,” he adds with a shrug, “But what can you do, huh?”
We asked Shelagh at the information counter if there was a photoshop we could visit to transfer our photos from the camera to CDs because our camera was getting quite full. After a quick search around town, it looked
like there wasn’t a shop that offered the services we needed, so called her husband Gísli on the phone and he came over with his notebook computer to help us get our photos onto CDs.
While he was doing that, See Ming reminded me to lock the car and Shelagh laughed and said, “Oh you don’t have to. Not in this town.”
The photos took longer to transfer than any of us expected so, in the end, their friend Svenni took our memory cards to his house, and made us a nice DVD of all our photos, complete with a cover with our faces on it, and a custom
Grundarfjörður surface design and back cover.
We don’t know what to say to that, except thanks Svenni, Shelagh, and Gísli!
Day 4: The drive to Ísafjörður