Along Iceland’s coasts

Our very late arrival in Reykjavik at 3 am on Sunday morning did not matter so much, because the night was as light as the day. Central Reykjavik looked as busy as I remembered it from years ago, with loads of people in summer clothes walking up and down the main street, although temperatures were more like 5 degrees C than 20-25 degrees C!

One of our first stops the next morning after a few hours of sleep was Thingvellir, a place of geological and historical importance. Not only do the continental plates of Europe and North America move apart here but also and maybe more importantly, the first democratic parliament was established in the year 930. Next on the tourist trail were the Geysirs close to Thingvellir, and one of these threw its hot water up into the air just as we arrived. Much less people crowded however in the nice little museum made by farmers showing how the Eyafjallajökull eruption in 2010 impacted on the lives of the people in the region. We ended the first day with a nice dinner at the Hunkubakkar guesthouse, where we also gained first hand information on how the sheep farmers gather their sheep at the end of summer.

Driving along the wide sandur fields of Myrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull was fascinating, and so was watching the icebergs floating around in the ice lakes. But the wind was ice cold and the air full of ash from the last eruption, and both made walking and breathing quite difficult. We did however manage to get close to a glacier. What usually would be white or blue ice was now covered by black ash. This was really different from last time I saw the glacier. Hotel Framtid in Djupivogur was our place to spend the second night. Djupivogur is really not a large place, but it is beautifully situated at the outer edge of one of the many deep fjords. It also has a small history museum, an out-door park with huge stone eggs made by a local artist, a funny collection of stones, whale bones, and minerals, and a creative designer who uses fish, reindeer and sheep skin, horse tails, and bones to make dresses, bags, belts, hats etc.

The fjords of southeast Iceland are deep incised and extend long into the inner part of the country. Accordingly, one has to drive all along the fjords, and there are quite many. There are no bridges and only few tunnels that allow cutting the distances, so we opted for the mountain road to Eigilstadir, our next stop for the day. Lake Lögurin, the extensive forests and Skidurklaustur are some of the main sites here. We happened to stay in a cottage that was surrounded by dense birch forest and it felt like staying in the mountains of central Sweden. So different from the bare lava or glacier landscapes we had earlier seen. The Guesthouse Egilstadir located close to the lake is a great place for an excellent dinner. I had no idea of how frequently Angelica seeds can be used to spice food.

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A long drive through the highlands brought us to Lake Myvatn and the Dimmuborgir Guesthouse. We explored the lava fields, the lake, the nice bird museum and the local food and can highly recommend the smoked Arctic char, and the excellent food at the Cowshed Café. Finally the weather had also become a bit more welcoming, and we decided that this would be a great opportunity to go on a whale-watching safari in Husavik on the north coast. The tour was three hours long and we not only sighted one of the largest existing whales several times, but could also see many birds and several other whales. The sun was shining, but the wind bitter cold. The warm overalls that were distributed by the crew were really necessary to keep us warm during the trip.

Akureyri was the next stop, and here I will join our field course and assist Nerys from Plastic Buddha who will come tomorrow to film students in action.

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