’22 M-J East Side and Mostly Up North

Mountains, gravel roads, PUFFINS, The Diamond Circle, and the Troll Peninsula, Iceland

Mountains And Gravel Roads

Remember I talked about Fish-Lamb-Skyr, being the vast majority of locally produced food, you can imagine the source of all that fish, and sheep are everywhere. They dot every field, dots being not so photogenic. So here come some taking a mosey down the Gravel Road in the Mountain.

Which gives us a chance to talk about Icelandic wool. What makes it so special is that it’s so water repellent.

From icewear.is: “The wool of Icelandic sheep is unique in that it contains two different types of hair that serve as a natural barrier from wet and cold weather. The outer layer is composed of coarse, long hair known in Icelandic as tog. The tough and fleecy tog is a water-resistant layer. Underneath the tog, there is a layer of short hair, known in Icelandic as þel. The softer þel layer keeps the sheep snug and warm even in the worst of weather conditions. If any moisture escapes through the water-resistant tog layer, the þel is able to keep the animal warm even when wet. These dual layers, when combined in knitted clothing, provide the same kind of protection for the human body, even in rain or snow.”

Leaving Hotel Framtid my idea was to go straight to Vök Baths, well not exactly straight because I thought to enjoy a couple more of the fjords before returning to The Ring Road resulting in, and I should have checked this! connecting through Mountains and Gravel Roads.

I’ve seen that design of poles in many places and now I finally see what they’re for, flags. Here’s the entrance to another fancy hot bath.

The picture on the right is from their website. Notice the ladders out of the pools and into the sea.
Emerging from a dip in the North Atlantic Ocean…where it’s cold…
I’m here, where it’s warm.

Now we have to cross over another mountain (Fjarðarheiði mountain pass) to reach Seyðisfjörður ​[ˈseiːðɪsˌfjœrðʏr̥] described by Lonely Planet as a delightful and bohemian place so I thought ok, good, bohemian, I wonder what that will be like.

Delightful and bohemian? That is a hoity-toity Silversea ship!
I couldn’t find the year-round population of the town but I would wager it to be less than the number of people on that ship.
I do like these two buildings, and here’s another rainbow walk. On the left, you can’t see the building, there’s a good restaurant, my fresh fish was delicious, and the restaurant was occupied almost entirely by the ship’s crew. What a smash-up-side-my-head of déjà vu. I could close my eyes and be 35 years younger.
And the well-regarded church.
Bon Voyage. They have a fishing fleet and a fish factory here too.

Now it’s time for more Mountains and Gravel Roads. And this time man did I get cranky because…

…because it wasn’t just the Mountains, or just the Gravel Roads, it was the construction (the rain isn’t even worth mentioning!).

I zigzagged through pushing machines, digging machines, pounding machines, and once the area of machines was done I hit the worst gravel road so far. When I arrived at Guesthouse Blábjörg I was feeling the twitch come on. But then…
…a nice pint of pale ale at their bar, my favorite, and A Midnight Sun! My first!

Puffins And

The main reason I chose Blábjörg Resort was because it had a reputation for being nearest to ‘The’ puffin viewing opportunity. I’m actually wondering why that would be the main reason since I have never given puffins much thought, and I was about to miss it. But it was so close, I should go.

At first I thought oh great, this is it?
Fortunately I continued to the end of the parking lot and spotted that viewing station on the crest of the hill on the right. It was the perfect day for some stair climbing.
There’s one.

And more too!

From heyiceland.is “They seem to have very conservative family values and usually pair up with the same partner as previous years – some have been together 20 years! They raise their single chick (or puffling) over the course of summer and return every year to the same burrow with the same mate.”

Above the first one arrived back and flapped out an “I’m Home!” and the second one emerged from the burrow for some “Welcome Home” flapping in return. I spent the longest time enjoying the puffins that I had almost missed entirely.

I couldn’t catch any on the wing. Walking around they are odd and awkward, a little like…
When I first caught sight of them I said Oh my goodness puffins look like John Oliver! The internet thinks so too.

Now comes the –it Happened Event. It was fine in the end, you’ll agree, and unbelievably I only lost a few hours. Remember all those Mountains and Gravel Roads from yesterday? Driving back, after about 30 minutes I started the up up up part, but the car did not want to up up. Come on car! But no, it felt like I was driving an old VW Bus in the Sierras, 40 kph while everyone was whizzing by at 100. I figured I’d just keep going since there was nowhere to stop anyway. The paved roads are all elevated without a shoulder so I was thinking if I could make it to the gravel I’d have a place to stop.

The car did just kept puttering along and eventually the ‘Check Injection’ light came on and it became clear the fuel injectors were in a very bad mood. By then I was 45 minutes from anywhere. If I could make it the 45 minutes I could get help. And so it was! I made it to the Mývatn Nature Baths where they were holding a marathon and where the parking lot was full of tour buses. (I had been hoping to enjoy the baths but it was so crowded, imagine how it’s going to get when real summer hits.)

Blue Car Rental sent out a mechanic from the only mechanic’s shop I’ve seen since arriving (Lucky Dog Me especially since it was on a weekend!). He declared the car a goner but I was able to continue on to my guesthouse where I went to sleep and in the morning the old car was gone and a new car was in its place. Good job Blue Car Rental, they sent a driver from the airport, an 8 hour drive. Pretty impressive, right! And I got an upgraded car too, and brand spanking new.

Through the windshield.
There was a pullout for this one.
The marathon! In the far distance you can see some spouts and all the runners came through smelling like sulfur.
A stop beside the Mývatn lake.
The guesthouse host has Icelandic Horses!
Those manes are as thick as a sheep’s coat and trimmed up some. I say that because left alone the manes get much longer.
I think she has 4 or 5. These guys were out in the pasture.

The Diamond Circle

So, as it turns out, I didn’t actually travel the whole Diamond Circle, more like the Diamond Moon, and then I caught a little more of it the next day. I stayed at Guesthouse Stóru-Laugar for two nights allowing for a full ride on the Diamond Circle but I guess the hassle with the car did take its toll.

I saw Mývatn on the 28th when I had to switch cars, Húsavík on the 29th, and Goðafoss on the 30th, leaving town.
We’re doing the 29th now.

I liked Húsavík! When I first rolled through around 10am on Sunday it felt like a peaceful and prosperous fishing town. After having a look around I drove on for an hour or so, then drove back and by 1-2pm the place was buzzing with tourists and the port was busy with whale watching tours, their current claim to fame.

Here’s what visithusavik.is has to say: “The town of Húsavík sits on the eastern shore of Shaky Bay, known around the world as the Whale Capital of Iceland. In the past years whales have been spotted in 98% of all whale-watching trips.

“It is also the site of the first house built in Iceland, in the year 860, by Swedish viking Garðar Svavarsson. Húsavík is conveniently located for day trips to most of the major attractions in Iceland, part of the Arctic Coast Way and the starting point of the Diamond Circle.

“Húsavík served as the setting of, and inspiration for the song Husavik, in the 2020 Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”

If I ever visit a town, or drive for an hour, and don’t show a picture of a church it’s not because the church isn’t there. The church is there.

More color shows up every day.

Before I came to Iceland I had heard that gas stations were the social halls of rural Iceland. And I experienced it myself!

Often these pumps just sit like this with nothing around. You pay with a credit card at the grey stand and them pump your gas. But often they do have a shop or a fast food restaurant.

This is down the road from Guesthouse Stóru-Laugar. Since I was here for two nights this quickly became My Store.
The first time I went in I was just figuring things out when I noticed that all the locals who came in bought ice-cream cones and then sat outside or stood around in the sun to enjoy them and chat with their neighbors. So I got one too. And by the second time I sat in the sun too and it was Fun! On my third visit the folks in the shop were saying HI!


Then back to the guesthouse for more snuggles with the horses.

The Troll Peninsula

Heading west from Guesthouse Stóru-Laugar to Karuna Guesthouse I first took a swing by one of the Diamond Circle attractions, the waterfall Goðafoss [ˈkɔːðaˌfɔsː]:

Notice all the people. With every passing day there are more and more tour buses and cruise ships. I’m pleased with my timing because although I did have some spring time rain I didn’t have full on summer time crowds.

I wish you could hear the roar. That fall in the foreground is probably 4-5-6 feet deep, I don’t know but there is so much water and it is roaring over with such force. It shows a little better in the inset which is an aerial from wikipedia.

Then I chose the detour to Akureyri to avoid the tunnel hassle of paying online within 12 hours (and to remind myself of Blue Car Rental…). I heard that it’s the only toll in Iceland. The detour landscape was some of the prettiest so far. At one point I wanted to get ‘down there’ and failed trying a couple gravel roads so I stopped at a place that was open to ask directions and Lo! it was an amazing art gallery.

Click on the link to read more about Safnasafnið. It’s “The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum was founded in 1995 by Níels Hafstein and Magnhildur Sigurðardóttir. For over 30 years the museum’s founders have been passionately committed to collecting artworks by artists who have hitherto been seen as outside the cultural mainstream…”

The cats above are from the museum.

The seated woman is the owner and the woman standing is a friend of hers who showed me around in great detail and it was fabulous.
A cat on the wall. I forgot to ask the story and I’m sure it’s a good one.
She’s going to have an exhibit there next year and I got to hear so much about her thoughts and her art esthetic and world view. Now that was something. Good luck sweetie, have an excellent show!

The Troll Peninsula (Trollaskagi – The Peninsula of the Trolls). Of course like everywhere it’s hard to pull off the road so sometimes I just stop and Click. Oh, that reminds me, at some point I need to talk more about the roads…but now I just want to catch up with these pictures!

campervanreykjavik has this to say: “The Trollaskagi Peninsula is located in the north of Iceland, between the fjords of Eyjafjörður and Skagafjörður. Its landscape is very different from the other regions of the island. It currently lacks recent volcanic activity, and it has a glacial and alpine (climate). After the deglaciation, beautiful fjords, valleys, and peaks that were formed over the years came to light.”

They have ski areas here…
…and cows! These are the first cows I’ve seen! I’ve been looking for cows because of SKYR and where were all the cows you need to make all the Skyr?! They make cheese too, and very delicious butter. I just asked google where are the dairy farms and she answered with a map – mostly in the West so I should be seeing more of them. Oh yes, the church.

A couple more pictures from the Troll Peninsula.

See that tunnel entrance in the middle on the left? It came in several parts, entrances and exits, and it was long. I think it’s this one: “Strákagöng [ˈstrauːkaˌkœiŋk]) ..along Route 76. It has a length of 800 m (2,625 ft) and was opened in 1967. It is the second tunnel ever built in Iceland, only preceded by a minor tunnel of 30 meters between Ísafjörður and Súðavík. Prior to the tunnel the only road connection the town of Siglufjörður had was a very difficult mountain road built in ’46, that was closed about 5 months a year due to snow.”

Reaching the charming town of Siglufjörður I strolled around a little, got some gas and food, and found a liquor store. I bought myself some beer (you can only buy liquor in a liquor store and they are not obvious at all and this is my first. But now that I know what they look like I see them easily.)

This is a window, not a picture, in the dining room at Karuna Guesthouse. It’s the first time I’ve cooked in a guesthouse kitchen. It was sociable and fun. I’ve met mostly people from Belgium and Scandinavia. Also there are a lot of workers here for the summer from Central Europe. It was a pretty long drive and I arrived late, cooked and visited, and went to bed!

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