Seyðisfjördur to Horn:
As we had booked a trip to a volcano over on the west coast from home for the 19th August, we planned to travel clockwise around the island to get to the appointed place in time. We would have made the date later if we could have, but the company wraps up the tours on the 20th for the year.
We climbed the mountain out of Seyðisfjördur - only one road in and out. All along our ascent into the cloud, waterfalls tumbled down steep slopes and cliffs. Iceland has countless waterfalls and these were our first.
We provisioned in the next town of Egilsstaðir and collected brochures and maps from the tourist information which was inundated with tourists from the ferry. If we had known that customs were not going to insist on the 3 kilo limit of food per person, we would have brought much more with us - Iceland is not the cheapest place to buy the necessities!
There is basically one main highway ('1') that circles the whole country. In some places, it is virtually the only road you can take. However here at the beginning on the east coast, we chose to follow a road that hugged the fjords, zigzagging along first east then west then east… The fjords are deep and wide, edged with gently farming country but with the slopes rising on each side to enormous heights mostly ending up nearly vertical. At one stage we passed through a tunnel that must have been 5 or 6 kilometres long to emerge in the next fjord down the coast. We trekked out to a lighthouse on a point, a funny little stumpy orange-painted structure. While on a kelp-covered, mussel shell-strewn beach, I could hear heavy breathing - we were the only ones around and it wasn't Russ. A seal just off the beach had poked its head above the water - it must have been really exerting itself to make such a noise!
The next beach was our first look at a true black sand beach. The black sand stretched over a wide shallow bay and the road ran along a causeway built up over it. And all to our right mountains always looming up.
The extraordinary thing about the mountains is the cloud cover. Some tops are lost in the cloud; sometimes a band of cloud just hugs the slopes half way up; often clouds, pushed quickly by winds up high, simply fall over the edges in swirling masses. And you can be surrounded by cloud in one valley but have a clear view in the next. Everything changes all the time.
The farmland looks lush and green but much of the green is moss and is soft and spongy underfoot. Perhaps the sheep don't like it because despite all the vegetation, the sheep are quite sparse on the ground. The Icelandic sheep are fat woolly barrels on stick thin legs. Most are white but some are black - and not the dirty browny-black of sheep at home, but surprisingly very black.
At the little village of Stöôvarfjörõur, we stopped at Petra's Stone Museum. All the guide books and brochures recommended it as a must, so in we went. It was in the house of a woman called Petra who, over about, 70 years collected e huge number of rocks from various sites in Iceland. The garden was lined with shelves and shelves of large rock specimens; paths meandered all though the garden which also featured some scale models of houses and quite a lot of gnomes. Everywhere there were rocks - and most of them were terrific. In a garden shed was a display of Petra's souvenir beer coaster collection, her ball point pen collection and her handkerchief collection… Inside the house, practically every wall was covered with glass cases containing the best of her rock specimens along with a sizeable collection of stuffed birds and mammals. It certainly was different.
For our first night in Iceland we decided to use our newly purchased Camping Card, which promised 44 sites in Iceland to stay for free with only electricity (if available) and the small camping tax to pay for.
At the end of a long side road we arrived at a barren and windy site. We were joining only one other camper and two couples in tents. There were toilets and a hot shower but not a lot else. In the by now roaring gale, we went for a walk into the next valley. Here at the end of a road we came across what must have been the equivalent of "Old Sydney Town". This was a reconstruction of a Viking settlement behind a palisaded circular outer fence with gates. The gates were open and the place abandoned and falling into ruin. Here were substantial wooden buildings: a longhouse, other circular houses, lookouts, storehouses, along with a catapult and a stream running through the middle. The rooves were all turfed and there were some lovely carved doors and roof finials. But all now crumbling back to the earth.
That night the wind howled and howled. Several times we felt the van lift up as if to tip over - we didn't get much sleep that night!