Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Iceland 3: The Journey to Grundarfjordur

We picked up a hire car in Reykjavik, and headed out of town.  Relatively soon we were given the choice between going all the way around a fjord or taking a short cut across a bridge; so, naturally, we opted for the latter.  Just before the bridge my navigator decided to turn right, based on a signpost she'd seen.  Needless to say the main road carried on, and we soon realised we had taken the wrong turning.  The only problem was that Harriet wouldn't turn round because "she couldn't see no ****ing bridge".  I looked at the map and observed that the bridge was shown in a different colour to the main road.  Perhaps it was under construction?  There again, an engineer might simply have looked at the key to discover that the "bridge" was, in fact, a 7km tunnel!  In order to preserve marital harmony, for the rest of the holiday tunnels became known as Underwater Bridges...

The morning was spent in Borgarnes - a small town which houses the Icelandic Settlement Museum.  Given there was no human habitation before the Vikings, this only filled half an hour or so.  In fact, more than half of the museum was dedicated to a series of tableaux depicting scenes from Egil's Saga, along with an audio narrative.  What a bloodthirsty lot the first Icelanders were!

Compared to Reykjavik, Borgarnes was a haven of tranquility.  Here are a few pictures of the place, including some of the flowers growing along the shoreline.

The most common flower on the whole island has to be the purple lupin, and there were plenty of then to be seen in Borgarnes.  We wandered up to a strange monument at the top of a hill; but, having seen it closer, we still had no clue as to what it was supposed to represent.  A shell with wings, perhaps?

There was an impressive rain storm across the bay, and "statue hill" was a good place to observe it without getting wet.  It was also a good place from which to see the the town, and I decided to make a panorama.  Obviously there are size limitations when it comes to posting pictures on a blog, so I've also added a short video which animates the sweep along the panorama.  There's not a lot to choose between these two, but later - much longer - panoramas seem to work better in the video format.

We stopped for lunch in a small settlement called Alftartunga, which boasted a church, several houses, a field of horses and an enormous range of weather conditions.  We had everything from bright sunshine to hail and torrential rain, but it was still a pretty spectacular location.  The horses were wonderful, and one became particularly inquisitive and friendly while I was attempting to photograph the redshank.  Some people may have seen my Icelandic Horse portrait before, but I thought I'd also post the original from which the image was created.

After lunch we drove slowly on towards Grundarfjordur, stopping when we saw a cinder cone by the side of the road.  Everything in Iceland is volcanic, of course, and the lunar landscape felt incredibly alien to me.  Lava from older eruptions is now covered in moss or grass, and some hardy flowers had even managed to take hold in a few places.  There was also plenty of bare ash and pumice to be seen, however, which presumably points to more recent volcanic activity in those areas.

We arrived in Grundarfjordur at the end of the afternoon; and, because its principal industry is Fish Processing, we were able to smell it almost before we could see it!  The waste from the processing attracted huge numbers of birds, including fulmars which congregated in large flocks just behind the hotel.  There were also kittiwakes, terns, various flavours of gull, and even a seal bobbing around in the harbour.

Finally a picture of the Hotel Framnes where we were staying.  Very small, comfortable and welcoming - in stark contrast to our experiences in Reykjavik.