Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Iceland 4: Snaefellsnes

Hotel Framnes had an excellent breakfast, as expected.  Muesli, toast, pickled herring, cheese, marmalade/jam and lots of interesting bread.  Coffee and (decent) juice on tap too, so no comparison with the disappointment of Reykjavik.

The day was grey and the forecast was for rain later, so we set off to drive in an anti-clockwise direction around the Snaefellsnes peninsula.  An initial wrong turn took us to a dead end above the town, but this had a good view of the church and the distant hills.

This panorama is somewhat wider than the previous one, so there's no way that a simple blog post can do it justice.  Hopefully the panning video will give a better sense of what it was like to be there.

By this time the weather was starting to set in, but there was still the occasional burst of sunshine through the gathering clouds.

Eventually we found the correct road and headed west, stopping at various places including Olafsvik (another Fish Processing town).  While watching birds (mainly eider ducks) we saw a "long" animal running across the beach.  Initially we thought it might be an otter, but when it reappeared it was clear that the gait was wrong.  The beast was brown, so we eventually assumed it was a weasel, stoat or pine marten; later we discovered it was a mink.  These were originally farmed for their fur but are now a complete nuisance in the area, apparently, stealing eggs from ground-nesting birds.  Please excuse the rather poor picture of it, but the beastie was a long way away, and there wasn't much light around.

We then headed out on a gravel road towards a lighthouse on the NW corner of the peninsula, and noticed that there was a large amount of "weather" on its way over the volcano.  Visibility was low, and the volcano itself was completely covered in low cloud for the entire day.  There was intermittent heavy rain, and we had to shelter in the car for a while.  During one of the clear spells we went for a walk along the cliffs to look at the nesting birds: guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes - along with a lone puffin.  We then went on to another viewpoint, which amazingly had yellow (rather than black) sand on its beach.  More weather arrived at this point, so we got back into the car and drove around to the Snaefellsjokull National Park Visitors' Centre at Hellnar.  More importantly there was a cafe at the Centre, so we decided to shelter from the weather while also having a bite to eat.

The Warden at the Visitors' Centre recommended a "scenic" road back to the hotel, straight over the the volcano itself on a gravel road.  We tried stopping a couple of times on the way back, but the rain was so heavy and the wind so strong that there was little point in getting out of the car.  We took the recommended road, which was spectacular even though for much of the journey we were shrouded in cloud.

The weather was so bad that we headed back to the hotel in order to read a book and batten down the hatches.  The forecast was - thankfully - much better for the following day.