Thursday, 24 April 2014

Iceland 5: Grundarfjordur to Akureyri

The storm had blown itself out overnight, and it was calm but grey when we woke up.  Breakfast was the same as yesterday, but set us up well for the mammoth drive to Akureyri (375km).  Before setting off, however, we went along the quay in Grundarfjordur one last time to look at the birds.  There weren't too many to see, but we did spot someone walking a (fluffy) dog in a highly efficient Icelandic manner!

In the morning we stopped at a few places to take pictures while the weather was reasonable, but it soon started to cloud over.  This wasn't really an issue since the scenery became gradually less dramatic as we headed away from the Snaefellsnes peninsula.  

Much of the journey was made up of relatively flat lava fields which were either bare pumice or, as in the case below, covered in a blanket of thick moss.

The "dirt track" below is actually a main road.  In fact, almost half the roads we drove on in Iceland were unmetalled.  Sadly, not having hired a 4x4 vehicle, we weren't allowed on the truly adventurous "F" roads...

North West Iceland is much more open than other parts, being flatter and more agricultural.  Nothing like as spectacular as the previous couple of days, so we just drove until about 12:00 when we stopped to look in a wool shop and buy some food for lunch.  A bit of a one horse town (if that) but we also managed to negotiate the self-service automatic filling station and put some diesel in the car.

Question: when is milk not milk?  Answer: when it's "ab" milk, which actually turned out to be a form of natural yogurt instead.  Very good, as it happens, but not the easiest of things to drink with one's lunch...

There was lots more driving in the afternoon, sometimes on dirt roads, sometimes on metalled roads, and we eventually hit "Route 1" which is the main road from Reykjavik to Akureyri.  This was quite busy compared to others we had been on, so we pulled off to have lunch by a quiet church.  We got out of the car in bright sunshine, but since it was windy we moved behind the church for a bit of shelter.  Guess what?  Within two minutes the heavens opened, so we had to make a run for the car.

Then back on the road again, heading for a textile museum which Harriet wanted to visit.  This particular location was probably no more than a half-horse town, famous only for housing Iceland's oldest ever inhabitant. The guidebook reckoned that she got so old because nothing ever happened there, with the inevitable conclusion that she eventually died of boredom.

During the journey we met a rather unexpected hold-up: several people herding lots of horses from one field to another along the road.  They are such beautiful animals: about the size of a pony (although the Icelanders insist that they're definitely "horses"), and all possessing that characteristic comb-over.

The Textile Museum was in a modern building; and - thankfully - it proved rather more interesting than the rest of the town.  It was also a challenge photographically, as the majority of the exhibits were either white or black.  Interestingly, black appears to be the national dress colour for Iceland; strange in a land where, for half the year, they hardly see the sun.

I was rather taken with some of the traditional blankets, presumably made from undyed wool.

We then had another couple of hours driving ahead of us, so we set off into the rapidly deteriorating weather.  The scenery got more spectacular, with snow clearly visible at quite low levels.  We went through several heavy rain storms, as well as up hill and down dale on at least three occasions, into a steep gorge where we stopped to take some pictures (in the dry).  Needless to say, within five minutes of arriving, the heavens opened again and we had to make yet another dash for the car.

The first two pictures show the kind of sheep from whose wool the blankets had been made.  Truly hardy souls to survive in the Icelandic climate.

Finally, a view which was now becoming rather familiar during our travels...

Eventually we arrived in Akureyri, so look out for the next thrilling installment as we went for a wander around Iceland's second city.