Monday, 26 May 2014

Iceland 24: Vik and Dyrholaey

As predicted it was a dry, sunny day, although rather nippy at 12 degrees.  We were sad to say goodbye to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, though, and would happily go back there in the future.

The first part of the journey was across sands and lava flows, many of which were covered in moss.

On several occasions we drove across what looked like temporary bridges.  According to an information board the bridges are designed to collapse in a controlled manner in the event of a Jokulhaup (a sudden, and often catastrophic, flash flood caused by a glacier lake dam giving way, often as a result of volcanic activity).  Once the flood waters have subsided, the bridge can then be re-built in a matter of days, reconnecting communities with no other means of communication.  I was delighted to see that, in the picture which showed the bridge re-opening, a labrador (presumably with engineering qualifications) was leading the proceedings.

The following panorama hopefully gives some sense of the devastation caused by a Jokulhaup.

We stopped in Vik, which a pretty little town with a beautiful church on the hillside. We also went to the information centre, but decided not to go around the museum as we wanted to look at some birds instead.

We took the road out to Dyrholaey, a promontory to the west of Vik with a lighthouse and a couple of car parks.  It was also a good places for seabirds, including puffins, according to the guide book.  Well, there were a few birds visible from the first car park, but not a great number.  We were also not allowed to leave the rather limited pathways, owing to nesting birds and preserving the plants.

No birds to photograph, so I had to make do with other kinds of wildlife.

The second car park, high up on a hill, accessible only via a dirt road, was much more promising.  It was possible to see puffins in the distance - outside photography range - but there were fulmars flying close to the cliffs which, effectively, were hovering in the strong wind.  There was also an excellent view of the Westmann Islands from the top of the cliff, which was somewhat precarious in places.  It was slightly surreal, for example, to be looking straight down at sheep on the beach, many feet below.

By this point we were suffering glacier withdrawal symptoms, so it seemed like a good idea to visit another one.  Look out for the next thrilling episode in this (very) long running saga.