24 Sep 2017

Iceland #13 - Day 5: Exploring Árneshreppur

It's always nice to stay somewhere for a couple of nights on road-trips - saves having to pack up every day, and gives you a chance to explore an area a little better. I was glad I'd decided to do that here in Djúpavík, as the coastline of the Árneshreppur municipality looked quite interesting, with lots of bays, mountains and stacks to investigate.

I awoke to the usual Westfjords weather - low white and grey cloud, a slight drizzle, but at least no wind. I poured half of a pot of Skyr (pear-flavoured, also good) into an empty pot I'd kept as a bowl, and added some of the delicious hazelnut granola to each - perfectly decent breakfast, and a lot cheaper than what the hotel had on offer! I got my gear ready (waterproofs obviously packed) and set off just before 10am (these no-sunset days were really helping my sleep quota). The first stop was on the far side of the fjord, with a lovely view back towards the little town of Djúpavík - overpowered by the massive waterfall above it and the enormous old herring factory - and of course a wonderfully winding road heading off in front of me.

It wasn't long until I stopped again as I saw a pair of loons doing a gentle courtship display near the shore (I wish I had a longer zoom).

The road continued to wind alongside the fjord, passing the odd house and odd bunch of sheep who thought that the road was a good place to hang out.

I soon found a wonderful stretch of road where it seemed a good place to take a couple of self-portraits (there wasn't a great deal of traffic up here!).

The road continues until almost the end of the fjord, where there's a turn-off to a little airport, or a turn to take you across a small pass on to the next fjord up - the beginning of Norðurfjörður. There was a pointy little mountain to the east that I'd seen in photos when researching the trip that made for a lovely backdrop a little further on, but sadly today it was covered in cloud. I drove on a bit, around the edge of the fjord, the coastline dotted with small rocky outcrops and stacks. There was some farmland between the road and the coast, so I didn't stop until I reached Lambavík, where a few stacks sat in the surf. Harlequin ducks pottered about on rocks and in the waves. I should have done a few long exposures but it had begun to rain and the clouds weren't moving much, so conditions weren't really conducive. I loved the stacks, and wished the pointy mountain was a bit more visible.

The rain started to get heavier, so I jumped back in the car and continued towards my destination, Munaðarnes, right at the north-western side of the little peninsula that jutted out from the coastline here. I was too late in the season to visit the café at Norðurfjörður, so I'd brought the last of the bread, cheese and ham to make a sandwich for my lunch. I found the turn-off in the village that led me to Munaðarnes, which was basically a track, just wide enough for one car, with grass growing tall in the middle of the road. Not for the first time I was glad about my decision to rent a 4WD and not a low-slung Hyundai. This road clearly didn't get much traffic, and when I got to the end I could see why. There were a few houses and large farm buildings, but the place was deserted; a ghost town. There was a chain across the last bit of the road, with a sign I didn't understand (perhaps it was private?). I parked the car, pulled onto some grass so that there was still room at the end of the track for any other vehicles to turn around, should they come up this way. I set off on foot, passing the deserted place, off towards the coast, with the promise of more stacks. One of my first sights, which I was very happy about, was the distant pointy rocks on the horizon at Drangaskörð; cloud hung just above them so I didn't see them in their full glory, but this glimpse was enough.

It felt quite eerie walking past the deserted buildings and heading off across a field where I knew I'd see no-one, but it wasn't exactly dangerous terrain, so I didn't feel nervous. I did, however, encounter lots of wet, bedraggled sheep, who would stop and stare at me intently until I moved away, which was a little unnerving.

I soon reached my first stack and felt quite excited. I was a bit confused as it wasn't quite as I'd seen on photos on Flickr. I'd thought that the one here was a bigger one. As I stepped on seaweed on the beach I disturbed huge numbers of flies that suddenly surrounded me - rather unpleasant! I took a couple of shots and then continued on, (stupidly) thinking I'd stop there on the way back to take a few more shots (I had to clone out fly spots from the photos).

I continued on along through the wet grass above the beach, hoping to find the bigger stack that I somehow thought existed. Sheep continued to slightly worry me. I passed masses piles of driftwood and piles of rope, washed up from ships and forests thousands of miles away. A curlew suddenly flew out of the grass as I had obviously disturbed it, and darted away swiftly.

I had to turn inland for a bit to avoid a ravine and climb over a barbed-wire fence to keep the sheep in. In the surf a massive rectangular stack was being battered by waves - it still wasn't the one I was hoping to see.

I walked on for a bit as I could see a larger stack in the distance - almost at the point at which it looked as if I mightn't be able to go any further. I had looked into the possibility of hiking all the way round to the east side, but the map didn't make it clear if it was possible, and even if it was, I'd end up about 14km away from my car.

The last stack was very dark at the bottom, with what looked like a slice of basalt columns, lighter at the top. As I approached it started to spit - the damn rain back again! I looked back towards the jagged edges of Drangaskörð to find that they had completely disappeared and the cloud had come almost down to sea level to the north - just the outline of the hills in the distance was visible.

It started to rain, so I got my rain gear on, including the cover for the camera (didn't want to make that mistake again...). I decided to head back, as it looked as if the beach came to an end past the big stack, and the clouds were definitely coming in lower - the rain wasn't going anywhere quickly. I took a few shots of the amazing seaweed - some of it pink with streaky flesh, some green. I did get the macro lens out, sheltering the gear under my body as I changed lenses. I was fascinated by the seaweed! The lens was a bit frustrating, as it's only a 1:2 macro, not a 1:1. I ended up putting on an extension tube too, but that still didn't get me quite the magnification I wanted.

No idea what this is!!

As with the rocks the previous day I noticed pained faces in the ends of the some of the seaweed - my pareidolia was on fire!

Everything now was covered in water droplets, and all the rocks and mushrooms became reflective, so I could see myself if I took a shot, which wasn't ideal. I stopped to do some self-portraits when I saw a little waterfall in a valley above the beach.

My ideas of doing some long exposure of the rocks and stacks with waves moving around them was discarded as the rain became heavier and it was not much fun any more. Instead I just made my way back towards the ghost town and the car.

I felt glad to get back to the dry car, and sat eating my dull sandwich. I drove back along the track, still not meeting anyone. Apart from farmers and the residents of the red house I wondered if anyone else ever came up here - possibly not! I'd got my fill of remoteness, and now I headed back to the more populous part of the region. Next stop was Krossneslaug - for another bathing experience. This one was a blue rectangular pool, also alongside the shore, like Drangsnes. I parked just past it and wandered down the hill; it was still raining. I changed in the lovely clean changing area (it had a shower and a loo!) and wrapped my camera and phone in plastic bags, so I could take a few shots outside. It was a lovely temperature, and again I was all alone. I lay on my back and floated, feeling the light rain on my tummy and face - it was quite blissful. A camper van and car drove past, stopped, then pulled up a little further on. The inhabitants didn't appear, so I still had the place to myself. I decided to try a couple of shots on the DSLR, which could've been a bit of a stupid idea, but I was very careful, making sure the camera was propped securely at the edge of the pool, before swimming off to get that relaxed-looking shot of me looking out! It took a few goes...

I stayed quite a while, relaxing with the rain tingling on my belly. When I was showered and dressed I then drove up to the end of the road (not much to see there) and then came back again - there was a nice stack with a very unpronouncable name on the beach.

My journey was also slowed by the usual few sheep that thought that the road made a good sleeping spot.

I also stopped to take a shot of the pool from the road - the other people must have gone in as soon as I left. You get a good view of the setting from the road above.

Just a little south of the hot pool I stopped again as I saw some nice rocks along the shore. The cloud seemed to be becoming a little more patchy and from time-to-time I was treated to a spot of sunlight, mostly in the distance. As I stopped the sun not only came out but there was a nice rainbow too. The pointy mountain in the distance was still mostly hidden.

The rain returned (that's the downside of rainbows!) so I got back into the car and continued on my journey back around the fjords to the hotel. As I crossed the low pass I noticed some interesting light in the distance over Reykjarfjörður. I drove on a bit until I got an opportunity to stop. The fjord looked so eerie, just visible beneath the grey clouds.

The last stretch was lovely, watching the little village come into view - my welcoming home for the night. I stopped one last time at the end of the fjord - there was even a patch of blue sky in the distance, but otherwise the clouds were growing and looking more menacing.

It was just before 7pm by the time I got back - I'd been out for 9 hours! It's amazing how I'm able to fill my time on these trips, even when the weather is awful and I'm not even going that far. I'd had a great day in spite of the intermittent rain and lack of visibility of the surrounding mountains. It would be a wonderful place to spend a few days exploring, hiking around some of the nearby hills and along beaches.

I dumped my stuff in the room and headed straight back downstairs for dinner - I was starving! Soley was standing in the dining room in the downward dog position - I thought she was stretching, but no, she was just resting like that. Quite a character!

I treated myself to the lamb dish for dinner, and another of the Wee Heavies. The lamb - I was told - is reckoned to be the tastiest in the country, as the animals are free to wander and eat not just grass but seaweed too, which makes their meat more tasty. I must say, it was one of the most delicious chunks of lamb I'd ever tasted!

I chatted to an American girl who was working there - she was off to the UK in a couple of weeks' time and was studying a Lonely Planet book. I also chatted to one of the guys that runs the place, as Iceland had just won a leg of the European Cup qualifiying - they were very excited about that. I then headed up to my room for the last night, had a look at photos and phoned home. The following day I had a really long drive ahead of me - all the way back to Keflavík, where at least I had a friend's arrival to look forward to. It had been a great few days in the Westfjords - at least a taster of what is there and what I'd like to return to. Less driving, more exploring and even more relaxing next time.

Click here for blog from Day 4 - Driving to Djúpavík
Click here for blog from Day 6 - Driving back to Keflavík