I managed to get myself up early - for a change - grabbing some clothes, a Nature Valley for breakfast, and heading down to the beach to arrive just after 8.30am (not exactly early early!). It was bitterly cold, and the clear sky above my head soon disappeared as huge stormy snow-clouds took its place. There were a few more bits of iceberg in the surf, but still not a huge amount. A little further up the beach it was still littered with small pieces, mostly flattish stubby bits. A little snow had fallen on them during a recent shower. I wandered up the beach looking for some decent bergs, hoping that the sky must suddenly explode with some pre-sunrise colours; it didn't.
There were some beautifully sculpted icebergs just before I left the beach - this one looked like a sculpture by Henry Moore.
|One of my favourite shots from the trip|
And then it was time to go! I'd be back in three days' time, and hopefully the iceberg conditions would be slightly more interesting by then. Still, it's always hard for me to leave. I drove back (it's so nice to stay so close), had some granola and Skyr, packed up, drove to Gerði to check-out and then I was on my way, east again!
It wasn't long before I had a near-miss mishap of my own. I pulled in to the side of the road to take a few shots of the line of trees (which still look crap with the first section chopped), and my wheels became bogged. I immediately accelerated forward and slid my way out of the predicament and stopped on the road - usually it's possible to pull right off the road there, but I was taking no chances. I was still able to get a little of the car off the road, but mostly I was naughty and left it sticking out. The road conditions themselves weren't great, with a mix of clear patches and icy sections. A couple of reindeer grazed (if that's possible on a snowy field) nearby. The sky was still a mix of ominous black snow-storm clouds and annoyingly bright patches. There was a little bit of blue, and it was horrendously cold - there wouldn't be any silly selfies today.
I headed inside and picked up a few things for the next few days. I'd hoped to recreate the lovely meal that Mandy had cooked in The Garage on our trip in September - pan-fried salmon with salad and potatoes - but I couldn't find any salmon. I stood at the fresh-packed fish area looking at different packets, clearly having no idea what any of them were, and not quite sure which to get. Finally I noticed another packet squeezed sideways at the end and lo-and-behold it was two big chunks of salmon in some lemony sauce. That'd do. I found an Icelandic lettuce selection, some potatoes, still warm seedy bread, cheese and ham and headed to the check-out. While I was queueing up hubby texted back and said that I needed a cigarette lighter to warm the tip of the key, so I bought one when I reached the till. Back outside I heated the tip as instructed and tried again. It didn't work. I tried for a bit longer and still it wouldn't work. Third time lucky - the key went in, panic over! I drove back to the petrol station, warmed up the key again (inside the car) and then finally managed to fill the bloody car up with petrol. It certainly would've brought an extra element of pain to the trip had I not solved the problem!
One of my favourite spots along the ring-road is the turn-off just outside Höfn where the road goes up towards the tunnel and on towards the east. Far fewer tourists come up this way and for me it marks the beginning of the final section towards my beloved yellow cottage. I drove without stopping - there was too much snow everywhere! - and on towards the Almannaskarðsgöng tunnel (for that is what it's called!); Stokksnes would have to wait until another day. I stopped again when I got out of the far side of the tunnel, feeling well-and-truly in far east Iceland (although strictly I'm not sure it is).
It was nice to be headed for sun in the distance!
As is often the case in Iceland, there was no-one there when I arrived, but as soon as I'd parked a couple of other cars pulled in and people spilled out to take photos. One man was travelling alone (a rare sight!) and he rushed down the hill towards the shore. It looked pretty icy and within seconds he had slipped onto his bottom - I think his camera was unharmed!
Not far along the road was Hvalnes. I have many favourite things and places in Iceland, but this is definitely up on that list. It's always empty, for a start, which is a plus point for me (I've seen one other car there on all my visits). There's a lighthouse that sits on the edge of the promontory, with spectacular views in every direction - nothingness out to sea to the south, waves crashing against the rocks along the coast to the east, huge craggy peaks to the north, and a long black sand beach stretching all the way to Brunnhorn in the west. I got out and walked down to the lighthouse - the ground was like glass, absolutely lethal, so I had to walk extremely carefully!
Later in the evening, once it was dark, I started to check out of the kitchen window for any signs of northern lights. Not much was forecast, but I'd had strange luck in that place and the skies were mostly clear and forecast to stay that way. Additionally the location was almost complete devoid of any light pollution - the closest really being from Höfn on the other side of the distant peaks. To my excitement I noticed the telltale vague cloudy layer across the horizon to the north. It got a little stronger, and eventually I forced myself outside. I was in luck. The lights weren't strong or particularly impressive, but you have to get what you can get! I was out there a while, then they dissipated so I came back in, finished my beer. Then I checked from the kitchen and they were back out again, so out I went again. This continued on and off for the next few hours - the first sighting being at 10pm and the last at 1pm. The Kp all night was between 0.67 and 1.0 - so that should tell you to check out the window!!
Click here for Day 3 blog - Jökulsárlón Beach
Click here for Day 5 blog - Hvalnes & Stokksnes