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Paul & Tracey's Travels
27th Jan 2013 - Iceland
Wind, waves, waterfalls

Road trip back West

Much better night last night, still strong winds, but was able to sleep better as less than 60mph! Although the local offshore islands had 160km winds!

Woke in the morning to find a light dusting of snow. After breakfast it was back on the bus again at 9am to head back west. Today we will be stopping to see some of the things we did not see on the journey out.

Iceland's nearest neighbour is Greenland, and due to global warming, huge icebergs are breaking off and drifting towards Iceland, and these sometimes bring with them polar bears, who are very hungry! These can be a real problem in the NW of the island.

Glacial facts

The scale of everything in Iceland is so amazing. For the last 2 days we have been in the area of the biggest glacier on the country, which together with two others covers a third of the country. There are 42 individual glacier tongues coming down from it, one is so wide it takes 7 days to walk across. We drove across the huge plain that is made up of glacial deposits as the glacial tongue receded, and it took about 45 minutes to drive across and there is nothing to see in every direction as far as the eye can see, other than this completely flat plain. Every so often, there is a bridge to cross the flood waters from the glacier - one is 1km long. Another got washed away a few years ago and you can still see the wreckage. Once these bridges or the road are washed away it cuts one half of the island from the other, and the only way to get from one to the other is light aircraft or boat.

Snow and waterfalls

As we progressed west and the light got better, it became apparent that there had been a big snowfall in the area, and we were the first vehicle to come along. It was 45 minutes before we saw another vehicle ! Another 45 minutes later and still had not seen a second vehicle.

At 10.30am we stopped at the tiny village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur (population 200) and saw the Systrafoss waterfall, then stopped for 10 minutes to get some provisions at the petrol station before heading on. The sky was black all morning with frequent hail storms.

Stormy seas and high winds

At lunchtime we stopped near Vik at Reynisfjara to go down to the beach and see more basalt rock formations. There is a big cave here, but the tide was coming in, and the sea was very rough, so it was too dangerous to go in. We then retired to a local grill for some lunch.

On pulling away from the grill, we were told that the wind on the road ahead was being reported as over 33m per second which is very strong, and the driver has the right to refuse to drive through these conditions as it is too dangerous and the insurance companies do not pay out if you have an accident in winds over 25m per second.We proceeded very cautiously at extremely low speeds !

Folk museum

We next stopped at the village of Skogar where there is an Icelandic folk museum established by a local man in the 60's who is now 90 and was there when we arrived to play us "Clementine" on an old Icelandic string instrument. We were then given a tour of the museum by a very gay Icelander, before going out behind the museum to see some old houses with turf roofs that have been preserved, including the contents, and it was very interesting to walk around these, despite the constant threat of hitting your head on the extremely low roofs.

Waterfalls and more wind

We then went just round the corner to see the huge Skogarfoss waterfall which drops 200 feet onto the black ash valley. Finally it was back on the bus for the drive to the hotel. The driver again started off very slowly, because as we found out later, he had received a call to say the wind was at 47m per second which is over 200 km per hour. If we could not proceed the guide had arranged for us to stay on a nearby farm.

As it was, we were ok and got to Hotel Hekla at about 5.30pm. On the way we got magnificent views of the active volcano Mt Hekla, which we will hopefully go quite near tomorrow. The hotel is a farm and surrounded by lava fields and mountains, about 2 miles off the main road. Amusingly considering how far we have driven over the last couple of days, as we the driver attempted to turn into the hotel, he skidded on the ice and simply carried on past the hotel.

Next: Volcanoes, ice, hot springs and prisons
Previous: Ice, ice and more ice

Diary Photos

Paul at Skogarfoss Waterfall, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Paul at Beach near Vik, S.Iceland

Church at Vik, S.Iceland

Wooden fishing boat used until 60's, Skogar Folk Museum, S.Iceland

Turf houses, Skogar Folk Museum, S.Iceland

Turf houses, Skogar Folk Museum, S.Iceland

Turf houses, Skogar Folk Museum, S.Iceland

Tracey at Skogar Folk Museum, S.Iceland

Skogarfoss Waterfall, S.Iceland

Skogarfoss Waterfall, S.Iceland

Tracey at Skogarfoss Waterfall, S.Iceland

Paul and Tracey at Skogarfoss Waterfall, S.Iceland

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