After the gorgeous sunshine yesterday evening we wake up to a grey and rainy sky. The restaurant has a nice full cooked breakfast buffet with sausage, beans, scrambled eggs, bacon and delicious Icelandic cakes, particularly the lemon sponge cake. Ryo goes for chocolate cake and porridge.
We then hit the road, heading to one of the eastern peninsulas to visit the town of Neskaupstadur. On the way we pass by the huge Alcoa aluminum smelting plant that employs 450 people in the fjord, and has buildings over 2 kilometers long! At the very end of the peninsula there is a nature sanctuary and a nice little hiking loop that we decide will be our sport of the day. It’s misty and drizzly, but it’s not raining, so off we go!
The path has boardwalks and little bridges over countless streams that cascade down the flower-strewn mountain slope into the Arctic ocean. We spot mallards, eiders, whimbrels, fulmars, and lots of seagulls. We reach a pebble beach were we cross paths with a small group of Germans but otherwise the place is pretty well deserted.
Ryo likes this walk (as it involves dangerous paths on the edge of cliffs that have his parents in a sweaty panic) and he is in his “little goat” mood again, deftly climbing the slippery stones and jumping puddles and rivulets. The path loops up the cliff and there are a few tricky bits where iron chains have been fixed to the cliff to help with the climb. The last bit of the walk involves wading through high grass and with all the mist we get quite wet in the process.
After this pleasant walk, we visit the small museum in the town. The first floor is an art exhibition, while the second floor is dedicated to fishing and the sea: it’s quaint and the artifacts are well-presented. The third floor is a tiny natural history museum presenting local species of birds, mammals, fish and geological stones and minerals. We are impressed by the size of the king crab and the blind abyss anglerfish.
We then carry on our trip along the coastal road that follows the fjords southwards. En route, Sandra prepares bread and pitas with chili pesto and peppered salami and we eat carrots for a bit of vegetables (rare in this country!). We go through a tunnel under an interestingly-shaped mountain range that forms natural terraced layers, like a wedding cake. We skirt the very deep and narrow Berusfjordur fjord, with a few scattered farms, and Skye spots a seal perched on a rock, the first we’ve seen that isn’t stuffed in a museum.
For once the weather doesn’t clear in the afternoon: it’s the first day we don’t have some blue sky. Skye regularly stops to read those tourist signboards by the road. On one of them he is amazed to learn that in 1627 some Algerian pirates came all the way to these Icelandic fjords and abducted the only three inhabitants that they could find!
After several peninsulas, Skye wants a rest so Sandra takes over the driving and shortly afterwards spots two hitchhikers. It’s starting to rain, and the two Czech guys are happy to be taken onboard. They are heading to Höfn like us. One is a mechanical engineer currently studying in Sweden and his friend a civil engineer studying in Denmark. It’s nice to have company as the weather becomes very bleak indeed. A couple of coves further, at the foot of a rugged mountain, Skye takes the wheel again and we get our first glimpse of the Vatnajökull glacier and some of its ice tongues creeping down the slopes.
We take a short detour from our itinerary to drop our passengers in the center of Höfn and poke our nose in the town, and in doing so we spot our German hitchhiker from yesterday on the other side of the road climbing into a car to continue her journey, funny!
After another few kilometers we reach our guesthouse and settle ourselves comfortably in our room for an apéro. It’s really more like a hotel, set near a farmhouse not far from the ring road, on a stretch of farmland with cows grazing between the mighty Vatnajökull, a glacial lagoon and the Arctic Ocean. Despite the rainy weather, it has a certain fascinating aura to it.
We then head over to the restaurant for the dinner buffet. It’s a hodge-podge of whatever comes from the kitchen: curry fish stew, tomato soup, boiled cod, lasagna, salads, smoked lax … It’s edible without being very interesting though. Höfn is the langoustine (rock lobster) capital of Iceland, but after a long day’s driving we are glad to not have to drive another 60k into town and back for supper. At least the homemade ice-cream is very good as well as the rhubarb tart. Ryo is happy to head back to the room to mellow while Skye and Sandra linger in the now-empty dining room, marveling at the view of the Vatnajökull and checking the internet for details about this mighty glacier, the biggest in Europe in terms of volume (though in surface it is beaten by the Norwegian Svalbard glacier): it reaches 1km thickness in some parts, and it’s incredible to think that it is also home to some serious volcanoes. The two of us then sip coffee while Icelandic TV passes from Faulty Towers with John Cleese (with Icelandic subtitles) to a strange substandard soap opera set in India. We then head back to our room, ready for an early night of sleep since tomorrow we have a full program!