Kirkjubæjarklaustir to Selfoss

Dateline: Wednesday 26th JulyPlace: Selfoss

KirkjugólfLooking toward SystrapapiSteingrímsson Memorial ChapelWe began the day by looking at some of the sights of Kirk­jub­æjark­laustir itself. This didn't take long. We started with Kirkjugólf, a level surface which is made from the top of buried basalt columns. This , early settlers believed, was what remained of an earlier church floor, hence the name.

We had a look at Systrapapi, and then at the local church, the Steingrímsson Memorial Chapel. This is named for the local rector, who, during a volcanic eruption, lectured in the church. When the lava stopped short of the town he was creditted with saving the town. One wonders how many other rectors have tried that and had their town destroyed.... we don't hear of the failures, do we?

We refuelled and got provisions, then headed west.

Our next stop was Vík í Mýrdal. It's a tiny little place, but compared to the road to the east, it's a heaving metropolis!

Our first stop was a quick look in the wool shop, and we had a snack, then it was time to explore.

'Voyage' uniting Vík í Mýrdal and Kingston Upon HullLooking East at Vík í MýrdalWe walked past the 'Voyage' statue, linking Vík to Kingston Upon Hull, along the black sands beach westward toward Reynisdrangur, watching the puffins bob up and down on the sea (the one time this holiday I could have really used a camera with a massive zoom lens!)

Black sands at Vík í MýrdalLooking up from Vík í MýrdalWe spent quite some time there, walking along, looking at the puffins and the scenery. In the rocks there was much evidence of past volcanic activity (quite apart from the sand colour). Nice place to walk.

Nevertheless, we returned to the car and drove around the headland to Reynisdrangur itself. This connect to an outcrop called Dyrhólaey by a long sandbar. At Reynisdrangur there are great basalt columns around shallow (but tall and wide) caves.

One can also see the other side of the sea stacks.

Monica at the Reynisdrangur Basalt ColumnsCave showing basalt columns at ReynisdrangurThe basalt columns are huge in scale, and are quite easy to climb - but it's quite a different matter coming down, so be careful! Look for the people in the photos to get a sense of scale.

There is a cave there whose roof consists of these basalt columns, it has a beautiful quality about it.

It was fairly quiet for our visit, though as we were leaving, a coach party was arriving, a close shave.

We continued around the coast for a bit more on Highway 1, and took the next turn for Dyrhólaey.

Icelandic Horses on the road to DyrhólaeyDyrhólaey is only accessible outside of the bird breeding season, so check the dates if you're really keen to go there. At the turning, we saw a couple of very friendly icelandic horses, and spent some time looking at them.

This panorama was made from six photos taken atop DyrhólaeyDyrhólaey rock archWe drove to Dyrhólaey, and took the road to the top of the hill. This is doable in a regular car, but I wouldn't attempt it in anything less than ideal conditions, a few places could be hairy in the wet. There is a lighthouse at the top, and the views are fantastic, across to the east one looks back to Reynisdrangur, and to the west is an expanse of black sand, stretching off into the distance.

At Dyrhólaey there are rock arches, and in the bottom car park one can see puffin nesting in the cliffs (the second time I really wanted a decent zoom!)

Driving onward to Selfoss, we stopped again at Seljalandsfoss, which this time was to the right of the road (blink and you miss it). This time we had sunny weather, and so there were rainbows in the spray of the waterfall.

The Seljalandfoss waterfall near Highway 1Me behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfallRainbow at the Seljalandfoss waterfall near Highway 1I decided to walk behind the waterfall (Monica left me to it). I emerged quite dry (there is a light spray back there, nothing too bad).

It's a bit steep in a couple of places, and a little slippery too, so taking care was the order of the day.

It's a really nice spot to break a journey.

Our next stop was Hotel Selfoss. This is near the roundabout where Highway 1 crosses a bridge over the river. It's quite a posh hotel, with a dining room that overlooks the river, well appointed rooms and all the trimmings (except tea making facilities in the room!)

For our evening meal, we decided to head for a 'Viking Restaurant', just west of Selfoss. It's mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. it's a little touristy, perhaps, but we fancied a bit of a laugh.

We found the place with no problems, a few km out of Selfoss there is a small road heading north, and it's a few km up that road. The directions in the Lonely Planet were very good.

It's a grass roofed dining hall, but when we went in, it was abandoned. The place was wood panelled with long benches, a real cliché, but clichés can be a lot of fun if they're well done.

We ended up eating just opposite the hotel in a Thai restaurant. Good food, but a tad pricey (though no more than anywhere else in the country!)

So thus it was that we found ourselves eating Thai food, in Iceland, whilst listening to the sound system playing Robbie Williams singing 'Mack the Knife'.

Before coming to Iceland, I was quite keen to try 'lundi' (puffin). No luck yet... I had high hopes for the Viking Restaurant.

I was not to get the opportunity at all. The cute birdie things survive for another day.

Höfn and back

Dateline: Tuesday 25th July, 2006Place: Kirkjubæjarklaustir

On the tuesday we travelled east to Höfn and then back to the hotel at Kirkjubæjarklaustir. It's hard to do justice to this day, as though it was one of the best on the trip, and the scenery was fantastic, there were only a couple of stops!

SkeiðarársandurEast of Kirkjubæjarklaustir is the Sandur. It's hard to do this place justice, it's a flat open expanse, stretching for miles in all directions.

Occasionally there is volcanic activity under the glacier, this causes a melt, and when the water bursts forth from beneath the glacier it washes everything before it, sweeping the landscape clean. The peak flow in 1996 was some 50000 cubic metres per second. That's phenomenal. Such an event is called a jökulhlaup.

Girders on Skeiðarársandur Me and the glacierHighway 1, the road we were travelling on, was 'interrupted' at the last event, and by the side of the road they've left some girders which are from a bridge destroyed in the jökulhlaup of 1996 - it really brings home the strength of the waters.

A little further on from the girders, one can walk alongside the glacier at Svinafellsjökull, right at the end, the glacier was a little grubby, but a little further up one can see the blues of the ice. I don't want to give the impression that Iceland is full of Ice - it isn't. It has glaciers, true, but the majority of the country is lush and green, or dark and volcanic!

JökulsárlónBorder Collie on an IcebergOur next stop was Jökulsárlón. This is a lagoon fed by the Vatnajökull glacier. The glacier breaks into icebergs, which sit in the lagoon until small enough to get through the narrow channel and out to sea.

At Vatnajökull there is a tea room, toilets and Icebergs. One can take a ride in an amphibious vehicle out among the Icebergs, but honestly we didn't see the point, as they come right up to the shoreline (virtually).

At one point, a guy was throwing stones into the water, and his border collie ran after one, climbing onto a small iceberg, it didn't know how to return without getting cold and wet, and so ran back and forth looking for a way out before taking the plunge. This was most amusing.

From here we headed up to Höfn, giving a lift to some French people we met. The woman was to stay in Iceland for a year to study geology and Icelandic, she can speak Danish and English as well.

We didn't see much in Höfn, as things were closing, so we turned around fairly soon and headed back, stopping for a break at Jökulsárlón once more (the evening light gave it a whole different look, one that I couldn't really capture on camera to my satisfaction).

View from the road east of JökulsárlónThe views east of Jökulsárlón were pretty nice, but in hindsight, we should have turned at Jökulsárlón as this would have given us time to explore some of Skaftafell National Park. Ah well, we have to leave something for the future!

Back in Kirkjubæjarklaustir we ate at the Systra kaffi, to get to this one takes exit at the roundabout which puts the Esso garage on the left of the car. The place stays open late (midnight), and is relatively cheap (though still expensive by non-Icelandic standards). The food is pretty good too. Monica had a fish dish, and I had a bacon burger (good stuff, not a scrotumburger in any sense!) There were all the trimmings, salad etc.