Vík í Mýrdal

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.

Driving to Ví­­k (and beyond)

Dateline: Monday 24th July, 2006Place: Kirkjubæjarklaustir

The 24th was a long day. We started later than I would've liked - the hire car was a little late arriving at the hotel, and there were a few other delays on top of that.

Our first stop was the bank near the hotel. This was an experience. I went in and started to wait for someone to serve me. There was one other customer (being serves) and about 10 staff. Three were on the desks, and the rest on specialised desks (investments, mortgages and the like). Nobody was serving me.

A member of staff walked to the cashier desks and sat down, tucking her tin of pilsner discretely behind the monitor of the computer. She had a chat to a guy who looked like the boss before doing so, tin in hand, and nothing was said. This astounded me.

Still, I didn't get served. I was beginning to get annoyed. Then a new customer came in and went to a machine and got a ticket. (The machine was obvious, but the signs were all in Icelandic - so it wasn't clear what the function of the machine was). They were seen straight away... it's like the deli aisle in a supermarket!

I got a ticket, and was seen within a minute or two. The whole experience was rather annoying though, when they're not exactly rushed off their feet, could they not have seen that I was waiting and acknowledged me?

We made our way out of Reykjavík in the direction of Keflavík, and then transferred to the 42 (this was a little tricky at the junction due to roadworks, but no real problem).

Lava Field to the southwest of ReykjavíkThe 42 heads across 'a lava field, and turns into a gravel road. This is a little daunting at first sight, but the first hill was the worst part, and after that it was plain sailing..er..driving.

We were looking for the Seltún geothermal area, I don't know how but we went straight past it, and ended up turning right, stopping at a little place called Krýsuvíkurkirkja, or Krýsuví Church. This is a tiny little church (there is a geocache there, but I missed it, annoyingly). It has hills in one direction, and a plain leading to the sea in the other. Beautiful location.

KrýsuvíkurkirkjaRock Balancing in IcelandThe road continued to a dirt track, and we went along this for a short while, until N63°51.521 W22°07.512. At this point we saw a rocky outcrop covered with hundreds (if not thousands) of rock piles. People come to this place and balance rocks. This was not to the the last time we saw this in Iceland, and still don't quite know why it's so common. Not to be the odd ones out, we made our own tiny rock balance and headed back - this time to Seltún

Bubbling Mud at Seltún Geothermal AreaOur final Rock BalanceSeltún itself is quite a small area, there are wooden walkways taking the visitor to the active area (past warning signs). The smell is something of rotten egg. Whilst it's a short visit, as a first experience of geothermal activity it's an interesting one. Around the walkways, steam emerges from the ground, causing pools to bubble and the ground to take on all sorts of white, yellow and red hues (and sometimes just boring old grey) as different minerals are brought to the surface.

As one enters, there are warning signs about the prospect of steam explosions - all adding to the atmosphere.

From Seltún we took the road south, then west. This was a gravel road, but was a pretty good road (the one slight issue was at the end, when what looked on the map like a crossroads was actually a pair of offset T junctions), and we soon joined Highway 1 heading through Selfoss - we stopped for a break as soon as we got to the main road, though! Our other stopping place for reasons other than sightseeing would (briefly) be Vík, &iacutel Mýrdal and that was only to check that our Hotel, the Efri-Vík wasn't actually in Vík!

Rútshellir, just by the side of Highway 1 (near Seljalandsfoss)Monica at The Seljalandfoss waterfallRock balancing at LaufskálavarðaWe stopped briefly at Seljalandfoss, a waterfall - we would stop here again on the way back, and at a place a little further on called Rúshellir. At Laufskálavarða there were more rock piles, this time there was an explanatory information board. In essence, if passing Laufskálavarða for the first time, legend has it that if you add to a rock pile then you are blessed with luck on the journey.

Rock balancing near Highway 1, west of KirkjubæjarklaustirMonica near balanced rocks west of KirkjubæjarklaustirNearing Kirkjubæjarklaustir we saw yet more rock balancing near a sign about Fjaðrárgljúfur

At Kirkjubæjarklaustir we were staying in a place called 'Efri-Vík'. This hotel was undergoing some building work when we were there, but that didn't bother us. Our 'room' was a little house away from the main building. We could park the car right next to the room - perfect. It was essentially a large room, with a small bathroom, and a ladder going up to a mezannine floor where two others could sleep. It was wood lined, and very cosy. There was even a small kitchen!

Our hotel room at KirkjubæjarklaustirInside our hotel roomWe ate at the hotel that evening. For what it was, this was an extremely expensive meal. It was perfectly nice, but it didn't represent value for money (even by Icelandic standards). The starter was herring on rye bread, followed by a lamb dish and finished with a chocolate cake. We each had a beer, and I tried a Brennivín, a local spirit. This burned my lips a little, but was perfectly okay if it's not allowed to touch the sides on the way down.

Back in the little house, we were out for the count pretty promptly.