Monday, July 2, 2012

Iceland – Day 5: Húsavík to Djupivogur

Ok – because of the poor Internet connection in Djupivogur I am now officially two days behind!  I will definitely catch up even if I am doing my last 2 posts from home.

Our fifth day in Iceland, Saturday, June, 30 we awoke to a cloudy and overcast day.  This was by far the worst day of weather that we had experienced so far.  In general the weather had been much better than I had expected.  My expectations were formed by checking the weather in Iceland on each day.  I had come to expect cloudy, rainy days with very cool temperatures.  Up to this point every day had been sunny and much warmer than I had expected.  We did experience a lot of cold temperatures when we were out on the whale watching expedition the day before, but I chalked that up to the fact that we were out on the ocean.

After a quick breakfast we packed everything up and hit the road.  Our destination for the day was the town of Djupivogur, in the Eastern Fjords of the country.  To reach Djupivogur we would first head due south of Húsavík and then we would turn sharply to the east at Lake Myvatn. 

At first the weather for our drive was just overcast, but as we neared Lake Myvatn the overcast turned to rain showers.  Our normally spectacular views were blocked by clouds in every direction. 

With Lake Myvatn in sight we made a short stop along the roadside to explore a massive lava flow that covered the terrain for as far as the eye could see.  These lava flows are common place throughout Iceland but this was the first time we had stopped to explore one and enjoy the beauty of the cracked and fractured lava.  The source of this lava flow wasn’t readily apparent, but as we continued down the road to Lake Myvatn, it became clear that there had once been many volcanoes in the surrounding territory.

 (Zack in the lava field near Lake Myvatn.)

Taking a detour and driving a good way around Lake Myvatn, we came across many examples of ancient steam explosions that had torn through the cooling lava.  These steam explosions were represented by conical shaped hills that looked exactly like small volcanoes.  As we looked further we came to realize that these remnants of steam explosions were just about everywhere. 

We stopped at the Skutustaoagigar pseudo-craters and climbed half a dozen of theses conical hills.  Much of our walk was conducted in the pour rain at which point we were very thankful for the Gore-Tex jackets we had brought with us.  After this point we headed back the route we had come to resume our journey to Djupivogur.  Lining the road throughout this entire area are ancient stone walls that were erected during the ages of the Norsemen.  These walls were established to keep sheep in their proper places.  Today the walls look as if they have stood for thousands of years as the stones are worn and covered by lichens.  Covered in the dampness of the rain showers with the background of the broken lava fields behind them these walls looked like something from an ancient myth or legend.  

(Mini-craters from volcanic steam explosions.)

 (Ancient stone walls from the times of the Norseman.)

The next part of our journey took us through one of the most remote and lifeless areas of all of Iceland.  The road for the next 80 kilometers or so ran through a dry, inhospitable desert.  This land had once been covered in grass and was filled with life.  However, volcanic eruptions in the 1700’s had caused changes in the landscape that resulted in drought and wind erosion of the soil.  One-by-one the farms that had been found throughout this region failed and were abandoned.  It had been years since the last families had left this an area of ghosts and desolation.  Despite the lack of life and bitterly cold winds blowing through the area, it was a land of stark beauty.  There were several pull offs at which you could park and get out of your car and walk around.  I stopped at each of these to admire the loneliness and beauty of the land.  At one of these stops there was a “plain of cairns” that had been erected by previous travelers.  I stopped and created my own cairn to mark the fact that I had been there. (If you notice that I am just using the word “I” most of the time instead of “we”, it is because Zack was more involved with his computer during this part of the drive.  He found the landscape to be boring and let himself be absorbed into a game on his Mac.  Oh well – teenagers will be teenagers at times!)

 (The plain of cairns in the desert.)

It seemed like the desert went on forever, but after a while we finally came out of it and entered into Eastern Fjords around the town of Egilsstaoir.  This is a tab bit of an unusual town as it almost felt like we were in the middle of a small American town.  There was no trace of old homes, it all recent construction.  We would have driven right through it and on to our destination except for the fact that we had yet to eat any lunch.  So we stopped at the local Subway (yes – Subway the American sandwich chain) and each got a sandwich.  They were slightly different than in the US as they definitely used less meat and had different kinds of sauces, but overall they were the same kind of sandwiches we are used to from our neighborhood Subway.

After eating our sandwiches it was back on the road.  To shorten the route, our GPS lead us off of the Icelandic Ring Road and onto a much smaller dirt road (Route 939).  This road lead over the hills/mountains and would cut off a considerable amount of travel as opposed to the way the Ring Road went.  

The scenery over this small little chain of hills/mountains was spectacular!  The road was dirt, however it was like most dirt roads we had driven over in good shape.  We climbed to the crest of the mountains and then began the downward descent with the coast in sight.

 (Thank goodness for my camera's tripod or shots like this won't have happened as there is frequently no one around at all!)

Shortly after joining up with the Ring Road again we found Djupivogur.  It was a quaint seaside fishing village of only a few hundred people.  It was bigger than the first town we stayed in, however it wasn’t bigger by much.  Checking into our hotel we found that it was by far the oldest building in town, having stood since the latter part of the 19th century.

We dined in the hotel restaurant and then returned to our hotel room for an early bedtime with some great plans for the following day.  

There is lots more to write about our Sunday and the following day.  With all that we are doing and seeing it is hard to keep up with the blogging but I will do my darnedest!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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