Tag Archives: East Iceland

Notes from the Field: 18 September 2015


Foggy. Cloudy. I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with the weather. It hasn’t kept me from doing anything (or at least, not much), but I so wanted to see some of the iconic mountains, glaciers, volcanos and ice fields.  So far… Zero. Nada.  Zilch. I do still have 10 more days and one of them is, at the moment, forecast to be clear so perhaps I’ll yet see one of the spectacular mounts.

I spent the day exploring part of the East Fjörds a bit north of where I’m staying, walking along the coast for a while and then heading into the lowlands in search of some waterfalls. I had hoped to do some high country hiking today – the forecast was for clear skies – but figured that hiking in the fog would be a bit of a waste, at least in terms of having any panoramic vistas. One of the things I noticed as I walked along the beach is that the air here is briny, different from the Westfjörds and not simply a low tide kind of smell – tangy, sharp and clean but smelling nonetheless of life, like what one might imagine when listening to 19th Century whaling songs about the salt air and the briny deep…  The climate is milder here than in North Iceland, and there are still flowers blooming along the coast and in protected vales at higher elevations, so I grabbed a few photos during the brief monuments when the sun popped out for a visit. I also ticked off a couple of new birds for my life list, a Northern Wheatear and Gryllteiste. And if you’re thinking that bird name sounds neither English nor Icelandic, well, I discovered while trying to ID the Grylltieste that my recently purchased bird book isn’t entirely in English… About 20 pages, beginning with the Wellenläufer and ending with the Goldregenpfiefer, are in German! Speaking of birds, I stopped at one point to check out an oddly narrow, sod-covered hut on the beach. I thought maybe it was a sauna, but when I opened it I discovered it was actually a very well-camouflaged bird blind!

Lunch today was at Cafe Sumarlina in
Fáskrúðsfjörður, a town with such a strong French heritage that allthe street signs are in both Icelandic and French.  The meal was billed as “seafood soup” but was actually something like a lobster bisque – very, very good.

On my way back to the hostel, I stopped to see Petra’s Stone Collection – literally, all the rocks that a woman named Petra collected over decades, and almost all from right here in this region. She wasn’t a trained geologist, simply a woman who loved and had a knack for finding interesting stones. My mother would’ve loved this place – I could hear her sighing, ” Ooh, look at this one,” over and over, as I walked through the rock garden. It really was rather amazing – There were rocks of all dIfferent sizes, shapes and colors; in no particular order and with only maybe a dozen out of the thousands present that were identified in any fashion. You can read more about Petra and her collection at http://icelandictimes.com/petras-stone-and-mineral-collection/.

Notes from the Field: 17 September 2015


Foggy, but only for a couple hours. Cloudy. Not rainy, and windy only through bays and (mountain) passes. Still little chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, but all in all, a definite improvement.

My drive today was relatively short and thus somewhat leisurely. For about two hours I was driving through what appeared to be a high, dry, mountainous, black sand desert crowned with jagged black peaks. It wasn’t a desert, of course – there were plenty of rivers carrying water from the glaciers and ice caps I’ve yet to see, and there were plants of the minute, low-growing sort – but it was as austere an environment as I’ve seen in a long while. I probably should have tried using  video to capture the sense of dark vastness since photos just didn’t do it justice, at least not with today’s lighting conditions. The few days that I’ve had with sunshine have brought out some brilliant colors in the rocks and plants here and I imagine this part if Iceland would have looked just magnificent with some sunlight!

In any event, I passed through this area and headed into Egilsstaðir, my first stop in East Iceland. I had a number of things to do there, chiefly buy groceries for the upcoming few days, replace a lost lens cap and eat lunch at the Gistihúsið Egilsstaðir, well-reviewed for its locally sourced, slow food menu. I wish I’d written down the dish specifics; what I remember is cream of celery root  soup with basil oil; and fish of the day with a sesame crust served over a cauliflower sauce with roe, pickled onion and dill. Both dishes were fantastic, and really not any more expensive than most other prepared meals in Iceland.

So, with a full stomach and a full gas tank I headed to Berunes via Route 939, a shortcut over a mountain pass.  The cloud cover by this time had lifted considerably so I had a largely unobstructed panoramic  view as I descended of terraced mountains laced with waterfalls and the river Berufjarðará, flowing down to the sea.

After getting settled in at the Berunes hostel (they have über-comfortable chairs here, like the Danish-designed chairs my parents have had for 30+ years), I did laundry for the first time since I ladded in-country – oh, for clean underwear and socks! –  and walked down to the beach to watch eiders and marvel at the merest traces of blue sky in the late evening light.