Notes from the Field: 24 September 2015

Giljalandi – Vik – Giljalandi

Wow! Blue sky this morning, with just a few powder puffs drifting aimlessly around. I could see what I guess must be Myrdalsjökull through the trees, and once I put binoculars on it I saw fresh snow high up on the hills. Not that I haven’t seen some beautiful views already but it’s absolutely lovely here when a bit of sunlight is added!

I went to Vik today, a village about 55 km from my little cabin in the woods. It’s small, tucked into a relatively narrow strip of flat(ish) land between Myrdalsjökull and the ocean. There are a couple of cliffs nearby and at the base of one is yet another example of columnar basalt. I didn’t expect to be following square rocks from one end of Iceland to another but that is in fact what I’ve done! I climbed the cliffs of Reynisfjall first and had a grand view of Myrdalsjökull and Sólheimajökull inland; Vik on the shore to one side and a long beach leading to Dyrhólaey lighthouse on the other.

I followed that with a visit to Reynisfjara, where the basalt columns rise from the black sand beach to form a cave of sorts. There weren’t too many people there when I arrived and most of them were polite, staying out of other people’s pictures and taking turns moving in close. And then there were the two French-speaking men who jjumped in front of several of us and took turns climbing up the rocks and posing on them. This annoyed me enough that I decided I’d needed to be in their photos and so I moved right on in, standing just next to or below the fat bearded slob on the rocks so there was no way his friend could get a picture without me in it. Rarely have I felt so satisfied. Shades of my mother, I’ll admit…

After a visit to the lighthouse at Dyrhólaey, I had a very late lunch of cured lamb, fresh bread and ice cream, all from local producers, at Halldórskaffi. The lamb here is good. Yeaterday I had some smoked lamb; today was cured… Maybe I’ll find some lamb soup tomorrow.  Anyaay, I headed “home” as late afternoon sun hit Myrdalsjökull. About five minutes after I got my gear inside… You guessed it… It began raining. The rain only lasted about 15 minutes and it looks like it might be a nice night to see the Northern Lights again!

Related Images:

Notes from the Field: 19 September 2015


I chose a path at random, knowing not where it might lead. A farm track took me up the Fossa River, rock colonnades of black and gray and green guarding the near side of the valley and heath spreading away to the distant wall. High country fields, bright with late-season hay, appeared ’round bends in the tracks and sheep trotted away from their foraging, panicked at the sight of a human walking in their midst. I passed multiple waterfalls, each larger than the last, and came at last to a ridge which, once climbed, revealed yet more of the Fossa climbing ever higher into cloud-covered distance. Most glorious, there came a time when I could see my shadow on the path in front of me… Yes, the sun shone, albeit briefly, upon me as I walked!

That was my morning. I got back to my car literally seconds before it began raining. Ah, Iceland… So much like home. In the afternoon I looked at oversized carved eggs, some 34 of them, set around a harbor near Djúpivogar. They are not to life as regards color, for the stone doesn’t lend itself to such, but are accurate as regards general shape and scale and are each labeled as to the species they represent. That was followed by a short walk in some woods (woods here are few and far between) and then , mere miles from my hostel, I came upon the tail end of a rettir! The sheep had already been driven down from the high country and were gathered in one large pen, from which they were manhandled, identified and separated into smaller pens representing the various families to whom they belonged. bleating ewes, butting Rams and yearling lambs seeking out their mothers competed for attention from the dozen or so adults and half as many children. The rettir is clearly a community event to which all are welcome; my camera and I were no exception, the only ‘payment’ being that I email photos as those participating were too busy for such frivolities.

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.