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Published: September 16th 2021
Iceland - Day 4 of 22
After all the lava excitement of yesterday Thursday's progress has been somewhat more sedate.
A propos yesterday's blog and pictures we forgot to say that Paul has posted 4 videos to Twitter - his handle there is @airwavey - and to both his & our Facebook pages. They bring over the power of what we were watching.
Local news reports today are that the area was evacuated yesterday (Wednesday) though it is now reopened today. The trail we used, however, Route A, is still closed as lava overflowed onto it. 😳
This morning we picked up our transport for the next 18 days. We have gone with a Dacia Duster 4x4, the same make/model as we used for our rough road driving in Armenia & Georgia in May 2019.
It's maybe a slight overkill but feels secure. There will be stretches, particularly in the North West, where we will be driving on unpaved road. Theoretically we could use this on Iceland's F roads. These are the, mostly, internal cross-country un-paved roads, often riddled with river crossings (ie no bridge). Iceland law requires a 4x4 vehicle on these
roads. However we don't expect to be venturing off piste onto any F roads, and Pip has absolutely determined "NO RIVER CROSSINGS!!!!"
Thursday was a simple jaunt along the first 200 km of so of Iceland's Road 1 Ring Road, which takes us east and anticlockwise from Reykjavík ie along the southern coast.
What a dreary weather day it was too, in total contrast to yesterday. We would not have enjoyed our trek to the lava in this. The rain has barely abated throughout the whole 200 km. Somewhat ironic really as our destination, Vik, is described in our guidebook as having Iceland's highest rainfall (a bit like Manchester then).
Not having breakfasted before picking up the car we stopped at the first reasonably sized town, Hveragerdi - Incidently, getting these Icelandic names correctly typed into the blogs is going to take some attention to detail.
Hveragerdi was surrounded by dozens of steaming vents dotted throughout the countryside and was the first location for geothermal agriculture, hothouse veg and exotic plants, in Iceland.
The area suffers from regular earthquakes, though sadly not apparent during our brief coffee stop there. In 2008 a whole new geothermal
area opened up in the hills above, whilst the tourist info centre straddles an older fissure which can be seen through a glass panel.
Onto Selfoss via a dinky little, British engineered, suspension bridge over the full, fast flowing Ofulsa river - though all the rivers we have crossed so far seem to be like that.
Selfoss owes its existence and size due to the bridge as previously the river was only crossed much further downstream by a dangerous ferry crossing. Its location also meant that Selfoss became Iceland's first inland/non coastal town.
Another small claim to fame is in being the site of iceland's first strike when bridge construction workers downed their tools in complaint about only being given salmon to eat.
As we travelled through we also noted the Bobby Fischer Centre. Bobby was a notorious chess grand master/World champion, originally American born but took Icelandic citizenship. Turns out he is buried on the outskirts of Selfoss.
Iceland is also a land of waterfalls - so many waterfalls....
Our first major encounter was Seljalandsfoss, a narrow but powerful 60m drop. With lots of these waterfalls getting well wet, even in waterproof gear,
is somewhat part for the course. But sometimes you just can't be arsed. The rain outside was just tremendous so we pulled in for a through the window photo op and moved on.
Next brief stop was for a 'cave' in a field. Rutshellir is one of over 200 man made caves in southern Iceland, 41 of them protected sites. You really wouldn't want to be living inside, especially the first section which was carpeted by a mixture of cow dung and mud, or shit as Pip succinctly put it in her travel notes. Paul ventured in whilst Pip was more discreet preferring the rain outside to the slop inside. Beyond the first section however was a large dry cave - we'll take Paul's word on that.
As we drove off we noted that a cow or two, from a small herd, were trying to reclaim the outer cave as their space, irregardless of the tourists we thought were stuck inside beyond the very narrow entrance. Who knows, perhaps they're stuck there still 💩💩💩
At Skógafoss waterfall we did however stop. This is a huge curtain waterfall, 15 metres wide which drops 62 metres from the plateau
above with a deafening roar and a spray plume that drenches anything that gets within 100 metres of its base. One of Iceland's most beautiful even when, as today, the water looked totally mud laden. The water is glacier ice cap in origin.
The cliffs used to be coastal formed during the last ice age, but are now several miles from the sea.
We tried for Dyrhólaey, the most southerly point on Iceland's mainland. We had seen a comment a few days ago that said that there was no land between this part of Iceland and Antarctica. Maybe that was where today's winds were coming from. The point is perched high on a small peninsula above black sand beaches below. We made it as far as the car park but decided discretion was better to stay in the car. We may revisit in the morning if the weather has improved. We had expected a dirt road up to the Point but it appears to have been recently tarmaced.
The main road 1 continued over high ground, Reynisfjall, a ridge that divides the SW's fertile farmland from the bleak expanse of black 'sand' beyond. It is not unknown
for it to be sunny on one side and snowing on the other, but today just relentless rain on both sides.
Just on the east side of this ridge is Vik, Iceland's only coastal town without a harbour, just a vast expanse of black sand beach. It was recently the setting for a dark Netflix drama, 'Katla', about an exploding volcano which brings dead people back to life (a good watch if you like that kind of program). The volcano also really exists, and would be visible behind the town if the weather was different. Although it hasn't blown for 100 years it is regarded 'possible' as it has blown every 20 to 70 years over the last 1000 years.
We are in a serviceable hostel, Puffin Hostel - own room of course ; we've never been into dormitory sharing. We took a walk to the beach but no chance of any bird spotting in the weather. A real shame as it is home to puffins.
Maybe tomorrow, before we move further along the coast?
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