Sunday, July 5, 2015

Puffins and a dead seal

Breakfast at Ráðagerði is fine, the same old buffet stuff with no surprises, although the view in the breakfast room is beautiful overlooking the fjord. I sit at a table with stuff left from the previous guests, and there it sits throughout my entire breakfast, although the table is very small and it’s overflowing with dirty plates and coffee cups. The nice thing is that checkout isn’t until noon, which is the latest I’ve seen so far in my travels. Usually guesthouses are keen to get rid of their guests right after breakfast so they can start cleaning. Since I’m catching the bus later to Látrabjarg at 1pm, I stay in the room as late as possible, even taking a last-minute bath after getting sweaty during my morning walk through town (and notice that the tulips are still in bloom!).

There’s an eerie low fog this morning that makes for interesting photos, but it burns off by noon. I’m the only person on the bus to Látrabjarg, so there’s plenty of room for my bike. I pay close attention to the road, seeing it now from the viewpoint of a mountain-biker. It’s really dusty and dry and the slopes are steep, doesn’t look like too much fun to be honest. 

We stop at the bird cliff for about 25 minutes and it’s simply awesome. I’ve been here just once before several years ago. I don’t feel it’s overcrowded one bit. Sure the parking lot is full, but it’s a small parking area and the people spread out over a large area. There is plenty of room to sit entirely alone and watch the birds. There are puffins galore and they are so close and tame. I walk as far along the trail as time allows. I really need to hike the entire trail one day, most people only stay on the very first part. I nearly jog back to the bus with a grin on my face. I’m certain I have some really good puffin pictures. 

Then the bus drives to Breiðavík, where I get off. The hotel is hopelessly full but I knew that and have my tent. Besides the weather is good (partly cloudy today, no wind and mild) and will get even better the next few days. The campsite is not as nice as I remember it. It’s just a big open field and there is no spot specifically for tents only, meaning cars and campers can park right next to a tiny tent like mine. That’s not real nice since tent campers with no cars are usually seeking solitude. I pick a spot in the corner with the vestibule facing the beach, where the evening sun shines right inside. It turns out to be a wise choice although other tents and cars surround me eventually an all sides, but I can lie in my tent with the door open and look out onto the beach into the sun without anyone seeing me.

It costs 2000 kr to camp (€14) but showers are free as well as free tea and coffee day or night. More importantly, campers can hang out in the café inside, just reading or having tea, or sit out on the deck in the sun. So although this is one of the more expensive campsites, I feel it’s worth the price. It’s priceless to be able to warm up a bit inside when you camp. 

After getting settled and having coffee and a piece of chocolate cake, I go for a really long walk on the beach. There’s just so much to see! I walk all the way to the old fishing huts of Bót and Kumbarapollur. There are interesting flowers and moss to look at, and a stinky dead seal, lots of sponges, driftwood, a whole paddling of ducks, various bones … I sit and watch the waves for a while and daydream. 

When I get back to the campsite, the sun is shining brightly but my legs are really tired, walking in the sand is hard! I take a shower and at 10pm I’m lying in my little tent bed with the vestibule open and the sun shining in my face. Life is good!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

An eider duck nest

I wake up at 2am to a beautiful full moon but fall back asleep until 6, when the large group of German guests that arrived by bus last night starts to move about. They are loud and rude. I can’t get in the shower for ages and I’m one of the last at breakfast just before it closes. But I’m in no hurry today. I have to move into a new guesthouse as this one didn’t have a room available for the third night (the Patró campsite is awful). I check out and store my stuff in the garage. It’s too early to check into the new place, Ráðagerði, so I take my bike for a spin. It’s a sunny day again, not a cloud in the sky. I bike along the fjord this time on a paved road and stop at a few places along the way, including an abandoned building of sorts that makes a perfect napping place. 

On the way back just out of Patró, I leave the road and head down the steep hill at a place called Þúfneyri. There’s a rocky shore and lots of fishing stuff, old ropes and suddenly a duck at my feet flies up in my face. I almost stepped on momma duck’s nest! It’s an eider duck and the nest is full of soft, fluffy down feathers and 4 large eggs. I snap a few pictures and am careful not to touch or disturb anything. As I walk away I see momma duck settle back down on her nest so all is well. I’m really excited about this since I’ve never seen an eider duck nest up close in the wild, so this event tops my day already.

Back in town, I check into Ráðagerði and it‘s horribly expensive (the only room available tonight is a one-person suite with its own bathroom for 16,200 kr/€110 incl. breakfast). The guesthouse is an imposing black stone structure with black benches in the garden. Inside is very nice and the room is beautiful with a great view. However on closer inspection, it‘s really dirty under the bed and the thick layer of dust indicates it‘s not only from just this summer. It hasn‘t been cleaned under there for quite some time. Nontheless I will thoroughly enjoy the bathtub, especially since I‘ll be roughing it the next three days in my little red tent. 

I head back to Stúkkuhúsið for coffee and cake and I’m already greeted like an old friend. It’s warm enough to sit on the deck in the sun. I head out for an evening bike ride, first exploring the road to Tálknafjörður but it’s too hilly for such a late evening ride and I soon give up. But being up high, I spot another gravel road parallel to the river, so that’s what I’ll do. The road is horrible for biking though. The rocks are too big and loose and I end up pushing most of the time. I pass fish drying racks, a power station and a rusty spaceship-like contraption. 
Finally I give up and leave my bike behind when the road becomes grassy and wet with intersecting rivers, and continue on foot for a while. It’s a nice trail and I am guessing it goes all the way to the other fjord. I can’t find the road in any of my maps. I would like to hike it one day.

I soon head back for a hotdog at the gas station and some hot chocolate at the guesthouse. I will enjoy my luxurious room and bathtub now, good night!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Kríuvötn, the arctic tern lakes

I’m up at 6am, the walls of the guesthouse are thin and I jump in the shower just before the others wake up. There’s just one shower for all 5 rooms on the downstairs floor (at least 10 guests unless some rooms have more than 2 beds). Breakfast is nice with fresh do-it-yourself waffles, although I really make a mess of the first one before I get the hang of it. I’m on the road at 9:30 and it’s beautiful weather. Mostly sunny, no wind. 

My goal today is the Kríuvötn (arctic tern) lakes. I hike into Litlidalur valley and follow a well-worn sheep trail along the river up to the pass. From there the trail is marked with cairns. It’s a really easy, fun trail, never too steep or rocky. After 90 minutes (with lots of stops and picture-taking) I reach the lakes, a smaller and a larger one that are connected. The sun comes out and it’s just perfect for a long nap if it weren’t for the darn flies. They’re quite bad here, always swarming around my head. I feel like Pigpen from the Peanuts who always has that cloud of dirt following him. The lakes are fairly dead otherwise, meaning no wildlife and in particular, no arctic terns. But also no ducks, no bugs, nothing at all. Just ice cold water. The grass has lots of crawly things though, like spiders, which also bother me during my nap. I spend a lot of time up there, it’s really a beautiful spot, but I head back when the clouds roll in and it gets a bit chilly.   
On the way back, I take my time and examine every little flower, rock and types of moss along the way. The lichens covering the rocks are the colors of Gríma the cat – all shades of brown, black and white. There are flowers of all colors and sizes too. On the way back, I see 2 people off in the distance, otherwise there’s not a soul out and about the whole day.

Back to the guesthouse to rest my legs and take a nap, then off to the harbor for some coffee, where I spotted a café the day before. Big mistake. The “café” turns out to be a bar and it stinks like nasty grease and stale booze. Not surprisingly I’m the only one inside, the coffee is good at least but I drink quickly and make my escape. After another spin on my bike exploring roads I haven’t been down before, I return to Stúkkuhúsið for dinner, where I have the fish of the day (it’s actually not cod for a change, but salmon). I finish the day with another dip in the pool. All in all, it’s been a beautiful day with plenty of time to take things slow and enjoy life.