Iceland Part II- Tröllaskagi (& Lake Mývatn and Dettifoss)

The Tröllaskagi peninsula was a bunch of unplanned wonders. For those of you going to Iceland heed my words: make space for the spontaneous and follow your whims- for therein lies the very best of Iceland.

Hofsós was our first stop- and after trying to eat the worst hamburger of all time we parked our van with an ocean view and waited for the pool to open. But this wasn’t just any old pool, my friends! It was infinity-like, heated to a perfect 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) (there was also a real hot tub for non-pregnant people to enjoy) overlooking this…

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The pools are central to Icelandic culture. There’s a little pool sign in nearly every populated place, no matter how small the town (Hofsós has a population of 200). We did not hit any of the big tourist hot pots, like the Blue Lagoon, but boy did we love the local ones.

Our morning coffee walk.

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Dan has become an avid fisherman and brought along his fly rod. Fishing, we had been warned, was not exactly easy or affordable in Iceland. People like Eric Clapton paid tens of thousands to fish the rivers! But just after we wrapped up this walk, we saw a sign with a little fish on it pointing down a gravel road. Why not? It lead us to a farm belonging to a man named Marcus with the cutest dog I have ever seen. For about $18 we secured the rights to fish his lake. What’s more, he gave us a bag of frozen trout – home smoked- ‘in case we didn’t catch anything’.

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So Dan cast a line and I walked up to take pictures, write in my journal, etc. We passed hours at this little lake. Him fishing. Me reading. It was pure peace. My view of Dan fishing below.

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I met these cows (they followed me all over the place- true story).

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And Dan caught our dinner.

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Then we drove and I remember why I miss living by the ocean so much.

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We landed in the small town of Dalvík where camped just outside of town. And the next day we went for those mindblowing hikes that you’ll never forget. For anyone going: it’s hike #3 on the hiking map you can pick up anywhere.

The hike begins at a farm (really, you park in their driveway) and follow a river up to…

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…you guessed it – a waterfall!

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Iceland hiking is steep. Switchbacks as far as we could tell do not exist, they just send you straight up.

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You follow the trail across the green hills, up these meadow terraces. Some horses followed us for a while.

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And finally, you come up to this little lake. Which is filled with fish. Filled.

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This one too.  DSCF2086

The clouds broke for us to get a view of the ocean on our way down.

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The way down.

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This hike was not in any guidebook; we saw only two other people just as we decided to go down. Northern Iceland was full of open space, unplanned adventures and beauty beyond belief.

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A note on fishing while we’re here: Dan had read numerous blogs about how highly regulated the fishing in Iceland is. You have to have your rod professionally sanitized, different permits required everywhere, uber-expensive guides and on. Every body of water is technically owned by the person who owns the land around it. On our way into the country, no one stopped Dan to check if his (highly visible) rod had been sanitized. These were Dan’s two great fishing days. We encountered a few people at the airport who stopped Dan when they saw his fishing rod. One had had absolutely no luck finding any fishing opportunities, the other had paid for one of the very expensive guides and had a horrible experience (not at all what they had been promised or paid for). We’re no experts and we tried to do everything right, but maybe the best tack really is to knock on farmers’ doors. That’s just what we did. Marcus was so warm and friendly and it was one of our best experiences. Anyway- good luck out there!

Below I offer a small gallery of the Lake Mývatn area and Dettifoss. This area is so well documented in every travel guide that I don’t feel the need to elaborate too much here. Mývatn is full of tourists as well as nasty little midges (black flies that come at you in swarms). After the quiet of Trollaskagi it was a bit much for us, but it’s for sure worth a stop to explore the surreal landscape. We walked up the Hverfell crater, down the other side through Dimmuborgir lava fields. Highly recommended, as you get off the beaten path away from the main parking areas. The only drawback is that you have to re-trace your steps to your car.

Dettifoss is well worth the detour off the ring road. There are a lot of waterfalls in Iceland but not so many that command fear and respect in the way this one does.

 

Iceland Part I – driving north and the West Fjords

Upon returning from a big trip- we we just did from Iceland- one is faced with many questions: how to share pictures? And how many is too many? Does anyone really care?

Here will live some tales and photographs of our Iceland jaunt. The basics: we rented a camper van from Lava Campers (more on the van later) and had no real plan for our two weeks. So we arrived on no sleep where the sweet Lava Camper man awaited us with our Helka and briefed us on the vehicle, Iceland and his upcoming Rally Car race. We picked up our first Skyr yogurt, a map of the island and headed north (“Big storm coming to the south” he warned).

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So we arrived weary to the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

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A storm shook our van all night and we decided to head further north to the West Fjords- we picked up a German hitchiker at some point and we made our way to Ísafjörður.

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I had grand designs to hike the famous five-day Hornstrandir route. A boat, it turned out would have been spendy for us to charter (the main season ends in August) and the very nice man at the Braedraborg cafe assured us that hiking around the mainland was just as remote and beautiful. So we packed up everything and headed up the high fjord, the tops of which were shrouded in fog.

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It was really beautiful for a while and then we were fully socked in. Then it started misting. Then raining. It was also very cold.

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A giant pass loomed up like a wall in front of me. I had a breakdown. Did I mention I’m four months pregnant? “There’s no shame in heading back to the camper van,” my very-patient husband assured me. So two hours later:

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It was right about here that I fully fell in love with the Lava Camper, which came to be known as Mama Bear. It was also here that I began to accept that the trip would be what it would be – there may or may not be long hiking days. There may or may not be sun. I couldn’t know yet. It all had to unfold as it would. So the next day we drove on.

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The drive from the West Fjords was one of our favorites- long and deserted and heartbreakingly beautiful. We listened to Sigur Ros as one must when they drive in Iceland. We counted an hour before we saw another car. We saw a lot of really adorable sheep.

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And once, when we pulled onto a back road for no real good reason, a double rainbow stretched across the sky while a horse galloped right past our car.DSCF1907DSCF1911

And as we drove we hmmed and hawed about where to spend the night and we finally pulled off the Ring Road onto the Tröllaskagi peninusula. Of which wonders I shall save for Part II.