It has been so great I am enjoying a beer as I write this ....
Friday morning heralded our departure from Borgarfjorour-Eystri. It was hard to leave this little piece of utopia in the middle of nowhere. We have places to go and things to see. There were a lot of sheep along the roads and it meant Anna had to be even more attentive when driving. The sheep here run free after the shearing season and are rounded up in late August/September and returned back their farm. As a result there are sheep everywhere!
We stopped in Egilsstadir for tires. Anna was not comfortable with the quality of the tires on the bus nor the spares. We made a quick run to the convenience store and I picked up a box of "granola bars" (no Kashi's here in Iceland) and a Skyr. I am really starting to like the Skyr and it is filling in as my daily yogurt fix.
Soon we were on the road again and heading for Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. The former waterfall is the larger and the latter the smaller all feeding the same glacial stream. There was light rain when we left the van for the hike up to Litlanifoss. It started out nicely with stairs. To protect the hill from damage by the sheep there are electrified fences along the way necessitating opening, walking through, and then closing gates along the way. The stairs ended at the first gate and we were hiking on a path with a bit of rock. There must have been a lot of rain over the past few hours as the path was quite moist and muddy. I was very happy I had my hiking poles with me as they proved invaluable during both ascent and descent.
The little falls were amazing and the colours of the canyon walls equally wonderful. Of course the thunder of the falls is oddly such a peaceful and calming sound. Seeing these falls I knew I had to continue up to see the larger one. The hike became tougher and I found myself navigating along ledges once again. Two of them in fact. I completed the first and then we had an info break with Anna. The entire time I was looking at the next ledge and wondering if Anna would ever be quiet as I really wanted to get over that ledge before I started talking myself out of it! Suddenly Anna was done and she is approaching me, taking one of my poles and taking my hand! She knows I find the ledges tough and was going to get me across come heck or high water. I thanked her and said it would be better if I go it alone and she just talk with me. So we talked about Viedma Glacier in Argentina and soon we were across without issue!
We navigated through a rock flow and streams and soon we were at the larger falls. Wow! Amazing. If it hadn't been raining, I would have sat there and watched it for a piece. Unfortunately it was not the case and after enjoying the sights and sounds and taking a few photos it was time to wander back down. The descent was extra fun as this time I walked across a stream by stepping on stones. During the climb we jumped across a narrow section of that stream. It felt really cool walking across on those stones. Heck I felt like I really am a hiker! I killed the first ledge without issue and no one to talk with. I took a break and when there were fewer people coming up the hill I took on the second ledge and then they were done! Two more ledges conquered. That makes 4 ledges in total for this trip. I lost my footing at a particularly slippy section of the path and managed to rescue myself before my butt could touch the mud! There is super duper power in them rain pants! By this time the rain is coming down quite hard and I was very happy to reach the bus and strip out of my wets.
Soon we were on our way to a traditional Icelandic farm - Saenautasel - from the 1800's. This farm was abandoned in 1875 due to volcanic ash. In 1992 a descendant of the farm's original settler reconstructed the original farmhouse and sheep barn. Both are stone and sod construction. We started in the sheep barn where we enjoyed a lunch of vegetable soup and pancakes for dessert. The vegetable soup had great taste and was made with a milk broth rather than stock. I have noticed this at other restaurants since. I interrupt this blog to advise dinner is being served... This interruption is only temporary... Please do not adjust your computer ...
Yum! Salmon pate starter, slow cooked lamb entree, fruit salad and ice cream for dessert. Oh yes, and a promise from the head waiter that tomorrow night's dessert will be the chocolate dessert we have seen other tables served the last two nights .....
The pancakes had raisins in them and were eaten rolled up with either sugar or rhubarb marmalade in the centre. Anna had to go stop the cook because the pancakes kept coming and coming and coming and coming .... Then we toured the farm. It is amazing how people lived back in that time. The house structure was ingenious and the design made total sense for that day and age. One really had to be stubborn to be a farmer in north east Iceland. The isolation was phenomenal (60K to the nearest town and no wagon or roads) and the winters long and dark. I really appreciate how comfortable and easy life is now.
From the farm we drove north to the farm Moorudalur which is Iceland's highest working farm. The original owner built a church on his farm and dedicated it to his dead wife. The only thing in the church he did not build was the organ, which he played with all his heart and soul and without any training. Apparently his style was that of a 3 year old who bangs their hand on a number of adjoining keys for a horrific sound. His son painted the picture that hung behind the alter. This too is one of the sermon on the mount with the 5 loaves and 2 fish except this time Jesus is standing on Mt. Heroubreid, well actually it looks like he is sliding down the mountain on his butt! The son became a well known folk artist in Iceland.
As we were boarding the bus to leave one of our group noticed the back right outside tire (there are double wheels on the bus' rear tires) was low. So we all unloaded out of the bus and as a team managed to get the tire changed. I should clarify our bus is closer to being a van in style and seats 18 plus driver and guide. With tire changed we headed north east for Husavik. Coming up a hill an impatient driver decided to pass us not realizing there was an oncoming vehicle. If Anna had not acted as fast as she did, I don't know if I would be alive today! There was maybe an inch between our front bumper and the passing vehicle's rear bumper when it pulled in front of us to avoid the oncoming car. Phew! All I remember is yelling "oh my God!" as it all happened. I am thinking the crusafix Aynsley gave each of us many years ago has become a great talisman for me. I carry it in my wallet everywhere I go. Thank-you again Aynsley.
So after dodging sheep, hiking in rain, changing a flat tire (fortunately with no rain), and then just avoiding a massive vehicle accident we were ready to get to Husavik. We arrived about 30 minutes later than planned and worked on getting settled in. The carpets in the hotel remind me of Lisheen! They at not matches yet still carry some degree of familiarity for me. Supper was excellent, salad, arctic char, and vanilla mousse for dessert. After I was a complete amateur with my technology and had to get help to get my iPad on the hotel wifi. I attribute it to the 2 days wifi free at the fishing village.
I got my 2 blogs posted and caught up on e-mail and Facebook. Then it was to sleep I went.
What a beautiful morning I awoke to! Overcast with little wind. Just perfect for whale watching! Whale watching here is very deluxe. When we boarded the old wooden fishing schooner we donned thermal lined suits the kept us warm and dry during the 3 hour cruise in Skjalfandi. The waves were quite high and the boat was jostled about in a similar fashion to our return crossing of the Drake Channel in November 2011. There was a lot of balance required. The tour started with a Minke Whale sighting. I confess that without the water being blown from its blowhole, I have great difficulty spotting a whale unless it is very close. So I saw the Minke once while many saw it a few more times. Then there was a lull and we happened upon a hump back whale. Now this is a whale I can spot! We followed it for a time and then happened upon another. I have been very spoiled when it comes to whale watching. My first experience was in Juneau, AK in 2009 where I witnessed bubble-net feeding. So coming on this tour my hope was to see a whale breach and this whale did just that! It majestically rose out of the water perpendicularly then bowed its back and fell back in. It was the most beautiful thing. I didn't even get a photo because it happened so fast in real time. To me it was in very slow motion. So Noreen I now understand why you so dearly wanted to see this when we were in AK. We watched this whale for a while longer. It was behaving differently and would float just below the surface for a period before diving down for some more food. As we left that whale I thought we had been very fortunate to see all we had and was OK if there were no other sightings on our trip back to Husavik harbor. That's when we were given the amazing gift of a hump back whale "playing" of in the distance. It must have jumped (aka breached) over 20 times during the 45 minutes or so we spent watching it. In between jumps it would roll from side to side and raise a fin out as if waving and then slap it in the water. We had to sail through some fairly large swells and as we arrived close enough to witness this "workout" someone puked over the side just as the wind gusted up towards me! So there I'm taking photos of this whale wondering what that vile smell was. Well my thermo suit, camera, sunglasses, gloves, and toque were all hit! Yup I got the full experience on this cruise. We watched this whale for a good amount of time and I saw it breach at least 7 or 8 times. It was amazing. As we pulled into the harbour I was chatting with a student in marine biology who said she has not seen as much activity in one cruise this entire week as we did today. I shared with her my bubble net feeding experience and she said I must be good luck for whale watching. So far I would agree with her! I have now been very spoiled and experienced many great aspects of the hump back whale. I am feeling so blessed.
After whale watching I had to purchase a new toque and gloves for the balance of the trip. There was no way I would be able to get that smell out of them without a good clothes washer. Anna and I sealed up the dirty ones. Boy won't they be a treat for when I return. I hope customs does not feel like checking them out!
With new gear in play we ventured off to south of Lake Myvatn to see the pseudo craters. These craters were created when lava flowed over water. The water was heatedly a point its steam erupted though the lava layer causing the explosion area to depress down like a crater. Very intriguing. Then we drove to Dimmuborgir where there are crazy lava rock formations which we hiked around, over and through. So very cool. Think of this area as untamed unsmoothed hoodoos in black. From this location we could see Hverfell which is a kilometer wide mouth with sand sides. This crater was created by steam flows rather than lava flows. The steam would force rocks and pebbles up and out building an increasingly wider mouth for the crater.
After all this hard hiking and the stresses of yesterday it was time for us to relax. So it was off to the Myvatn Nature Baths for a one hour soak in mineral waters. When we first arrived I was struck by the sulphur smell. Once in the water I didn't even notice the smell. The water itself was milky blue and I could not see the bottom of the pool, which was approximately 3' deep. The water felt oily and is apparently very good for healing wounds and aching joints. My war wounds from my bike spill did not complain and they were in the water completely uncovered.
After an hour in the pools it was time to change and return back to Husavik.
It has been a great day today and a blessing I was able to experience it! Sending you best wishes from Iceland. Have a great Canada Day.