There's not a lot to say about Fiskidagurinn Mikla. It's great, just go. But there's plenty to be said about the things between here and there! On the Sunday, Rakel and I again decided to take the scenic route home. We were also going to try and visit a friend of hers, Lisa, who works as an archaeologist at Hólar, which was one of the major religious centers in the past.
So we headed up the north route, checking out waterfalls that cascade into the sea, long single lane tunnels through mountains, archaic churches, viking ruins, hot pots, wow, the list is so long! I'd better slow down and let people have a bit of a clearer view....
North of Dalvík, apart from the lovely sunlit views across Eyjafjörður that you can get as the road ascends, the first major sight is Mígindisfoss, a lovely waterfall that cascades down into the sea, just before you reach the tunnel to Ólafsfjörður. It's not well signposted, (at all) and there's no real good places to park, but you can find a couple of pullouts, to have a bit of a look at it.
Next on the backwards northern loop from Dalvík back to town, you come through the tunnel to Ólafsjörður. It's 3400m long, and single lane. We ended up in a game of chicken with someone who obviously felt they were too good for the pullout they drove past to meet us. I've never really stopped in Ólafsjörður, though it is certainly scenic. It's got particularly high mountain walls, and even has what appears like a tiny ski jump ramp in the middle of town. As usual for icelandic ski lifts, the lift goes nowhere near all the way up the mountain.
Heading south of Ólafsfjörður again, you head up towards a rather beautiful area, Lágheiði. On the road up to the pass, I noticed this time an abandoned farm called Reykir, and a river called Reykjaá. It looked a little far from the road, but I'd say there's definitely hot springs in the river somewhere, as there appears to be a couple of summer houses built up there. One of the Reykja* places that needs further investigation.
But, as I was saying, this was the road to Lágheiði. It's really quite a scenic spot. You come up over the crest of the hill, turn right 90 degrees, and descend into a green valley, that unfolds down the hill with you. On the south side a couple of side canyons, equally deep and green appear, as you make your way down valley.
I'd driven this way before, with Fabio and Gunny the year before, but this time I was driving and we had more time, so we stopped a bit more often. We even decided to stop off at Knappstaðarkirkja, which was an excellent decision. Well, except for one thing :)
We should have noticed that the couple packing up a camper trailer were wearing net head masks, but we found out ourselves soon enough after opening the car door. Flies! Millions of them! Slow, stupid ones that would smear into you when you tried to brush them away. Not very pleasant :) While we were looking around the garden, a girl from the farmhouse came out with a key and opened it up to let us look inside and answer our questions. Turns out they have a service once a year, and the church is tied down because it had blown over in the past!
It was a beautiful tiny little church, and according to the girl and my road book, the oldest wooden church in iceland. Something I later came to notice after looking inside a few more of them, was how common the blue starry ceiling was amongst icelandic churches.
Braving the flies again, we dashed back into the car, and headed on. Next stop, Grafarkirkja! We were driving slowly, and Rakel was reading from the road book to see if there were any interesting sights along the way. Grafarkirkja is another old church, only this time, "restored" in the 50s. Apparently this was _not_ what today's archaeologists would have wanted :) Externally it's a fairly typical turf house, only with more ornate carvings and trim. Inside was rather different however. Instead of the open space down the middle, and benches on the sides, it was more of a church layout, with a level floor, and pews. The pews had I think the narrowest seats I've ever seen, barely a bum edge and an extremely straight back. On top of this, the cross beams were at perfect headheight, so standing at the altar, you couldn't actually see any faces of the parishioners. Seemed rather odd, but perhaps it was an artifact of the "restoration"
Have I mentioned how pleasant the weather was all day today? A touch windy at times, but generally warm and dry, with scattered clouds. Lovely, compared to the forecast, and compared to the drive up on friday night :)
We arrived at Hólar to find it rather busy! Turns out it was a holiday weekend for them too. We met up with Lisa, and after a quick tour around the site, we headed off to see the dig site she'd been working at for the summer. It was at Kolkuós, a river mouth back out on the fjord, which it seems had been where viking traders set up shop when they came to trade with the church at Hólar.
Kolkuós was a lovely windswept spit, with Kolká running out pleasantly, and an interesting abandoned house and slaughterhouse. It was fabulouse getting a guided tour around a dig site with an archaeologist as well, even if I did have to work hard to follow it all in icelandic :) Lisa spoke clearly and a little bit slower for me, and was fabulously patient at letting me ask questions in icelandic.
Of course, not everyone seems to care, the work at the site was ongoing, though mostly wrapped up, but since they'd stopped working there daily, the local horse riders had returned. And it seems horse riders don't get off their horse to have a look at anything, they just ride right on over the top to have a look. The entire site was covered in horse prints, right on top of all the pegged tickets on the site. Lisa was not impressed!
Back at Hólar, Lisa showed us around the office, and the things they'd dug up recently, but eventually it was time for us to continue.
Continuing our sunny sunday drive, we headed around to Sauðarkrókur, and up to Gréttirslaug. I'd first been here that winter, with Damion and Chelle, so it was good to see it in summer. The road was surprisingly worse, and for some reason, there was now a brand new bigger pool as well, and a box asking for donations. I'm not entirely sure what was wrong with the old one! We tried them both, before settling on the old one anyway! If anything, all the new one does is make you feel further away from the sea.
It's still a beautiful old hot pot though, and we relaxed and kicked back for a while, before eventually, as all things must, our time in the north came to an end, and we had to drive home again home again, back to the real world one more time.