When it's springtime in Alaska, it's 40 below, or so the song goes. When it's springtime in Iceland, it's 4 day weeks. After easter comes the first day of summer, then may day, ascension, white sunday, and independence day. Of course, then there's just the end of summer weekend, and nothing til christmas, but I guess that just shows how much celebration there is for spring. (Or, how much we milk jesus for all the holidays he's worth.)
Anyway, some of these 4 day weeks are still a bit early in the year, and I hadn't really done much with them. Don't get me wrong, they'd been great weekends around town, with bbqs, music, fine food and fine company, but it was taking it's toll, and fun as it was, I really wanted to do something else, not just let summer become a blur of beers on the back deck.
I have some free days floating at work, (I negotiated 2 free days a month to do what I want with, on top of my normal holiday time) so I could have made a four day weekend, which was pretty appealing. However, after burning out on solo travelling on the edge of the season last autumn, I wasn't going to do anything unless I could talk someone into coming along for the ride. It was still a bit early for long walks.
Still, wednesday night before May Day, just about having resigned myself to the horrible, painful, dreary, oh what torture life that is downtown reykjavik, while discussing (over a beer) that I had hoped to go out of town, I received not one, but TWO offers of, "well, what about saturday and sunday?" One fell through, choosing to comfort her boyfriend while he studied, but the other, Iveta, previously a sworn enemy from the evil quiz team, "The tea ladies" decided that _her_ boyfriend would be just fine studying at home by himself!
And so a posse (of two) was formed. The plan was vague, the plan was open, the plan was to follow the sun, which was actually not meant to be anywhere at all that weekend. But, 11th hour, over another beer, well, no, wine actually, at Eva's dinner some ideas were put forth. I'd contemplated going looking for some rumoured hotpots, and exploring the loop roads north of Hvammstangi. Bjöggi, having grown up there, filled us with some new local secrets, covering seals, and a rather fantastic sounding hot pot. One where you sit _in_ the sea. Not by the sea, not with a view of the sea, but IN the sea.
The stage is set, the actors introduced, the time has come for the actual show!
We met up early, 8:45, earlier than I often get out of bed during a work week, and headed north under blustery grey skies. Nothing new here, everyone's driven north before. Despite my wishes to get out of town, out of town wasn't currently very pretty. The snow was mostly dirty or gone, but the grass was still brown and flattened.
No matter, soon we would be on new roads. We stopped at the first tourist logo sign, and it appeared that this would be Bjöggi's illustrious swimming hole. We walked down the path to the sea shore, and strolled north under some cliffs. There's be a nice view across Hrútafjörður to Hólmavík here, but the horizon was mostly covered in clouds. What was interesting here was all the chunks of quartz? on the beach. I'm not used to seeing them here. We found a few chunks still embedded in their mother rock. XXXX_update with a picture of the rock I brought homeXXXX
So, skarðshver. This name comes from the old 1:100k maps I have, never seen a name for it anywhere else. It's odd. Quite odd. There's an old concrete shed built amongst some rocks on the shoreline, where the farmer is/was piping up hot water. There's hot water running out of the bottom of the shed into the sea, and seaweed and sharp/slimy rocks, and then the ocean waves rolling in.
The water seemed nice enough, so I got changed, and hopped in. And hopped out again after almost burning myself. And went further away from the hot source, and got burnt by a wave coming in, pushing hot runoff back to shore. Then frozen when a second wave brought in fresh sea water. Then a delicious moment of wonderful bathing in a warm sea, then the water drained back out, covering me in boiling hot water again. It was quite an experience, literally attempting to jump out of the water at times, and at other times wishing for more heat. If only the waves could come in evenly, instead of in sets.
After enjoying the rare moments of wonderfully relaxing sea lounging, I'd had enough. A destination to play with, but not one you'd rely on for a good relax after a hard day. A cool spot that no-one else will know about though.
Driving north we found a sheep sorting station with a view, right on the seashore, and then saw a sign that said, "picnic, seals" We couldn't see any seals, and it was raining a bit, but we thought we'd go for a walk down to the shore anyway.
And promptly found 7-8 seals, swimming over to see what we were up to. They mostly just peered at us, swimming back and forth, but occasionally one would slap the surface with it's flipper. Apparently this area is known for having lots of good seal watching. We hung out for a while, talking to these big wriggly grinning sea dogs, and headed back for lunch in the car. It's crowded, but it's dry.
Rounding the tip of Vatnsnes, it was just sightseeing, and looking with delight at the growing band of blue. The morning had started off cool and breezy, and then replaced breezy with rainy and windy, but by the time we pulled up at Hvítserkur, it was warming up, dry, and with growing blue skies.
Hvítserkur is a big sea stack with holes in the bottom. That's about all that can be said about things like this. It was low tide, so we could walk right out to it. It actually looked like some nice climbing, though of course, it would be crumbly as hell, like all icelandic rocks. I did see a big old eye peg in it though.
Hvítserkur is a known "famous" attraction on this road, but the next one, I'd never heard of, and was quite surprised by. Borgarvirki. This is an old volcanic plug, that had a fort built into it. There's two old ruined houses, and apparently evidence of a well, but you'd need to be more of an archaeologist than me to see that. There's also some fancy rock walls and ramparts, but it seems they were "restored" in 1949-50. The signage indicates that there is is no hisstorical mention of this fort, which I found interesting.
Phew, stage one complete! At this stage, I'd crossed off one of the main goals for the trip, so we sat in the petrol station at Blönduós and planned our next moves. Eventually, this became a drive north around Skagi, another new road, before spending the night in Sauðárkrókur.
Another realyl neat loop road. The cliffs at Króksbjarg were really cool to look at as well. Some really nice columns, apparently on top of some sedimentary rock, so it was a very steep curve into the sea. We ran into a big wall of fog here, which certainly made some nice light.
Further north of Króksbjarg, was the abandoned village at Kálfhamarsvík. I'd seen a picture in the road book of the lighthouse with the twisted columns on the sea, but I had no idea how big a place this was. Someone has done a fabulous job putting up plaques on all the old ruins, when they were built, when they were abandoned or moved, and who lived there, all around the old village. It didn't last long, most were built around 1910-20, and most were abondoned again by 1930. Changing times. A nice place though.
I almost got caught out by the incoming tide here, I'd gone right out to the tip to take some pictures of the waves breaking, but turning to go back, I faced a rather larger channel of water from waves breaking behind me! I decided that wet feet were much better than waiting for the water to recede, with the incoming tide, it probably wasn't going to recede before it swept me off the spit, and that would have been a most unfortunate end to the day.
By now fully in the fog, and with the may sun still having to set for a while each night, that was about all we saw for the rest of the drive around to Sauðárkrókur. We set up camp there, though they haven't really opened for the season yet, and went and stuffed ourselves on soup, chips, and fish in the restaraunt before calling it a night. It's hard work touring the countryside and driving. Hard hard work.
During the night I had two messages from people struggling through another reykjavík weekend. Hah!
Sunday's plan mostly consisted of going up to Gréttirslaug, for a more reliable swim, and then seeing how the day went. They've been doing even more earthworks there, with a now massive rock wall block all view of the ocean, and the new pool that was built overflowing in all directions. A walk around the beach, and then back on the road again.
Some vague plans on looking at some side roads south of Blönduós, but the rain had returned fairly heavily by now, and some of them sounded like they needed some time for some hiking, so we just headed back into town, admiring the changing weather, and cloud formations along the ride home.
And with that epic monologue, I've caught back up again. I've even written epic monologues again, which earlier I'd had a brief lack of interest in. We're now about as close to real time photo publishing as it gets. Cheers from the north.