Day three… (Varmahlíð, Glaumbær, Siglufjörður, Akureyri)

Today started out with novelty and earache. Earache, because we were daft enough to take our woollies off in the hotpot which, I’m reliably told, invariably leads to earache. Novelty, FIRSTLY because the cloud banks behind us had turned into *even more mountains* overnight:

(Those ^^^ looked excitin’ this morning. Oh, sweet innocence of then!)

And SECONDLY because the Belgian couple in the thingy next to us got engaged overnight. Which seemed pretty cool. We talked to them a bit, and it turned out she’d seen a bit of the northern lights last night. They also both reiterated that the best place to see the lights in recent times has been Essex, on the 27th of last month. They recommended we take a back road past some traditional farmhouses, so we decided to point ourselves that way.

An interlude. We first had to shower. Showering in Hestasport was a very, very eggy experience. Natural hot water -> the very best that even the most fruity of shower gels can hope to do, is lay a couple of horribly dissonant tinkly topnotes across a solid bass layer of blasting, visceral, fuming, rotten eggs.

And then, taking a couple of final photos, we said g’bye to fuglyhouse:

After driving down a 24 degree sheet-ice incline, and past the local swimming pool (more on the Icelandic swimming pool fetish at some point), we turned off the “main” road for the last time until Akureyri. The lady at the checkout had double-checked, and assured us that all onward roads were “open.” LOL! For certain values of open, perhaps.

So, yes. In bag end, there lived a hobbit… This whole country is filled with the seeds of hobbiton. The farm houses we sought were, I swear, located at a place called grumpybear glum bear. They were low to the ground, roofed in grass, and self-evident manifestations of hobbit holes.

The valley they were set in was, predictably, picturesque:

And the still-active graveyard was pretty spectacular, too. Should I convert to Lutheranism before I die, youse all have my full permission to bury me here.


(Tbh, I’d happily be buried here, once dead, irrespective of any antecedent conversions. But suspect local Lutherans may feel otherwise.)

On the off-chance that this leaves you thinking that the Calvinists were a pretty serious bunch, worry not! They had a kick-ass sled. Eryann would, we think, be jealous.

And after that, we basically headed north! North was not a busy road. In fact, North was so not busy that we later met a Saga tour party who’d flown from Reykjavik to Akureyri, and who had THEN driven north, specifically to avoid the road we’d taken. We occasionally saw surprised locals haring past us, though we were never 100% sure if they were amazed to see another car! or amazed to see anyone tame enough to drive at a mere 25kph on ice-covered, precipitous, coastal roads. We saw a snow-blower, too; though not for some time. Here’s a pic of it, anyhoos:

So!!! Yes. Back in temporal order. We drove up the valley, until we hit the sea. It would be about 45 mins til we saw another car, so we stopped in the middle of a single-track bridge, and took pictures of the glacial flow to our right, and the rather less dramatically lit sea to our left.

Turns out it’s really difficult to take an interesting picture of a bridge or flat, evenly-lit ice. So there ^^^ is the one interesting photo, IMO. And here are two from the other side:

The bit in the middle, in the lower pic, is our bridge.

The sea kinda defined the rest of our drive, so I’ll try to avoid being too tedious about it. It began with a lunch picnic of cheese, dwarven iron bread, and peanut m&ms, whilst overlooking local fjordik islands  just past horsesauce:

At this point, we thought we were driving between the sea and the mountains. However, the local mountains were rounded, quite isolated, and exceedingly dull when compared with later mountains. So only one is  included here. It’s in Appendix 1, if you’re REALLY that curious. With a car.

The first excitin’ mountains were the pointy ones, seen from afar.

These were not isolated bubbular mountains. But full-on herds of icy-tops. Things improved even more, when we rounded a corner and saw where the inlet took us:

All these pictures are from the same valley. A lovely bit of Iceland, with some ROBUST HORSES thrown in to boot.

These horses were being well-used. We saw a man galloping hither, thither and yon across this bit of ice / beach:

The far side of the valley also encouraged us to consider a change of plan, for we had noted that ten kilometres of tunnel connected Siglufjorthir and Odinsfjorthur. “Aha!” We thought. “We’ll take the scenic route, via route 802, instead! Straight through the mountains to Odin. No tunnels needed!”

Here is route 802, as it was when we arrived:

The road was so comprehensively knacked, that the Iceland road authority hadn’t even coloured it in. And they’ve got a colour for everything, from avalanches, to sprinkles and sunshine, to  >2m of snow. So we climbed up and around the spiky mountains instead.

The roadside snow drifts were 1-2m for much of the way, with some awesome views of the Atlantic. There weren’t many photo opportunities as, to be fair, there weren’t many places to stop. Single track and icy most of the way, again made easier by the lack of oncoming traffic.  We got one or two shots, though.

It was kinda amazing just how precipitous some human life was, too. We didn’t get any pics of the most amazing farms, because they appeared before we saw them and then had already gone. But a couple of farmers had squeezed themselves into 150 yard stretches between vertiginous mountains and the sea, with triangular fields that could have barely produced a surplus. Even when things were going well.

Here’s one of the larger farms:

Mountain, road, farm, sea, end. That’s it. Incredible.

A few more hairy bends and we encountered a one-car-width tunnel, opening out onto an incredible fjord…

This was the gateway to herring fishery, three-restaurant town and ski resort Siglufjorthir! Fantastic. An incredible place, though IMO people miss out by taking the non-coastal path. We browsed a bit, bought some crisps and ear buds, and sought out a coffee.

On the DOWN side, our coffee (and pancake) was pretty bloody awful. On the UP side, at £12ish, it was just about the cheapest thing we’ve eaten. So that’s a kinda win! YAAAAY. Go, team us!

We were also a bit surprised when a SAGA tour walked in, half way through our meal. Fair play to them! We had been the only people in there (perhaps because the locals had  tried the coffee before…..)

And them we took the dull road back to Akureyri. Mountains mountains fjord tunnel tunnel settlement tunnel mountains. That kind of thing.

We got to the hotel just after 6 feeling pretty knackered, tbh. The place is extremely well-reviewed, but feels eversoslightly like Cath Kidston got her hands on the hotel that was used in The Shining. The corridors and rooms also feel very institutional. I rather suspect this was an airing hospital for people suffering from consumption, or similar, in its first incarnation.

Dinner proved very Icelandic. £25 per head for two courses of  – admittedly excellent – surprise soup, followed by curious kebabs for me and half a tonne of salmon for A. And a small salad. We have a sneaking suspicion that the salad may be the most exclusive and rarefied bit.

There are undeniable strong points, too. The short, yellow dog likes both cheese and fingers.

Town, shopping, a lie in and – perhaps – skiing or whales tomorrow! But now, sleep….

Appendix One. 

Lesser Mountain plus Car. 

(See? Told you it wasn’t that great.)

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