Monday, June 24, 2013 (Day 6)
– Reykjavik souvenir hunting
– Errands before getting on the road
– 12p picnic lunch south of Borgarnes
– 1-2p Settlement Center
– 3:45p Hraunfossar/Bornafoss
– 5:30p drove back to Borgarnes
– 6:30p Bruarfoss waterfall of road 54
– 8p dinner at Stykkishólmur
It is our last day in Reykjavik and we are off to start our road trip today. The plan is to spend the rest of our 3 weeks here driving the Ring Road in a clockwise pattern, staying at various places of interest along the way. I’m excited to start seeing everything that Iceland has to offer. I’m also interested to see just how crowded the tourist sites will be once we get out of the main city, and I’m curious what the road conditions will be like.
We started out today getting ready for the road trip. Thinking that this is our last main city, we went ahead and finished off our souvenir shopping. Even though we started out the day nice and early to get ready to drive early, it didn’t matter since the stores didn’t open until after 10am anyway. So, we got a much later start. Our first stops were at a mega-mart for groceries, and a cooler for the car, and we had to stop at a gas station both for gas and gas cards. The pay-at-the-pump gas pumps only take credit cards with a chip and pin, European style, which we don’t have, so we wanted to pick up some pre-paid gas station cards that we could use if we came across any pumps without a cashier. (This turned out to be useful a couple times, but we found plenty of gas stations with indoor cashiers open late on our trip.)
At noon we stopped off the road overlooking Borgarnes for a picnic lunch of Subway sandwiches we purchased in Reykjavik. As it turns out, from our trip around the Ring Road, this might have been our only picnic lunch that we actually ate outside of the car. =) From there we headed into town to visit the Settlement Center. This proved to be incredibly interesting. One floor of the museum had exhibits about the Settlers History and the audioguide led us through the whole exhibit, which took around 30 minutes or so. The artwork inside the museum was superb as they created images of the vikings out of pure scrap wood and other pieces of scrap. The lower floor of the museum took us through the Saga of Egill. Iceland history is rich with the Icelandic sagas.
Wikipedia gives a great summary of what an Icelandic Saga is:
many of which are also known as family sagas—are prose histories mostly describing events that took place in Iceland in the 10th and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.
The Icelanders’ sagas are a literary phenomenon of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They are focused on history, especially genealogical and family history. They reflect the struggle and conflict that arose within the societies of the second and third generations of Icelandic settlers.
As we traveled, we saw that most pullouts and information points told of a certain saga that took place here. This was our first good intro, though, to what the sagas were about. On the way out of Borgarnes, we stopped at a gas station to get some ice for our cooler, but buying ice at a gas station is such an American concept, that we didn’t even know if we could get any ice here. Thankfully, they did have bags of ice, but they were super tiny bags! We were highly amused by this.
We kept driving, and stopped to note all the alpine lupine along the road, especially on road 510. We saw lots of sheep and noted that the sheep did not seem to be contained by fences. We saw plenty of sheep on both sides of a fence, the farm side, and the side next to the road. Traffic became nearly non-existent, the further we got from Reykjavik and the roads are one lane each way with no shoulder. Bridges are one lane, and for the most part, you don’t even really have to slow down much as there are no other cars driving towards you. It is a new experience driving in Iceland with it’s low, low brush that means you can see the road winding far into the distance.
Our main stops of today were at two waterfalls located at the same parking lot. Hraunfossar is a series of waterfalls 1km long, and very impressive indeed. We noticed that many of the tourists here are lugging around good tripods like I am. Just upstream was a waterfall called Barnafoss which was an easy little walk away and Mark updated Facebook while I spent some time photographing the waterfalls. We went for a little walk in a lavafield as well and marveled at the sight of all the old lava that still showed the exact flow over the land when it was hot and molten many years ago. The trip to see the waterfalls were off course from our original trip, so we had to drive back to Borgarnes and to the Ring Road again to travel on to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and our destination town of Stykkishólmur.
Stykkishólmur is our first tiny town. Most people come here as a jumping off point to the West Fjords (which we didn’t have time for on this trip), but we came to see the peninsula. We will drive the peninsula tomorrow. First, we had to find our guesthouse for the night. With just one main street, you’d think it would be easy to find, but we drove up and down a few times before calling our host and asking for a location. We found our guesthouse behind another house and up a steep path. Langey Homestay turned out to be a guy’s rather tight house featuring 5 or 6 guestrooms when it really should have only had about 2 guestrooms. We realized right away that there was no way we were bringing our duffle bag into the house, and we unpacked what we needed for one night’s stay at the car. Our room was big enough for a double bed and a space to walk around the bed, but the rest of the house was packed in so tight, we had to walk slowly and carefully not to bump into anything. Our host’s living quarters was a back room literally the size of two twin beds. One half had the bed, and the other half a desk, and he sat on his bed with his feet on the desk typing on his laptop. The whole place was a bit dingy, too, and I wouldn’t stay here again. I was glad we only were here for one quick night. Our host was very knowledgeable about the area, though, and gave us some good tips on where to drive tomorrow.
We went to dinner at one of the 2 restaurants in town. The 2 restaurants were owned by the same guy, and we could see a cook out running between the two of them! =) We had delicious seafood here, a monkfish, and salmon. Mark finished off with a cheesecake dessert, and we were happy with our meal.