Wednesday, June 26, 2013 (Day 8 )
– stayed in in the morning to plan out the rest of the week
– lunch at subway in Akureyri
– 3p mountain stream pictures in Öxnagdalsheiði valley during a break in the rain
– 3:30p Grunbær turf museum, only time of sun today
– dinner back in Akureyri at Greifinn
Our accommodations at the Guesthouse Hrafnagil, 12km south of Akureyri are really nice. The guesthouse is set on a working farm with our hosts in a separate building. As we drive around Iceland, we find that rather than hotels, lodging in farm guesthouses is most common, and many farms have a guesthouse and/or restaurant on their property. This place gets a great review from us because it was homey, comfortable, and super clean and new-looking. We had a large room with a comfy bed on the first floor just outside the communal living room with a comfy couch. We had access to the full kitchen and the laundry room downstairs. There were 2 shared bathrooms, one for the first floor, and one for the second floor which meant we never had to fight for rights to the bathroom. Also, it was large and kept clean. The host came over in the morning to cook everyone breakfast in the communal kitchen, too. Plus, the wifi had a great connection. Outside, the horses were munching on grass, and we spent the morning relaxing, planning out the rest of the week, and taking a mini-break from sight-seeing.
I had hoped to get laundry done this morning, but the host was using the washer all day, and we could use it this evening. So, come lunchtime, we decided it was time to leave the house and we headed for an easy lunch at Subway in Akureyri before continuing on. Today we decided to drive around the peninsula just west of Akureyri, though I can’t tell if it has a name. We made a loop going west out of Akureyri on the Ring Road 1, going north on 76 towards Siglufjörður, then south on 82 and back to Akureyri.
After a wonderfully clear sunset last night/this morning, and a great looking morning, now the clouds and mist had invaded our afternoon, and we spent the bulk of the time just sight-seeing from the car rather than getting out much. At 3p on the drive we stopped in the Öxnagdalsheiði river valley during a break in the rain to get some photos. Already, I was getting used to leaving the keys in the ignition when I got out of the car to take some photos, not too far away. Now that we are in the northwest part of Iceland traffic is rare, and I spend a lot of my time driving down the center of the road, slowly, so that I can take in the scenery. When I see a spot I want to photograph, I simply come to a stop, and sometimes reverse down the road a bit, and just hop out and take a photo! It is a glorious way to take a photographic vacation! Anyway, so I just leave the keys in the ignition now. Well, at this pull out with the Öxnagdalsheiði below us in a gorge, I jumped out of the car to take a photo and as I walked, I noticed a little path going down a ways. I started following it with my camera and tripod, and before I knew it, I was far from the car, but in a perfect spot for photos. =) Luckily, I had Mark with me and when he saw me going down the path, he took the keys out, closed the trunk, got my jacket, and followed me down. =) We were both amused.
At 3:30p, we found the one sunny area of the day when we stopped at the Grunbær turf house museum. It was beautiful with the sun shinning through a hole in the clouds, and falling only on this green area with the turf houses. In the distance in all directions, mountains rose up into dark, rainy clouds, providing a great contrast in color to the green turf houses in front of us. I took advantage of the sheep farm here as well to get sheep photos, since Iceland is all about the sheep. We see them more than we see cars or people, but we don’t have a lot of photos of them.
Turf houses, are just what they sound like….they are small houses made out of sod and covered in grass. I was actually expecting houses that had been dug into the sides of hills or something, but the turf houses were actually constructed out of sod bricks and layers dug from the ground. The roof was the standard triangular shape, and the grass cover went up and over the sides of the houses, over the roof and down the other side. Here, at this turf house/museum, several houses were linked together in a clump to create several rooms in a larger house as well as some storage areas. It was really interesting to see the patterns that they used for the sod walls. We could see the definite lines between the sod bricks and layers and they were laid in a decorative fashion in patterns. The walls were incredibly think, as well, for insulation and structural strength. We went inside one room and it was like being in a dirt cave, as expected. I could certainly never live in one, but it was a good use of resources for those that did use turf houses as trees are scarce.
We didn’t stay long, and got back in the car, driving now through misty, cold, rain, and wind. We didn’t stop much, though the coast we were driving along was very scenic and interesting…..just lesser so in the rain. To get around to the northern point on the peninsula, we were now driving narrow roads along cliffs and at one point we had to go through a tunnel through the mountain. Like the bridges, the tunnel was a one-lane tunnel! Not having driven in one before, I was a bit apprehensive about going in without knowing if another car was coming, but as it turned out, there were lots of pull outs inside the tunnel. This one wasn’t very long, and we could actually see to the other side once we were inside and a car was coming, they pulled out and let us pass. The next tunnel we came to was easier now that we knew about the pull outs. =)
We were hoping to arrive in Siglurfjörður, one of the northern-most points in Iceland, just 40km south of the arctic circle before 6p so we could visit the Herring museum here. Siglurfjörður was the herring capital of the North Atlantic from 1900 to 1970 and hundreds of fishing boats crowded the tiny fjord to unload their catches. Today the town just has a population of 1300, but in its herring heyday, the population exploded to over 10,000! Today, we arrived too late for the museum, but the mist cleared enough that we went for a walk along the pier and got some photos of the interesting buildings. It seemed popular to have a small boat, broken in half with each half lining the walkway entrance to a building.
Driving out of Siglurfjörður, we had to drive through several other, long tunnels that made that first tunnel look super easy. There was one tunnel that was about 3.5km, single-lane. The weather was not favorable, so we pretty much just drove on back to Akureyri. We were driving past what was supposed to be a magnificent coastline, especially at sunset, but it was mostly just cold and dreary. Maybe we can come back for sunset in Ólafsfjörđur or Dalvïk on another day. We drove on to Akureyri and had a tasty dinner at Greifinn which was advertised as a tex-mex place, but really was just a place with an extensive menu with something for everyone. Mark had their “fajitas” which was more like beef covered in a tomato stew-like sauce on a sizzling plate, but there were torillas. =) We have to at least try tex mex everywhere we go.
After dinner it was back to our guesthouse for wifi use and bed.