June 21, 2009
We agreed to meet at 8 am for breakfast, then to leave for our road trip. The four of us tried to squeeze all of our packs into the back of the Suzuki. We finally managed that, and assigned Neil to permanent car-packing duty on the basis of his superior skills, then off we went. Surprisingly it was only 9:30 am when we left!
Our route took us out of Reykjavík on the ring road heading north. The first point of interest was the tunnel under Hvalfjörður. Our guide book had described the toll as “staggering”, but it turned out to be 8,000 IKR, which we translated into $80 CDN. We all thought that was quite a reasonable toll for 6 kilometres of tunnel. After that it was onwards to Borgarnes, where we crossed Borgarfjörður on what was supposedly Iceland’s longest bridge. It didn’t look like much of a bridge, but perhaps that length included the long causeways at both ends. Here we left the ring road and turned north-westward on Highway 54 towards Snæfellsness.
The day was cloudy, but luckily the clouds were high enough so we saw some very beautiful views. The scenery en route was fantastic, with ever-changing landscapes of lava with different shades of green coming down the slopes.
We had decided to do a walk from our little hiking book while travelling to our next hostel, so when we saw the sign to Eldborg (“Fire Castle”) we turned off. Our book gave us very good instructions and shortly after that we arrived at the farm which was the trailhead. We could see the castle-shaped volcanic crater rising in the distance from quite a way off. The walk itself took about an hour and was very easy. For the most part it was flat, through willow bushes across the lava, then the final ascent up to the edge of the crater was steeper.
For now it was sunny, or at least not especially cloudy, and there were many different kinds of flowers blooming. There were a lot of birds singing, too, including some snipe making their strange metallic winnowing sounds.
The crater was quite full of vegetation, since it had been formed hundreds or thousands of years ago, but the lava rocks making it up looked as good as new. While on top we could see a rain shower coming our way, and in a few minutes we got quite wet. It didn’t take us long to get back to the car and, as the rain had stopped, we were dry by the time we arrived.
It was now getting on towards 1 pm, so we decided to have lunch at the first suitable place we came to. It was Rosemary’s turn to drive, and before long she spied a picnic table at the side of the road. As we pulled up, a jaeger flew by, and then as we were getting the food out of the car, a whimbrel flew up from the grass nearby. It was very windy, so we had to hold down everything on the table as we ate.
After lunch was done we carried on, turning off onto Highway 56 which would take us across the peninsula and onwards to Grundarfjörður. Once again the volcanic scenery over the mountain pass was spectacular.
Grundarfjörður is a very small town located on the north side of the Snæfellsness peninsula. A beautiful setting it certainly was. We found the youth hostel very easily, and apparently we were in luck because they upgraded us to a suite. This suite turned out to be in a mostly empty apartment building on the waterfront. It was a very nice place with two bedrooms, a large but sparsely furnished kitchen, and a strange mixture of furniture. Once we were settled in we decided to walk back to see the waterfall which we had noticed on the way into town.
The walk was along the water’s edge, so we got to see numerous families of eiders, plus oystercatchers and a seal. Christine headed off across a farmer’s field to find the waterfall and Neil followed, but the two of us decided to head back to town. There were frequent rain showers, but we figured they would stop so we continued on. Grundarfjörður has very little in the way of shops so we didn’t go into anything other than the tourist information place, and we didn’t find anybody selling handcrafts.
By now the rain had lightened up, but we headed back to the room, only to find Neil and Christine waiting. We had the only key! Christine and Rosemary cooked dinner – marinated lamb chops with basmati rice and onions. It turned out very well.