Thursday, July 21, 2011

Iceland Chronicles - Part IX (Snæfell area)

As promised by the weather forecast, the rain stopped during the night and we woke to a bright sunny day.

We decided to explore the high-land. Here there was one of the few paved roads that run into the higher plateau close to the glaciers. We drove south along the lake and then up a steep twisting road that climbed out of the valley.

Up above the green grass and forest were replaced by short combination of hard-living grass and moss.

There were sheep scattered along the road in small groups. Usually a mother and her one or two lambs (which are quite large by now).

From the distance we could see the mountain Snæfell, which stands by it self in front of the range of mountains covered by the huge icecap that we will circumvent the next few days. The flat plateau was riddled with small streams and puddles.  As we drove we saw the icecap lining the southern horizon, but it was too far to see details.

Our destination was a reservoir that was dammed for hydro-electric plant. When we got there we saw that the water level was much below the top water line. Thus, the spilloff that was supposed to form an impressive waterfall was dry.

Instead, we explored the viewpoint around the dam and then returned on our way.

On the way back we saw impressive views and also stopped at view point overlooking another series of man-made reservoirs.

Driving back to the valley, we passed again through the forrest we camped in last night. In the sun they looked better, but still not that impressive. We returned to Egilsstaðir to restock on food.

Since it was already early afternoon, we decided to skip the Eastern Fjords, whose description sounded very much like areas we already seen in the west side of Iceland. Instead we drove directly toward Höfn, on the southeast shore close to the icecap. The road (number 939) climbed through a mountain pass and very sharply down a valley toward the sea. All the main roads here were dirt roads, and apparently closed in winter.

We stopped for lunch at picnic spot overlooking a small waterfall.

After we reached the shore, we rejoined the ring road and drove along the coast.

The area has fjords that are closed off by long "barrier islands". This creates lagoon like areas that shelter many seabirds.

We stopped at the shore to watch the birds and collect weird stones on the beach.

It was surprising to see sheep on the water line. When we got closer they took off.

The way to Höfn seemed longer than we planned. And at some point the fuel levels seemed dangerously low. When the warning light turned on we got a bit worried, but managed to get to Höfn before the tank was totally empty. We checked in to camping ground, and started preparing dinner.

One of the problems we had in the store was choosing meat. Chicken was pretty discernible. But the other meats were not always that clear. Some of the brands had picture (e.g., pig or lamb) that helped understand what is packed inside. But, otherwise all the labels were in icelandic. One of the packages seemed like a steak, and also the picture showed a steak. When starting to barbecue it, my suspicions rose. It was too red and too flakey. Once cooked it was clear that this was some kind of fish. The horrible taste suggested that it might be the infamous icelandic shark. One bite and the taste stuck for the rest of the evening. We unceremoniously discarded it and made hotdogs instead.

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