Yen's Blog

Lens, Wheels, Skates, Keyboard

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We woke up still very dark, even though our clocks, both external and internal, said it should be otherwise. We hurried breakfast and luckily finished just as a tour bus disembarked English and maybe American tourists. The rain had ceased, enough clouds had lifted and the sun was coming up and, allowing us to see for the first time the beautiful mountain ranges, snow-covered and suffused in pinkish rays. We got on the way as quickly as we could, but stopped just as soon as we cleared the gate to enjoy the distant spectacle.

View of lake Elliðavatn. The guesthouse comes with an outdoor hot tub, though we didn’t try it out on account that it was near-freezing.

It was now 10, but no lighter than 6. During the drive we couldn’t help but look in the rear view mirror to see the glowing sky behind.

There were quite a few rotaries on Highway 1 on the way out of Reykjavik, but I can’t get enough of them. With light traffic, it means no stopping! A rotary is self-regulating; heavier traffic gets the chance to move and clear out first. It’s completely unnecessary to put down ugly traffic lights or stop signs that are inefficient and mar the view. Why we don’t a have more of them at home I’ll never know. American are as averse to rotaries as they are to versatile and stylish hatchbacks.

We caught sight of these Icelandic horses. They are fully-grown yet no bigger than ponies, perfect for hobbits. They are quite handsome with a flowing mane. They seemed to be more ubiquitous than sheep.

We soon entered a tunnel underneath Whale Fjord, named Hvalfjarðargöngin (pronounce it, I dare you). It’s 5.75km and built at a mere $70 million, chump change a far as Boston’s Big Dig goes. It was built without tax payer money, so guess who pays? It cost a cool 1000kr or about $9, each way. Soon after that we crossed the Firth of Borg into the town of Borganes. There are some prominent wind advisories signs though it was calm on the way in.

We pulled off the road at the first sign of ice chunks lying scattered in a small bay. It turned out to be even better, there was a small but pretty waterfalls flowing into the bay.

The landscape had a desolate, yet starkly beautiful, quality. The weather was a surprisingly mild with temperatures around -1 to 4c the whole day. However, as we drove further, it started raining then flurries came down. Next stop was the Gerðuberg basalt columns, about 1.5km down a snow-covered gravel road. This interesting geological formation had the same geometric columns as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. In the first couple of shots it was impossible to see the columns thanks to the flurries. But I got passable result by putting the camera on top of the camera and using a 20-second exposure.

After half an hour of difficult driving, the snow yielded to rain and the road was completely clear, so we made good progress. Another half an hour later the rain was gone and we found ourselves in about 2 inches of snow. From this point on, the road turns sharply uphill and there was a sign for tire chains. Since our car wasn’t thus equipped, we had to satisfy ourselves with a snowy look at Bjarnafoss and turn around.

We saw this tube house on the way back. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Shire if not for the lack of greenery.

We ran into these ubiquitous Iceland mammals on the way back. Note the complete absence of any accumulation. Soon after that we were besieged by the storm again and even saw another car that had skidded into the ditch besides the road (it had help).

Just before Borganes, we turned left and headed north to look for Glanni Falls. Unfortunately darkness and more snow conspired against us and we were foiled again. Our last adventure of the day was to Pho Vietnam back in the capital city. Pho cost around 1450kr and and Bun Thit Nuong 1650kr, about twice the price at home. The Pho noodle was the wrong type, there weren’t veggies aside from beansprout and cilantro and instead of Sriracha ours was an imitation, but it was all to be expected. According to our waiter, there are around 400 Vietnamese on the island, a surprisingly high number. But perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising consider the second most numerous foreign ethnic group on the island, after the Poles, are Filipinos.

When we returned to the hotel, our room had a bit of sulfurous smell. It turned that on Iceland hot water comes mainly from geothermal source. Even 5-star hotels are probably not immune. We tried to imagine that we were at a hot springs.

Last visit: November 29, 2013