More WestFjords

We start with a nice breakfast at the Latrabjarg’s dinning room – a beautifully proportioned room that used to be the auditorium of the community center when more people lived around here. Michelle discovers an old upright in the corner and recognizes the brand as popular American piano manufacturer from the past. The owner sees her interest and when he finds out that she is a professional musician, asks if she’d like to try it. She does and the room is full of music for a few minutes. The piano sounds great and Michelle says that it is in good shape.

Then it is time to say goodbye to Alu and Michelle. We are so glad they came. They drive back to Reykjavik today and head back home in a couple of days. The week has gone by quickly.

We drive over the pass at Kleifaheiði heath and back along Vatnsfjörður past where the ferry dropped us off, to the tiny village of Flókalundur. According to local history this is where the first Norse, Raven-Flóki settled, sometime before 900 CE. He climbed up to a mountain and saw an ice filled fjord believed to be Ísafjörður to the north, and said something like “I shall call this land Iceland”. At Flókalundur Jo has plans. Instead of following a nicely paved road along the southern coastline of Westfjords that would get us to our destination sooner, she has me turn north into unpaved cloud covered wildness. Almost instantly we run into road construction. I mean literally. There are huge slowly moving machines that are excavating and dropping rock and aggregate that we drive on moments later. We don’t understand what’s written on the orange warning signs. There are few people in Iceland, so nobody is around to direct traffic. But the construction crew must be better at seeing through the foggy soup because 1) they don’t seem surprised to see us, and 2) they avoid making us a part of the road.

We wind along the cloud-covered muddy road for quite a while – this is a big heath. Around us we get peeks at massive cliffs and mountains and snow banks and eventually the clouds lift and we find ourselves in a beautiful spot. I get out to stretch my legs and look around. I notice that our rental isn’t exactly clean. I can’t tell what color it was. Getting in and out without getting muddied requires acrobatics skills and steady surgeons’ hands. Alas I have neither so instead I have muddy pant legs and hands.

There is a lake to our right and a cliff to our left. A stream cascades into the lake and flows out the other end and disappears over the cliff. Far below I see that there is another wide flat heath with more streams and then even further below is the next fjord, Arnarfjörður. Somewhere around here there’s got to be a nice tall waterfall. Aha! That is why Jo brought us here.

We drive along the edge of the heath and down a steep curved grade to the fjord. The views are fantastic and I have to stop driving a couple of times to take it in (the option to drive and look at the same time is a non-starter). At the bottom we look up and see Dynjandi with six or seven waterfalls tumbling down into one another. The crown jewel is the topmost fall, the tall and badass Fjallfoss. Here’s Jo at one of the other lovely falls.

Vivian and I start climbing up the trail to the base of Fjallfoss, the big bridal veil like falls on the top. It is hard to tell how big the falls are in the photos. The total combined height of the drop of all six falls in Dynjandi is over 150 m. The height of the topmost falls by itself is 100 m. In the photo below there is a ledge at the base of the top falls. There are a handful of people standing there, one with their arms outstretched over their head if you look carefully. That should give you some scale. It also made me wonder why that person and then one by one the others strike Instagram worthy poses. Even from here I can see they aren’t taking selfies.

Then Vivian and I come around a corner on the trail and see a small forest of tripods with cameras mounted on them. The cameras are outfitted with zoom lenses. Two people with hand held radios man the cameras. When the tourists are ready up by the falls they radio the camera crew who then go to that person’s camera and click away. This tour group is going to have some solid Instagram posts. Vivian and I have to make do with this selfie when we get up there on the ledge below the thundering falls…

The road out of Dynjandi is paved. We drive along the first fjord and pass through two tunnels in short order. The second tunnel, Vestfjarðagöng, is the longest tunnel in Iceland. It even has a roundabout in the middle where three highways meet! A large portion of the tunnel is a single narrow lane with tunneled pullouts where oncoming traffic wait for us. The instructions are obviously in Icelandic. Jo follows the car in front of us and we make it out in one piece without pissing off anyone – I think. When we exit from the tunnel we are above the lovely town of Ísafjörður and a fjord with the same name. That fjord is one of six smaller side arms that connect to a bigger fjord, the Ísafjarðardjúp (“djúp” is deep). The views are magnificent. This is the fjord that Raven-Flóki is said to have gazed upon over a thousand winters ago when he named this land Iceland. I look at the very same bit of land and water as Flóki. There is no sign of human habitation as far as the eye can see northwards (there is a two-lane highway with a hybrid car directly behind me : – ). We are as far north as we’ll go. We are above 66 degrees N, but not inside the Arctic circle. But even up here we can’t escape our effects on earth. Iceland is losing its ice caps fast. If Flóki lands here fifty years from now he’ll have to come up with a different name.

We stop at the town of Ísafjörður for gas. Then we notice two guys at the far end of the gas station washing their truck with a hose attached to a big brush in a bay that has a couple more setups to wash cars. We pull up in our muddy car and ask them where/how to pay. They tell us it is a free service. Jo and I get to work and minutes later we have ourselves an almost clean vehicle. We drive around a bit and then stop to eat. We walk past a Thai restaurant with not great reviews and then find a kabab joint. As usual in Iceland there is only one person running everything. He is out of several items. But what we get is great and all four of us chow down our lunch. By then we are the only customers (it is a late lunch) and we chat with him a bit. He is from Kurdistan and arrived in Iceland with his family as a child. He offers his view on Icelandic food. “Their soups are terrible. No seasoning. All my Icelandic friends eat here.” And on geopolitics. “We like the Americans. They are honest. They only want money and oil. The Russians like to kill.” And finally on Turks. “Fuck the Turkish”. He pronounces the “u” as “oo”, and the “T” with a soft “th”. Thoorkish. I apologize to Turkish readers for the man’s rudeness.

We head out with full bellies and a happy clean car and drive up and then down the other side of five of those six southern side fjords of Ísafjarðardjúp for the next couple of hours. At the start the views are nice and I take it all in while I drive. By the time we get to the last one I am beginning think of fjords the same way our new Kurdish friend thinks of Turks. Finally our Apple CarPlay announces “In 600 m turn right”. We go up a dirt road along a lovely mountain stream through a steeply glaciated valley and in a few miles we arrive at Heydalur, our destination for the night.

Heydalur is a country adventure “resort” for people and families. There is a large campground that is slowly filling up with campers and tents and kids. The reception is in a big barn-like wooden building that also houses the dinning facilities and bar and Jo checks us in. The kids’ room is around the other side of the one of the buildings from us. They chill while Jo and I step out to explore. The property in interesting with a near-by outdoor hot tub, an indoor hot pool (in a fairytale-like indoor arbor), and a further away natural hot pool on the other side of a stream. We walk down to the stream but can’t cross it without getting our shoes wet so we return via the stables where we see the horses being led into the pasture for the day.

After our walk and a nice dinner (fish soup, lamb, arctic char) we tell the the kids to go explore and I go back to our room and nod off. Jo wakes me up later and says she can’t find the kids. She’s looked everywhere and even went back down to the stream to check the natural hot tub. She says that there were three naked people on the other side of the stream but it was too far to tell. We agreed that while we can see Vivian getting naked and going off with others, we could not imagine Evan doing that. Then Jo heard their voices from up the mountain on the north side of the valley (I can’t hear shit). After a while we see them and they wave back from what looks like the top of the long flat-topped mountain. I start climbing to go meet them. There is a trail now and then over rocks covered with heather and though the slope is steep the climbing is easy. I pass Vivian and Evan on their way down and Evan warns me that it is a hard climb. Now I have to do this. An hour later I’m on top of the third false peak that I have encounter (Vivian and Evan were on the first when we saw them), and there is at least one more above me, though the top has flattened out. I’m pretty high and can look over to the fjord now. I sit down the enjoy the soft moss and the lovely evening and the total silence. After a while I add a tiny rock to the top of a nearby cairn and walk back down. Meanwhile, Vivian and Evan have been to the nearby hot tub (clothed in swim trunks) and then settled down for the night. It is past 11pm and still bright outside. I fall asleep thinking happy thoughts about Iceland.

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