Two great but dusty drives
Trip Start Jul 23, 2010
25Trip End Aug 16, 2010
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We started with a brekkies-picnic at the bank … since it was a public holiday, no one was going in and out of the bank, but we felt a bit strange eating there. We then drove up highway 94, a mostly dirt road which runs first down a wide river valley then climbs over a high pass to xxx. After dropping precipitously down the other side, the road passes by one town, then rises again and transverses a sharp skree slope, once rumored to be home to an angry spirit that threw unwary travelers to their death. A cross on the road, originally placed in the middle ages and replaced many times over the centuries, reminds travelers to pass with care and revere god, or something.
Arriving safely in Bakkagarthi (or Bakkagerdi), a town nestled at the base of a mountain-ringed valley, we had coffee at the local café (which had great tables built out of rocks) and enjoyed the view
We drove to the end of the road (at least, to the end of the road for passenger cars), a small harbor sheltering behind a small hillock. The harbor apparently does not offer great protection for fishing vessels, although a new breakwater will hopefully help. The cliffs opposite the hillock are swarming with puffins, and it was delightful to watch the birds. I kept thinking of flying penguins, which I know isn't fair to the puffins, but that really what they looked like. They also moved around in the same clueless fashion that nesting penguins do. Are we sure they’re not related?
As we returned to the village, we stopped to climb elf hill – a place where locals believe the elves have their capital. The hill is small, but we did our chant ("Blue sky!"; “Why you want to play a brother like that?”; “Are you fuckin’ kidding me?” and “Dub Tef, mate!”), hoping the elves would come out to see what was up, but they didn’t
One thing we found amusing on the drive: a farm doing work the old-fashioned way. While every other grass farm have clearly used industrial bailers, which create the giant marshmallows that litter the landscape (we saw one in action a while back) to harvest and prepare the cut grass for storage, this farm had an old-fashioned tractor, with a cube bailer. We could see two people out stacking the bails into larger cubes, and covering the large cubes with a plastic wrap. Clearly, they don’t object to the use of plastic, but the grass is so exposed to the elements, it can’t protect the hay much. Since we have seen no other farm using this approach, we were intrigued. But it also raises the question of how every other farm can afford the mega-bailers.
We took a different (equally dusty) route back up the river valley. This one took us past a hydroelectric plant – it makes sense that Iceland would have many of these, but we’ve seen so many geothermal, and so many of the rivers are all untamed, that it was a bit of an anomaly. Returning to town, we washed the car: it was so covered in mud, we could barely see out the back window.
In the evening, we took a drive along Logurinn lake. The lake is lined with forests, some of the few in Iceland. We looked for the famous monster but saw no sign of it. The object of our journey down the lake, besides just seeing the lake, was a major waterfall. It was about 45 minutes to hike to the waterfall. At first, the climb is steep and the ground uneven, but the terrain slowly becomes less steep. The best part of the climb is that there are many levels of waterfalls, so one is rewarded regularly with views of falls, basalt columns, and the changing light on the lake. The big falls sit back in a box canyon; you walk out along a flat trail to see them in full. They run down a cliff with red and brown strata: the red is formed by iron in the soil, which can be exposed to water and air and rusts. The other layers either do not have iron or are not exposed to the right elements. As we turned back to start our hike down, the rain began to fall. It was a long enough (and windy enough) walk, that we got sopping wet.
So we went to the hotel to change clothes before dinner. We decided to drive out to xxx for dinner – since it is where the ferry from the mainland arrives, we had read that it had numerous restaurants. The drive over the pass was absolutely amazing, with gorgeous views of the fjord, the town below, a large tarn (formed by a dam, actually), and many impressive waterfalls. We found a cute bistro, but they had just closed their kitchen (it was only 8:30pm, so they closed early). We looked at three other restaurants, and the others were either too expensive or too crowded. So, we opted to return over the amazing drive and eat at the same place we dined last night. Plus, we were glad to make that drive one more time in the daylight, to take full advantage of the views.
We compromised with perfectly decent pizza and drinks at a nearby restaurant, then we went to bed.