The wonders of Snæfellsnes

Trip Start Nov 04, 2011
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Trip End Jul 27, 2012


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Flag of Iceland  , West,
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Up at 6:15 this morning. Cheese toast for breakfast and got ready to leave for the bus terminal at 7:15. When we arrived I bought my ticket to "the wonders of Snęfellsnes" tour. We found my coach and then Guddis left and I waited for the tour to start at 8.

Our bus driver and tour guide was called Höddi. A nice guy who obviously loves the Snęfellsnes National Park and was very knowledgeable about all sorts of things like Saga tales, geology, birds, lava tubes, whales and sea animals etc.

The Snęfellsnes peninsula in Iceland's West is almost like a miniature of the whole country. There are white and black beaches, bird cliffs, spectacular mountains and volcanic craters, incredibly rich trout lakes and salmon rivers lush valleys, unique harbours in charming fishing villages and a world renowned glacier.

The stunning landscapes of the peninsula have captured the imagination of people all over the world ever since Jules Verne wrote the famous science fiction novel “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”; the amazing Snęfellsjökull glacier is where the journey begins and the Stromboli volcano in Italy is where it ends.

I slept a lot of the way to Borganes waking up every so often when Höddi pointed out an interesting landmark. We stopped in Borganes at 9:20 and had time to use the toilets and buy some things to eat for the day. I bought a Skyr and some Pringles and a Kitkat. Mmm healthy!

Höddi told us Egils saga the tale of Egill Skallagrimsson who's grandfather Kveldślfr came from Norway. Due to his broken allegiance to King Haraldr, Skalla-Grķmr and his father Kveldślfr flee Norway to settle in Iceland. Skalla-Grķmr settles in peace as a farmer and blacksmith at Borg, where his sons Egill and Žórólfr grow up.

The story continues with the childhood of Egill, which foreshadows his future rebelliousness. His family's peace is again lost as the social order is threatened by Egill's dangerous attitude. He stirs up trouble with his first murder with an axe at the age of seven. The story goes on to tell the tales of Egill's voyages to Scandinavia and England and his personal vendetta against King Eric Bloodaxe. We saw the farm where they lived and the lake where the killings were.

We saw some goats on the way which are apparently endangered in Iceland with only around 200 left.

Höddi told us about the geology of the land, and the layers of the earth you can see in the mountains. Also why these layers go down as they go inland, which is related to the movement of the tectonic plates but is also from the ice age where the weight of the ice was greater the further inland you got away from the coast.

We stopped to look at a volcano Crater at around 10 and there were so many craters and so much lava in this area. We also saw some more of the Basalt columns as we drove along.

We stopped at a beach at around 10:45 and went looking for seals. The tide was out so we didn't expect to see many, but saw a couple in the distance. I nearly stood on a birds nest of one of the Oystercatchers.

As we drove Höddi pointed out a lot of birds on the way, sometimes stopping to point them out to us. He obviously is very interested in birds and animals.

We stopped at about 11:30 to get some photos and I was super impressed with the scene. A volcano in the background, a waterfall and a stream and some sheep too! Across the road from this stop was the black church the guide book had mentioned in Bśdir.

At 12 we passed a place where there was a rock shaped like a seal. We also saw lots of the Arctic Tern which are apparently quite dangerous and swoop when they are nesting.

We were going to do an hour walk around the cliffs but I needed to go to the toilet, so we stopped quickly at a little cafe nearby just for me.

We stopped at Arnarstapi and saw the cute little fishing village. There are a lot of rock formations along the coast here. Caused by the sea washing away the walls of an old volcano. There were a lot of basalt columns here including a spectacular arch and some bent columns which look like the inside of the hull of a boat. There were also a lot of birds nesting in these cliffs.

A terrific split stone statue of the folk figure Bįrdur Snęfellsįs stands near Arnarstapi. According to legend, Bįrdur was an early settler in the area and his protective spirit lives on Snęfell and watches over the village.

At about 1:30 we stopped at Hellissandur's Café Gamla Rif where I had the fish soup. It was quite nice and the bread especially which tasted like moist damper! While we were here Höddi pointed out some dolphins and killer whales in the water.

We drove on past some volcano plugs to the entrance to a lava tube.  We could see inside through a hole to the snow and ice inside. In the olden days people used to use it like a refrigerator or take some of the ice for drinking water.

We saw the old rock cairns which were often used as markers along the numerous single-file roads or paths that crisscrossed the island; many of these ancient cairns are still standing, although the paths have disappeared.

Our next stop at 2:45 was at Djśpalónssandur a pretty pebble beach near Dritvik. Here there are 4 stones of different weights which were used to test the brawn of applicants for fishing boat crews. There was a buff guy there who picked up the second biggest one for our entertainment!

There is also a lagoon there and you also walk through an area where there is lava tipped on its side, the result of new lava flowing over the edge of dry lava and tipping it up.

On the shore of the beach are the rusting remains of the British Trawler the Epine. Which was wrecked off the coast of Dritvik in 1948. In winter and in high tides the water comes up over the beach and deposits the pieces of metal on the beach. It also fills up the lagoon which is fresh water on the top from the glacier and sea water below!

The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks was very beautiful, but even more intriguing was the sound the rocks made when the wave receded. A very soothing and melodic sound! Here we were also able to see the top of Snęfellsjökull without and cloud at the top.

We stopped at 3:45 briefly on the side of the road as Höddi had spotted some killer whales again closer to the shore. Got a couple of good pictures here, however still not much to see from this distance!

At 4:15 we stopped in Ólafsvķk for a toilet break. I wandered to the marina to have a look and take a couple of photos. On the way to Borganes we saw what seemed to be a horse with twins! Very cute. And also people doing a riding tour.

We stopped to look at Kirkjufell "the church mountain". It derives it's name for its special shape which in many respects resembles that of a church. It is one of the better known mountains in Iceland because it is especially beautiful and impressive. The formation of Kirkjufell is special in many respects. The lowest part of the mountain is composed of sediments containing fossils. The layers are made up of layers of lava, and sediment.

We stopped at 5:10 overlooking a big lake and the mountains. Very beautiful. I slept most of the way to our next stop which was for 15mins in Borganes. We left at 6:50.

The bus dropped me off around 7:40 at the Nesti on the Hofdabakkabru where Guddis was waiting to pick me up. We went for dinner at Guddis's parents. Where Guddis's mum had especially cooked a "svid" Sheeps head for me!

I didn't eat the eye or tongue but had some of the meat on the cheekbone. It wasn't that bad and just tasted like lamb! We had a yummy skyr dessert with crushed biscuit and raspberry sauce. Yum. We were both very tired so didn't stay long and left around 9.

We stopped by Guddis's elder brothers to say goodbye and then her dad dropped us home. We packed up most of our things and then off to bed at 11:45.
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