Journal of a 23-day Icelandic road trip

Tuesday August 11

Up at 7 am.

I chatted to a Dutch family we met the previous day (you can see their tents below). We shared our experiences of the terrifying tunnel. Then the father started cursing the weather: “Everyone says that in Iceland the weather changes every five minutes, but it’s not true. We’ve had the same miserable weather for a week now!” I agreed, for I’d been thinking the same thing, and it’s true that the gray sky, the wind and the rain are tough on your morale.

What do you imagine when you think of a free unstaffed campground? At the risk of seeming reactionary, I imagine it graffitied , vandalized and dirty. Well, here’s what an Icelandic free unstaffed campground looks like (and I haven’t even shown you the showers, which were impeccable, with hot water):

The dashboard indicates an average fuel consumption rate of 19.8 l/100 km (11¾ mpg). Ouch! Luckily I’m a pedestrian the rest of the year.

9 am – time to hit the road! We crossed Neskaupstaður, which was waking up. Here’s its indispensable swimming pool.

A short stop in Eskifjörður.

Here we are in Egilsstaðir at 10.20 am. It’s the largest town in the East, and the region’s economic hub. It’s no megalopolis though, with just 2,100 inhabitants, according to the 2004 figures. They’ve stuck aerial photographs of the town on the garbage trucks.

A painful session at the filling station. This time, I got 78.15 liters (20½ gallons) for nearly 15,000 ISK (€85).
The tank’s capacity was 120 liters (32 gallons)!

We took Route 93 to reach Seyðisfjörður.

It’s a very pretty little town of just 750 inhabitants, and it’s where the ferry from the Faroe Islands docks, which gives it a lot of tourist business.

A surprise was waiting for us just before we got to Seyðisfjörður: Gufufoss waterfall.

The skies cleared as we drove into town.

Look closely at this image. It might be a detail to you, but for us it meant an awful lot! It was the only occasion on our whole trip where we could simply wear T-shirts.

Dish of the day was a huge portion of hake with steamed vegetables, price for two just 3,000 ISK (€17), including a Diet Coke. The Icelanders are the uncontested masters of cooking fish, and this tasty lunch, with accompanying dose of vitamin D served by the sun, did us a world of good.

The Icelanders are very sporty. As I write this, they’ve just won the bronze medal in the European Handball Championships (I remind you that they have a population of only 300,000). They are also really passionate about soccer. I took advantage of this kids' training session to take a few shots.

Seyðisfjörður is a magnificent town.

In 2009, Sony turned the town into Soundville, for an experimental advert screened only on the internet.

Even more interesting is the “making-of” video, introducing the town and its inhabitants, which you can see here.

There’s an aluminum sculpture in front of the town hall.

You can understand it better from the side: it’s the shape of the fjord.

We wandered the town under a capricious sun.

It was 3 pm by the time we got back on the road. Direction Hallormsstadur forest. A forest in Iceland?! Well, we’ll see what that’s all about!

We parked in the car park of a chic hotel nestling in the woods. This is where the hiking trail into the heart of the forest starts. It’s not a virgin forest of course, but it’s a lovely area of vegetation all the same, and that’s quite rare in Iceland.

HALLORMSSTADUR, EAST ICELAND

We enjoyed capturing a rich array of shapes and colors.

The hike led us to this rock, which offered a very beautiful view over the big lake in this region: Lagarfljót. It goes without saying that there are numerous legends associated with this place, and its range of mysterious and hungry inhabitants. A pretty little waterfall behind us provided the soundtrack.

By 6 pm we were ready to set up camp for the night, at the campground very close to the lake. It was a superb spot, but there were lots of little black flies, although fortunately harmless.

We had a strange experience there. A boy of about twelve wandered up and just stood there staring at us without saying a word. He left, came back again, left and came back again, back and forth. I asked him who he was, and whether his parents were there. He told me yes they were here, a bit further away. But he stayed there, staring at us. It became really uncomfortable.

While we were eating dinner inside the car (it had of course started to rain) he came up and stood right in front of us, by the open trunk, to stare at us some more. It was too much and I chased him away. I saw him immediately go and do the same thing with the neighboring family. He stood wordlessly in front of them, which made the father very nervous, so he chased him away in turn. That kid really was very disturbing.

I went and took a few photographs of the lake as dusk fell.

A little Icelandic elf was playing with a bird’s feather in the trees not far away from me. Here’s Kristin, eight years old, born in Reykjavik, whose gaze was an unhoped-for culmination to this day.

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