Höfn and back
Getting into Höfn (pronounced somewhere between "hep" and "hup", with
a glottal stop), we stopped in the tourist information centre to try to
arrange accommodation. Ringing around proved a bit frustrating, and in
the end we just drove around, ending up in Guesthouse Hvammur right on
the harbour-front. That was 6900 króna for the night, but we were both
tired and feeling a little bit under the weather, so a warm comfortable
room with our own sink was impossible to turn down.
We unpacked clothing to dry and I started charging camera batteries,
then we went out to eat, walking around and picking the nicer of
two restaurants. We had an excellent dinner: deep-fried haddock and
pan-fried trout, followed up with hot chocolates (3800 króna all up,
making it an expensive day).
After dinner we bought some milk, skyr, and ice creams from the
supermarket, then went for a walk around the headland, where there's a
strange Seamen and Fishermen's Monument. The peninsula Höfn sits on is in
a huge lagoon, protected by giant sandbanks, and is surrounded by an array
of small islands. At its end is a small wetland - wandering around that
we saw diving kittiwakes, fulmars, and various ducks. We also startled a
snipe from the bushes, who flew away leaving her two chicks.
After that we went to the glacier exhibition, which was miraculously
still open. This is more focused on exploration than science, which
didn't appeal to Camilla so much - and I also thought the exhibition
at Skaftafell was better (it's also free).
Höfn isn't considered much of a tourist
attraction, other than as a transport nexus on the Ring Road and a base
for tours of Vatnajökulll. I rather liked it, however, and would happily
have spent a whole day there if we'd had the time. It's attractively
situated and with nearly 2,000 people it has restaurants, a swimming
pool, supermarkets, and so forth. And there's a Maritime Museum and a
Folk Museum, neither of which we saw.
Showering before bed, we discovered we were both sunburnt - Camilla on
the back of the neck, I on the back of the legs!
Sunday 31st August
Camilla rescuing a fulmar
In the morning we wandered around the harbour a little, taking photos.
The Maritime Museum didn't open till 1, but we stopped (for too long)
in the Information Centre for Net access.
Then we were on our way, retracing our steps towards Reykjavik.
Along the road we encountered juvenile fulmars, trying to reach the
sea from cliffs inland. Some were stuck behind fences on the wrong
side of the road, while others were sitting right in the middle of it.
So Camilla would get out, grab the birds, and put them over the fence on
the seaward side of the road. But the birds didn't like being picked up -
she had to chase one several hundred metres down the highway - and fulmars
use projectile vomit as a defensive mechanism... After being vomited on
a couple of times, her ardour for fulmar-rescuing started to wane.
"In case you're wondering, fulmar vomit is bright orange, it's projectile,
slimey, smells like rotten fish, and it takes two washes to remove the
smell from your clothing and several days before your hands and arms
We stopped at 1pm at Jökulsárlón for lunch, spending three quarters of
an hour sitting by the lagoon admiring the icebergs. It was 18 degrees
and sunny - there was even heat haze on the road! - and the lagoon
had a different aspect to the previous day.
We arrived at Skaftafell half an hour too late for the glacier walk,
which was a bit disappointing - I'd done that on Franz Joseph glacier
in New Zealand, but Camilla had never been on top of a glacier.
Camilla showered, trying to remove the smell of fulmar vomit, and then
we had a quick look at the old turf houses at Sel. (These are not that
exciting, at least if you've seen the old houses at Skógar.)
Sel also offered a good view of the Skeiðará bridge, which stretches for
nearly a kilometre over the floodplain of the river. Our next stop was
the monument made of pieces of the old bridge, 200 metres of which was
washed away in 1996 by the flood (jökulhlaup) following an eruption of
the volcano under the Vatnajökull ice cap.
We stopped at 'Klausturs to wash the car and eat a hot dog and chocolate,
then it was back across the Mýrdalssandur, with just one photo stop
this time. It was rather warm - 21 degrees - but as we approached
Vik (one of the wettest towns in Iceland) it rapidly
became cooler and more overcast.
We'd planned to camp again, but it was too windy and damp, so we ended
up at Hotel Dyrhólaey, to the west of Vik. This was pretty flash, but
as an end-of-season special 70,000 got us our nicest room of the trip,
with en suite and breakfast. There were no cooking facilities, however,
and it was too windy to try to use a stove outside, so we drove back
into Vik and had dinner in the restaurant attached to the service station.
Next: Dyrhólaey, Kerið, Reykholt
Previous: Jökulsárlón (Jokulsarlon)
[Alternative spellings: Hofn, Fiskholl, Skeidara, Vatnajokull, Myrdalssandur, Dyrholaey]