Sunday, November 13, 2016

Iceland road trip - day 8

Wednesday 21 September 2016

We checked out of Akureyri in the morning. Because we stayed only one night in each place, we would check the room very carefully before leaving. And because Xena is tiny and we are lazy, we delegated to her the task of crouching down to check under the bed for anything we'd left behind. It's only fair -- she's closer to the ground than us! Also, in most cases it would be her belongings -- books or colour pencils or hair clips.

Before we left, I used the hair straightener I'd discovered in the bathroom to tame the wild jungle on my head. I looked so much more shareef suddenly. I love to take my hair straightener whenever I travel out of Singapore (the humidity here renders it absolutely useless), but this time our suitcases were so stuffed I couldn't possibly add that thing. Besides, if it was just Singapore Airlines we were travelling on, weight wouldn't be an issue at all, but I had to stick to the weight limits on Wow Air. 

It was bitterly cold that day -- 3 degrees! But the sky was beautifully blue. 

We drove pretty close to a peak with snow still on it!

There was an interesting structure by the road side when we were passing Skagafjördur, so we stopped. There were benches so you could have a nice little picnic there. 

The text on the structure was in Icelandic, so we never got to find out what it was exactly.

We met these two sheep on the way, who literally stopped and posed nicely for us. Xena was so excited!

We stopped to admire the small but pretty Kolugljufur waterfall. 

It was quite a sight to see the water gushing down from all directions. 

The canyon of the waterfall was full of tiny, but colourful flowers. 

There was no fence so it was quite possible to fall in the canyon if you didn't watch your step. 

Next, we headed for a long drive around the unpaved roads of the Vatnsnes peninsula. Situated in North Iceland, the mountainous peninsula is about 90 km long. The area is quite famous for its seal-watching sites.

It was a picturesque ride with the peaks of the West Fjord on display. 

A lone horse crosses the road. 

Poor Car-y was really dirty by the time we reached Ósar, which was our first stop in our attempt to try and spot seals. 

We saw this sign guiding us to the right, with promises of an information centre, food and toilets. All of us needed the toilet so we headed off in that direction. 

The beginning of one of the longest walks we took during the trip (though we didn't know it yet!)

It was rocky, rugged terrain. 

We tried hard but we couldn't spot any seals in the water. 

And then in the distance, we spotted this house. You can see Xena running gleefully towards it!

Unfortunately, it wasn't a toilet. It was just an old, locked-up house with nobody inside. Our bladders were collectively getting rather desperate, when we spotted a big bunch of Asian tourists. They seemed to be coming downhill from somewhere. We asked them and they immediately pointed up to the hill they were descending from. 

So we started another long, uphill walk, towards this building, which supposedly housed the information centre, a cafe and toilets. 

Viv sprinted ahead of us, while I was tasked with keeping Xena warm and cheerful as we trudged along. It was a cold, windy day, and the walk was really, really long. Soon, we ran out of things to talk about. I actually started pointing out cattle poop to her. There was quite a lot of that, so somehow another 5 minutes went like that. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we reached. PHEW. It was almost a 2-km walk. 

We used the toilets and then hopped over to the cafe to warm ourselves over cups of steaming hot chocolate. What a welcome relief after the cold and the wind.

We braced ourselves for the walk back, but strangely with our stomachs full and bladders empty, it didn't seem that bad. As we walked along the road, Viv, who was carrying Xena tried to move away from the path of an incoming car, and fell. It was then that I knew that I was next. At some point, during this holiday, I was going to fall. Xena had fallen and Viv and fallen, strangely before me, considering I'm the most fall-prone person in the family. Ah well. 

Next up was Hvítserkur, a 15-metre high basalt stack just off the shore that looks like a dragon or a dinosaur drinking water in the middle of nowhere! It's not even visible from the main road so people might miss it if they don't already know about it. Thankfully, we did. We had told our dino-obsessed daughter (who insisted that we address her only as 'baby Volly') that we had a surprise for her as we walked closer to the structure. 

The base of the stack has been reinforced with concrete to prevent it from getting eroded into the ocean. The name 'Hvitserkur' means 'white shirt' and comes from the white-coloured poop deposited on the structure by birds. 

Mommy and baby walking back to the car after looking at the 'drinking dino'

Cheeky monkey pulling at Viv's jacket cord

We drove past the famous Geitafell restaurant with the pretty grass-covered roofIt was strange to think of a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, but apparently it boasts a very loyal clientele. Initially, we'd thought of having lunch there but it was a seafood restaurant, so Viv didn't have much hope of finding anything edible there. So we had packed sandwiches and pasta to have for lunch in the car itself. 

We saw the sign for Illugastadir, a seal-watching spot, and turned in. We had not seen any seals along the way as we drove around the peninsula as other travelers on Tripadvisor had, so we knew the chances were slim. Besides, Xena was just about falling asleep. So I told Viv to stay in the car with her and I went with my camera. There was a path you could take to get closer to where the seals were, and it looked like a short one. But I soon realised it was about a 1-km walk! I considered turning back at many points, but it just felt like a waste to have come so far and not finish the walk, so I carried on. 

Plenty of water but not a seal in sight!

It was terribly cold and windy and I was half-regretting my actions, but I trudged on. Soon, it got so cold my ears were going numb. So I took out my scarf from around my neck and decided to follow the Kejriwal school of fashion. To my relief, tying it around my head did provide some warmth and I could carry on. Finally, after what seemed like ages, I came across the end of the path. I walked up right to the edge of the rocks and started scanning the area. Suddenly, I saw some black and white spots in the distance. I was very sure they were seals resting on the rocks but there was no way to confirm it. I tried to take some photos but I couldn't zoom in enough to capture them clearly. 

This is all I got, but you can see the seals, can't you?

Then I spotted a hut which looked like a toilet except that the windows were open. Okay, no self-respecting public toilet will have such large, wide and open windows. It had to be a seal-viewing spot. 

The seal-viewing hut that I thought was a toilet

So I walked in, to my utter surprise, there were two binoculars chained to a ledge! I picked up a pair and pointed them straight in the direction of where I thought the seals were, and gosh, I saw them very very clearly. They were big and fat and very much the seals I was seeking. It was amazing.

On the way back, as I trudged along the extremely long path, it suddenly struck me how long I'd been gone for. Gosh, Viv must be terribly worried. Xena was sleeping in the car so he possibly couldn't get out of the car with or without her to look for me. Would he be wondering if the wind blew me off the cliff? Or I slipped and fell in the water? Or I broke the DSLR, and fearing his wrath, jumped into the icy water? Panicking a little, I broke into a run. Soon, I was running as fast as I could, but it really was a long long way off. Finally I spotted the car, but I couldn't see him! Had he woken up Xena and gone in search of me? My heart thudding, I neared the car and then I saw it. My dear hubby was not at all worried about me being gone so long. In fact, he had no idea. He was slumped against the door, FAST ASLEEP!! 

So I let the two of them nap, while I worked on notes for the travelogue. Finally, both of them woke up, fresh as daisies, and we set off. 

We stopped to wash the car at a petrol station. 

By now, it had become standard practice for Xena to help out with the car-cleaning.

We set off for Hvammstangi, which was our accommodation for the night. It turned out to be one of the most fabulous places we stayed at -- a lone house right beside the sea! 

I was getting major Salaam Namaste vibes. Remember that awesome seaside house that Nick and Ambar lived in? 

The owner lived in the adjoining house so we had this house entirely to ourselves. 

Even the new cleaned Car-y seemed happy with its parking place. 

View from the balcony

Our host even had a jigsaw puzzle that Xena immediately got down to solving. 

There was a pair of binoculars in the living room to get a closer look at the animals in the area. According to the guestbook, people had spotted seals and even whales! We only saw seabirds. Xena excitedly kept saying she saw eagles; it was only later that I realised she meant seagulls! 

Click here for day 9 - the stunning Grabrok crater and full circle back to Reykjavik!



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