Iceland is a unique tourism opportunity. Famous for midnight golf tee times, there's no reason to stop there. Fly in from anywhere in the world and avoid jet lag altogether by remaining on your home schedule. It doesn't really matter unless you are shopping for souvenirs or something and need the stores to be open. Otherwise, it's light all the time and the sightseeing is as good at 2am as it is at 6pm.
There's a heavy overcast this morning. We're heading across the only real taste of the central highlands we'll get from the ring road. It's not easy to tell from the map, but it appears we may reach an elevation of 500 meters. The region is stark - small loose lava rocks are held together by heavy dust. A very few vascular plants survive in this region. There is the occasional tuft of Silene acaulis, Alchemilla alpina or some sparse alpine grasses, but beyond that it's just rocks as far as you can see.
It was just about noon before we turned north off of hwy 1 onto 864 toward Dettifoss. I know, another waterfall. But not just any waterfall - Dettifoss is considered the largest, most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss is not a delicate, wispy, beautiful waterfall. Actually, it's quite the opposite. It's an angry piece of river - fast flowing, very rough, with a milky brown color that blends in with the rock walls that contain it. We spent nearly an hour exploring and photographing the falls. Again, the violence of the falling water produces so much spray that it is impossible to see where the falls meets the pool at its base. It just mysteriously disappears into the mist and a river emerges from the clouds downstream several hundred feet.
Continuing north on 864, we passed Hafragilsfoss and some remote farms on our way to Ásbyrgi. One of those farms was Hafursstaðir. The road is so deeply sunken that it was like driving in a ditch. Had we met someone on this road, one of us would have had to back a very long way..
We connected with 85, turned left and very quickly caught our first glimpse of the great horseshoe shaped canyon wall of Ásbyrgi. This place of mythical power in Icelandic history is as gentle and peaceful as Dettifoss is angry and powerful. We spent a couple of hours quietly watching birds and looking at the wildflowers.
From here its west towards Húsavík, a cute little fishing village. We decided to run down to hotel Rauðaskriða in Aðaldalur. We made the fateful decision to take a boat ride to see whales. Fateful, because if I had it to do over again, I'd do something else entirely. We arrived back in Húsavík for our 8:30pm departure. It was overcast, chilly, with a light breeze blowing. The ride out to sea was OK. We even saw a couple of whales. Then the wind came up a little stronger and the waves got a little bigger. That's not necessarily bad - the boat was certainly more than large enough to safely navigate in the weather. I don't know what it was that got into the captain, but he decided we were out there for a thrill ride. Pretty soon rather large waves are washing over the side of the boat. The bow is plowing and plunging into the waves at high speed. An older French gentleman was knocked off his feet, fell and hit his head. A couple of people are hanging over the stern losing their dinners. The captain continues to plow into the waves at full speed until everyone is soaked to the skin and more people fall on the treacherously slippery deck. Here I am, trying to protect my expensive camera equipment - body and two lenses - from the corrosive salt water. I took several direct hits from waves coming up either over the bow or side of the boat. This was not what I signed up for. After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived back at the dock.
The next morning back at the hotel over breakfast we recognized fellow passengers, including the older gentleman that fell. They recognized us as well, and despite the language barrier we were able to communicate our disappointment in the previous evening's adventure. While we were packing up I changed the batteries in Launa Rae's camera. When I turned it over, a drop of water came out from around the shutter. The camera was dead and is not repairable. That's one 8 megapixel Canon Rebel XT down the drain. The experience was not worth the loss. I would not recommend whale watching out of Húsavík as long as they feel they need to teach the tourists what the life of a fisherman is really like.
Today's Highlights -
and on the 5th day