Call me when you figure out how to pronounce Kerlingarfjöll or Gýgjarfoss or Goðafoss.
Aug 24th • 2015
After breakfast, we gathered our supplies and headed out from Kerlingarfjöll with little issue.
The gravel road (F347) back to Route 35 passes along the Jökulfall glacier river and also the Gýgjarfoss waterfall. It’s not Gullfoss, but it’s still a sight to see. The constant and seasonal game of addition and subtraction with the ice and snow creates an amazing environment where meandering rivers and large waterfalls are just the norm. In Florida, I’m used to lots of water…but not like this.
And here is Lacey looking like an OG.
The trek through the interior felt longer than it was. I want to complain and say it was hours on end, but in reality, we only spent an hour and a half on the gravel roads. However, time wasn’t the problem. Our biggest concern was refilling the dwindling petrol in our 30-liter gas tank.
Lunch was spent on an overlook of the Blanda area. To the east sat the Hofsjökull glacier and the Blanda river, one of the longest rivers in the country.
We had delicious hummus-tomato-cucumber sandwiches. I think this might be my go-to road trip meal considering it was a staple of my trip with Gen and Nolan to Colorado. We were just missing green apples this time around.
And there was another sundial. I love the idea of these being around the country…it’s romantic and a shout-out to older and different times. But…most of our days here have been overcast and rainy. How is a sundial helpful?!?!
We experienced a common Icelandic roadblock as well.
We were able to reach Road 1 with barely a liter in the tank. And here is where I confess something that I completely underestimated. I thought of Iceland as a much more populous country. It isn’t. At most, there might be 320,000 Icelanders and an assortment of tourists. The small population means wide-open spaces with literally, absolutely, no stops. No convenience stores. No gas stations.
Before heading down the main road, we asked two Icelandic men about the next petrol station. The look on their faces became rather concerned when they saw our current gas level and the distance we had to go. Their advice: stop at a farmhouse.
So we did. The woman who helped us refused money and gave us 4 liters of benzene. She also told us about her trip to Minneapolis and then called us idiots…not for running out of fuel, mind you, but for missing the hot springs back in Hveradalir. I like her style of priorities.
With her kindness and a little more patience, we made it to Varmahlíð where there was a grocery and gas station for us to refuel the Jimny and supplies…and ourselves. So far every coffee that I’ve bought has been delicious. Each cup has been flavorful and strong. It’s nice traveling in a country that appreciates caffeine as much (or maybe more) as Americans.
We reached Akureyri by later afternoon. While Lacey checked in with our Airbnb host, Nicole and I utilized the WiFi at a small ice cream parlor. It was at 5:45 PM that we realized the last whale tour for the day left at 6:00 PM. Our schedule for the next day wouldn’t allow for us to get on the 9:00 AM tour, so 6 PM was our only option. A shared glance and we took off running for the parlor to the AirBNB and Lacey. A quick dump of our luggage in the room and we were off, running like madwomen through the streets of Akureyri. It wound up being about a five-minute distance to the pier and the Ambassador Whale Watching tour boat.
We made it with a moment to spare, snagging some of the last seats available.
These pictures will not do the tour justice. Over the three-hour trip, there were more than 30 sightings. The tour guide, captain, and crew were all shocked at the number of whales we saw. From humpbacks jumping out of the water to tail fins smacking waves, to groups diving together, almost every direction revealed a humpback whale in action. About halfway in, a large whale breached belly-up on the forward port-side, right where Nicole and I were standing, and then screaming.
I didn’t move fast enough to get a photo. To be honest, I did not even think about it…because just watching the whale was amazing.
Following the conclusion of the whale tour, we wandered through the small downtown area back to our Airbnb.
That next morning, we got a later start, leaving the house just before noon. I had spent the evening prior and that morning working on design projects, so I was in need of a good cup of coffee if not a second breakfast.
Nicole had taken the Jimny into Car-X that morning as well. The day before saw Lacey and me trying to push the vehicle in neutral…and it not moving. Basically, the little SUV wouldn’t go into reverse and felt like a brick wall in neutral. Our concerns for any major transmission issues were allayed though, with a slight adjustment of the emergency brake line.
We stopped at Kaffi Ilmur for coffee and food before heading onward. And bread. The homemade bread was so delicious that Nicole bought us a whole loaf from the chef upstairs.
Following our exit from Akureyri, we climbed into the mountains on the east side of the fjord Eyjafjörður, heading toward Húsavík and Goðafoss.
Goðafoss, another epic waterfall. Just hanging out in freakin’ Iceland.
The drive after Goðafoss was uneventful…at least until I saw steam rising to the right after we passed Húsavík. At that point, Nicole whipped the car around, slipped into a bikini, and ran to the water.
Sadly, the spring wasn’t as warm as she’d hoped. But it counted toward her list of hot springs.
The Airbnb we chose for the night was called Hraunbrun, and sat about 40km west of Húsavík. Our host was out of town for work, so her mother let us into the small house. She was a kind woman and endured many of my questions about reindeer, puffins, and polar bears. (By the way, there are no polar bears in Iceland. The tourist stores lie with their little polar bear snow globes and stuffed animals.)
I also tried “baa ram ewe” on the local residents below. No luck. Just weird looks.
Be Spontaneous: When there’s a whale tour in 15 minutes, just do it.
Petrol/Gas: Make a point of filling up your vehicle’s tank before leaving any “major” cities. There is no guarantee of stations outside of the towns and you could face over a 100km before an opportunity to refuel arrives.
What to Wear (During the Summer): Rain jackets and windbreakers are a must. Dress in layers as the weather will shift from sunny and calm to chilly and drizzling, to windy and rainy with no warning.
Umbrellas: Not needed. Instead choose a high-quality rain jacket with hood and zipper pockets.
Driving: The roads can be treacherous between unpaved sections and steep inclines and declines. Choose a 4×4 for your rental vehicle. (If it’s in your budget, go big and get the Defender.) Also, keep your lights on at all times. It’s the law. And don’t stop in the road to take pictures. Wait for a space to pull off the road before you get snap-happy. Don’t fear the gravel roads. Speed is your friend. Keep both hands on the wheel, but aim for 40-60km/h. Try it and you’ll believe me. Keep your eyes peeled for awesome sites and sheep crossing the road.
Food: It’s expensive to eat here. A good budget option is to pack your lunches. Stop at groceries and buy supplies before heading out in the morning. Bring snacks as well, along with extra water. Hiking will leave you hungry and dehydrated…and in general, it’ll be miles (kilometers) before you reach a place to eat.