Monday, January 11, 2016

Iceland Adventures: Westfjords – Dynjandi Waterfall & Ísafjörður

Iceland Adventures – Westfjords – Dynjandi Waterfall & Ísafjörður – 8/25/15

I overslept and was a little frazzled packing up this morning.  I stood on the front stoop – breathe in - and watched a couple of young moms walking alongside their bike-riding children heading for school.  Breathe out:  life can be simple.  You just have to choose it.  Let’s go carpe this diem.
The skies were a little kinder today but the winds were formidable.  Alternately crossing over fingers of land and hugging the coastline, we worked our way from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður. [Note:  We were hopeless at pronunciation and abbreviated every place name to the first one or two syllables, aka Pat and Isa, etc.]

Driving north from Patreksfjörður, Route 63 climbed up, up, up as it traversed a moonscape to the next fjord.  Certainly there were no trees.  Lots of rocks.  A stark and forbidding scene.

But out of the car we stepped onto soft, bouncy vegetation, an abundance of lichen and mosses and ground-hugging flowers growing between the rocks.    Mindful of the brisk wind, we were cautious near the cliff edges – but who could resist this view? We repeated this scenario many times: drive, stop, get out, gasp, exclaim, take photos, get back in the car.  Paul (as our driver) had the patience of Job.
 Random roadside waterfall
Descending to  Arnarfjörður, we paused to explore this unassuming cemetery set at the shoreline. The gold mountain, the white and red barn – what a peaceful place to rest. 

Standing at the cemetery and rotating 90 degrees, the town of Bíldudalur.  We didn’t stop here but next time (!) we will be sure to visit the Skrímslasetur Icelandic Sea Monster Museum.  From here we turned right to continue on Route 63, now gravel, hugging the edge and following the contours of the fjords.

High on our wish list was finding a natural geothermal pool to plunge into.  Well, we learned a little something at Reykjarfjarðarlaug:  hot means REALLY HOT.  This little spot can be easily missed even though it sits right by the road.  There is a small concrete pool, about 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 F), a tiny bathhouse, and a hundred yards further is the real deal, a natural stone lined pool.  We rolled up our pants legs, stepped in the water about a foot deep, and our skin immediately turned bright red.  I hopped out as soon as the photo was taken, very glad that I hadn’t gone for the full immersion.  The guidebooks says the natural pool temp is 45 C (113 F)!

Driving on Route 60 up and across Dynjandisheiði heath, we saw another random roadside waterfall – or is this part of the Dynjandisá River that flows to Dynjandi Waterfall?

Dynjandi (Fjallfoss) is the largest of a series of waterfalls; each of the six subtiers has its own name.  The cumulative height of all the tiers is 100 meters.  The breadth of the main waterfall is 30 meters at the top, 60 meters at the bottom, and is often described as a “bridal veil.” It is the jewel of the Westfjords.  The awesome factor is off the charts.  Just look.

Looking out at Dynjandivogur Bay

We wandered up and down the path between the tiers, reluctant to tear ourselves away from the power of Dynjandi (will we ever see it again?).  How do you see something like that and then go to lunch?  But we did.

After all, the road winds on. 

At the town of Þingeyri (“Þ” is pronounced as “th”) we stopped to refuel our car and our stomachs with our homemade lunches.  A nice cup of tea, a bowl of soup and a huge chunk of blueberry crumb cake sitting outside Simbahöllin coffee shop rounded it out nicely. 

I repeat:  life can be simple.  You just have to choose it.

I confess, I may have nodded off postprandial and missed a bit of scenery in the remaining kilometers to Ísafjörður.  I do remember driving through the 9 km Vestfjarðagöng tunnel, which is one lane in some sections with pullouts and signal lights, and a three-way intersection in the middle!  Yikes!

We arrived in the town of Ísafjörður at about 2:00 p.m. and found our home for the next two nights, a second- floor apartment with a sweet balcony via Airbnb on Hafnarstræti , the main street.  This funky little place was delightful. 

Sharing one bathroom was tricky
Going up the super-narrow steps inside the apartment.  The easiest way to go down was to step backwards.
Paul and Kim’s room

Mike dragged his bed from Cathy’s and my room to this alcove

With lots of daylight left, we went for a walk west of town on an unused road called Aflagðurvegur around the mountain Óshlíð.  This was once the only route to the tiny villages west of Ísafjörður…

… but the road kept washing away.  It was finally abandoned (Aflagðurvegur means “abandoned way”) and a newer route developed via tunneling through the mountains. 

The road is still used by walkers and commuting cyclists.

Lupines along the way

Back in Ísafjörður, we took a wander through town, found a vínbúð (government run alcohol store) and purchased much-needed wine.  Before dinner we paused on our balcony to toast another surreal day in this wonderful country. 


P.S.  Dinner was delicious at Húsíð, seafood soup with chunks of fish in a rich creamy tomato broth and Einstök ale.  Tomorrow is not a road trip day - what shall we do? 

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”  ~Mary Ritter Beard

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