The first of 25 beautiful walks in the greater Reykjavik area.

Tags

, ,

Last Saturday Elsa woke up after three hours of sleep following the first of three night shifts. Knowing very well that sleep would not come again anytime soon we decided to go for a hike instead of her trying in vain to shut off the brain, with frustration and the possibility of a  bad mood as a consequence. Bjössi had bought her a book that´s called “Walking trails of the greater Reykjavik area – 25 beautiful walks” by Reynir Ingibjartsson and we found this opportunity ideal to try out the first of the 25 called Hraunin and Straumsvik.

Baldur (10) decided to join us for the day and off we went. A gravel road runs the first leg of the trail taking us to some deserted houses in the middle of nowhere. These buildings have taken quite a beating  from the weather making them wonderfully rustic and mysterious.

Running on the other side

Eyðikot (deserted farm) is a beautiful building that used to be the site of a blacksmith´s making horseshoes for the region. The timber used in building an old residence near by came from a 4000 ton sailing ship, The Jamestown, which stranded at Höfn in 1881.

We spent a long time in and around these old cottages, taking pictures and exploring, unraveling the history and its mysteries and breathing in the special atmosphere. A few birds have decided to make nests in the half fallen walls and a Northern Wheatear was getting angrier by the minute as we perused its nesting grounds.

Before the risk of attacks became inescapable we left the house and continued our quest. After passing this cluster of cottages the landscape changed  and became more desert like, with grey and rugged lava fields on both sides. The landscpe that at first seemed monotone and simple became a marvelous mixture of hard and soft, big and small as well as grey and colorful when time was taken to experience it all. The green moss covering the stone was wonderfully soft and gave a nice contrast to the dark colors of the once melting hot lava. Big caves and smaller ones were hidden all over. Tiny flowers in bright shades of pink, purple and yellow came into view every other step and we took hundreds of photographs of these small wonders of nature along the way. Baldur happily jumped off cliffs and explored caves – enjoying a perfect playground carved by the sea and volcanoes.

Reaching the pit stop by Lónakot, the western-most farm at Hraunin, we had a snack. We had just kicked off our shoes and were dosing off when a pair of Northern Wheatear began flying around us, making it clear that we were interrupting their habitat. We decided to stay perfectly still and see if they would get comfortable enough to continue their everyday activities around us. After a short while they brought food in their mouths to little ones resting peacefully in a stone wall. Cameras were out and the amateur photographers tried to capture their moves with varying results.

The road back took us to the water´s edge giving us a great view of Reykjavik (with Hallgrimskirkja tall and proud in the center). We followed a path through lava, grass and sea carved stone – hoping to see seals or some divers as this is a popular spot among both species. No such creatures were spotted but ducklings trailing behind their mothers were a sight to enjoy.

This walk is highly recommended and the happy family (minus one adolescent that didn´t find the thought of an afternoon walk especially appealing) headed back home after three delightful and refreshing hours by the sea.

First trip this summer (and the first blog!)

Tags

, ,

The first trip this summer was to Reykholasveit in the western region of Iceland. We decided to go ahead with our plans in spite of the patchy weather forecast and worried parents, who halfheartedly tried to talk us out of it. We went ahead, packed the car with arctic clothing, tasty food, beverages and warm smiles – and took off into the wilderness.

We headed towards our little hideaway in the west late friday afternoon. Our only stop on the way was in the not so charming town of Budardalur. Despite the lack of overall charm the convenience store packs everything from toothbrushes to tasty beef steaks. For stops on route the best bathrooms are there.

The little hut welcomed us early evening and we were glad to see that this year no mice were nesting in the beds. Last year a lone mouse decided to make one of the cosy beds its winter escape. On the the little porch a traditional Icelandic christmas meal made burping sounds. This was Hakon the Ptarmigan and his spouse. Hakon guards the little hut knowing that here he is safe from crazy hunters looking for a feathery meal. Ptarmigans are a traditional delicacy with a taste similar to Pheasants.
There is something about the country air that makes the eyelids heavy and we were snuggled up in our beds well before midnight.

Wakened by the morning sun and bird song we decided to take a trip to Reykhólar, the nearest village (population 130 in the begining of 2010).  Reykhólar rests beautifully on the Reykjanes peninsula between the steep mountains and Breiðafjörður, known for its many islands, which many have tried to count with varying results. The day was calm with glimpses of sunshine and nature reflecting on the smooth surface of the Northern Atlantic Ocean. We strolled between cliffs on the shore greeted by hundreds of birds, some of which guarded their nesting grounds ferociously.

We took out our cameras and snapped away. After the little outing we decided to go for a swim as our little castle does not come equipped with a hot shower.  The swimming pool in Reykholar is named Grettislaug after Grettir, one of the first viking settlers. The view through the barbed wire fences surrounding the area is breathtaking, with snowy mountains, chirping birds and the magnificent islands of Breidafjordur right before your eyes. Clearly well worth the visit. The enterance fee is about the same as a cup of coffee as with most swimming pools in iceland (which are heavily subsdidised by the local communities).
After marinating in the hot tubs an ice cream stop was mandatory. We were greated by a very friendly Icelandic girl with flaming red hair. In every little village there seems to be a small grocery shop where you can buy everything that you nead and then some. We decided to splash out on a traditional delicacy of “harðfiskur”  (dried and salted Catfish, given its flavour by the salty winds of the western fjords). A little bag of this delicacy costs the same as 5 cups of coffee, making it something of a treat. We must mention that this is the best “hardfiskur” we have eaten for a very long time!

Icelandic snow in May
When we got back to the cabin one of us had an irresistable urge to climb the nearest mountain while the other one snuggled up under a wooly blanket with some knitting.
The mountain climber came across a whimbrel on a fence post singing a song that sounded like an early version of a cover song by the Beach Boys, high pitched and summery. The one with the knitting needles whatced a tiny and irresistably cute white wagtail make a home for her unborn children under the roof edge just outside the kitchen window.

Kolvidur the diesel powered stove

Even hamburgers cooked on the ancient diesel powered stove tasted heavenly in the chilly evening breeze, leaving us once again sleepy and off to bed well before midnight.
We woke up to the bitter truth of Icelandic weather, chilled to the bone at six o´clock, put on all of our clothes, fired up the stove and crawled back into bed with two duvets and a mountain of blankets. When we at last got out of bed the temperature was freezing outside and just above freezing inside. Being accustomed to geothermally powered warm housing, a freezing mountain hut takes some getting used to. We had breakfast dressed in wooly hats and scarves and couldn´t resist the temptation of a little cuddle under the warm blankets again. The day was spent practicing dance routines, knitting and reading nerdy books about birds and Icelandic place names. We even played scrabble, believe it or not.

Scrabble in the west

In the early afternoon we drove to Bjarkalundur, a local motel close by, where we could connect our ipad to the internet and see the weather forecast. We decided to have a meal in the restaurant and were offered a choice between warmed up frozen pizza and hot dogs. The reason for this smaller version of the regular menu was that we would probably be the only customers today. We had a hot dog each and a Prince polo chocolate bisquit which together constitute for a popular fast food meal in iceland, a bit like the English fish´n´chips.

Sitting by the kitchen window after our short outing we witnessed the most amazing thing. A Merlin (a small Falcon) flew onto the porch and snatched up a small bird and flew towards the hills clutching its prey in its sharp claws. We were left awestruck after this short incident that lasted less than five seconds. Due to the windy weather forecast we decided to postpone the trip back home and once again snuggled up under a mountain of blankets.

We were sad to leave early Monday morning and drove through the scenic countryside witnessing the sun peaking through the clouds creating an adventurous hue. We were already planning we could return to our little hideaway as soon as possible.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.