Day 3 roadtrip
Today’s route took us around Iceland’s east fjords. Silence replaced happy chatter as we drove around glassy inlets. Looming mountains dipped into a perfectly symmetrical reflection on a perfectly flat sea. Farming houses, weathered and worn, nestled the shoreline surrounded by a pattern of green grass and white bundled hay. Fjords have to be a combination of every type of scenery humans love. Mountains, water, winding roads, panoramic views, sunsets… It’s just like ARGGHGHH.
▣ Highly recommend ▣ Boring but safe ▣ Shit. Boring, strenuous & dangerous ▣ Incomplete
What I fjor’d happen
More beautiful scenery *dies
What actually happened
A dead reindeer, non existent birds and of course, beautiful scenery
No two fjords are ever the same. No matter their proximity, each fjord has an individual feeling, an intangible vibration that the passerby is forced to acknowledge. No matter where you’ve come from or where you’ve been or what you’ve seen, wonder, disruption, amazement, is literally around the next bend.
The uniqueness of each ford, especially on the east Icelandic coast, is due to the current running through each. Shallow, glassy, tranquil fjords are separated from the sea by an isthmus running across the fjord mouth. They tend to have steep rocky mountains, widely vegetated bushy valleys and birch forests – some of which stretch all the way inland to the highlands. Other more rugged fjords have wild, deep ocean currents and choppy waves. These are open to the sea and offer extremely diverse habitats due to the changing conditions. Fertile topsoil, gravel, marshland and cliffs surround seawater, fresh water, beaches and land-tied islands. The biodiversity makes this area a rich playground for local birdlife so there are many places you can stop by and bird watch (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Although we aren’t really bird watchers, we needed to stop for lunch so thought we would check out the marshland behind Djupivogur, a small fishing town on the coast. There, cuddled up in a tiny wooden hut away from the cold howling wind we sat and waited. And waited. We saw some ducks. And. Yeh. Nothing else.
So realising that we were either terribly impatient bird watchers or that this place was not actually a ‘bird watchers paradise’, we pulled out our billy and boiled some eggs for lunch. Kind of perverse really, boiling eggs inside a bird watching hut.
Reindeer and shooters
We continued on, driving around the Berufjörður coast, a wild, rugged stretch of water, when we drove past a military-esque vehicle by the side of the road. We slowed down to see a group of people dressed head to toe in camo dragging a large animal onto a trailer. They were hunters and they had caught a reindeer.
We pulled over and clambering out of the car into the gale-force winds we had a chat with them. As if they were pouring tea or something equally as ordinary, they proceeded to slit the throat and bleed the animal whilst describing how they’d hiked to the adjacent mountain, shot the stag and dragged it all the way back down again. A truly admirable feat considering the size of the beast.
Making the whole affair even more extraordinary was the fact that it turns out hunting reindeer in Iceland is an incredibly costly and uncommon affair. In order to hunt reindeer you need an ungodly expensive permit, one that can only really be afforded if the cost is shared across a group of hunters. On top of this once you kill a reindeer you need to bring it to the butchers. There they fillet it and charge you a special tax per kilo of meat. I guess this is to stop the whole island from going berserk and hunting the population to zero.
So. What makes the cost and effort worth it? One simple fact. Icelandic reindeer feed on a rare type of moss only found on Icelandic mountain tops. And this small but significant difference between Icelandic reindeer and say, Canadian or Norwegian reindeer gives their meat special properties and makes them extremely valuable…or so they say. And by they I mean this small group of hunters we met.
From Berufjörður we drove around another four fjords scouting for a suitable spot to camp. We did find one pretty awesome place, the rubbled ruins of an old farm house dug down into the ground, but the ground was too uneven to set up a tent. So we continued around one more fjord, Reydarfjordur, before taking the 92 to Egilsstadir knowing that if we couldn’t find somewhere to wild camp at least there’d be paid camp sites near the city.
Experience has proved that if there’s a lake, there’s probably a place to wild camp. With this in mind we took a left off the ring road after Egilsstadir and followed the road along Lagarfljót, Iceland’s third largest lake. Experience proved correct and about 15 minutes down the road we found a small hill overlooking the lake with plenty of thick cushioning grass and a scattering of rocks on the edge, the perfect platform to spectate the magical view.
So it’s here that we camped. Huddled behind our car out of the wind we boiled pasta and drank wine. Rick pulled out the chair heads from our rental car and stuck them in the ground as backrests. Ahhhh. This is the fucking life.
What I learned today:
- I could cry the world is so beautiful
- Re: re: the best things in life are free