08 August, 2023

Iceland at last...

Iceland (pop: 380,000) is a independent Nordic island country, a republic, located in the Norwegian Sea between Greenland and Norway, rather closer to the former. The official language is Icelandic (a Germanic tongue similar to Faroese and some Norwegian dialects, and a now extinct language Norn) but in our several weeks in Iceland, we didn't encounter anyone who couldn't speak English. The currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK), but we never saw a króna note or coin. Indeed, a taxi driver said to us that 'this is the land of the credit card'. Iceland is not an member of the European Union (it wanted to protect its vital fishing industry) but is of the European Economic Area.

The etymology of Iceland's name is lost in myth and saga, but the popular notion that Vikings so named it to discourage more settlers is said to be a myth. That said, an aphorism we heard repeatedly is that 'Greenland is icy and Iceland is green', i.e. not everything is as advertised. We discovered that while Iceland has some massive glaciers, much of the country is indeed green and lush, as our photos will attest, pretty-well treeless but very green. The top of Iceland skims the Arctic Circle, so there was plenty of daylight for our time here. Sunrise was at about 03:30am, just three hours after sunset (yes, after midnight) and thanks to the twilight, it was never dark.

Djupivogur, Austurland

After an overnight transit from the Faroes in calmer conditions than were forecast, the NatGeo Explorer pulled into the port of Djupivogur (pop: 470, name means 'deep harbour'), our first touch of Iceland, under leaden skies and with a light drizzle falling. The temperature was 7-9oC. Djupivogur is in Austurland, Eastern Region, one of 5 large regions in the country, and has a long history of trading and fishing dating back to 1589AD. There were no immigration formalities on our arrival that we could see.

A very ambitious art project (2009) greeted us at Djupivigor's port, 34 eggs of different local birds, by Sigurour Guomundsson. [0736]

The Langabuo cafe/museum is the oldest building in Djupivogur (1790)

A startlingly modern sculpture, Liberty, by Sigurour Guomundsson in honour of a slave who became a respected merchant in Djupivogur. [0726]

Fire hydrant in a field of lupines in Djupivogur. Lupines, which thrive in harsh conditions, were introduced to Iceland to encourage revegetation. They are now so prolific they are regarded as a pest. [0731]

By splitting up, we squeezed several activities into a full day in and around Djupivogur. One was a Superjeep tour up the Harmarsdalur valley west of Djupivogur featuring the Snaedalfoss waterfall made of melting snow from the mountains behind it. (Any name with 'foss' is a waterfall.) The roads on private farmland were very rough and included several unimproved creek crossings, justifying the Superjeeps, which are modified SUVs with extra large (38-48in) tires whose pressure can be adjusted from within the vehicle while it is in motion.

Our Superjeeps were comfortable until one broke down and we had to squeeze 5 jeeps-full into 4. [0599]

The Snaedalfoss waterfall as seen from a vantage point accessed on the Superjeep tour. [0596]

This unnamed waterfall (maybe?) is as far up the Harmarsdalur valley as we went on the Superjeep tour. [0611]

The prettiest wildflowers adorn rocky surfaces in the Hamarsdalur valley. [0629]

Campers use an informal hot-tub created by the geothermal activity in the Djupivogur region. [0661]

South-west of Djupivogur, we visited Jokulsarlon (meaning 'glacial river lagoon') which is in the Vatnajokull National Park at the southern end of the huge Vatnajokull glacier, the largest in Iceland. The lagoon/lake has formed (since 1948) as the glacier melts and is now 18km2 in area and about 8km from the ocean. It has doubled in size in the past 15 years. The original glacier dropped icebergs into the ocean, but they now fall into the lake creating a spectacle popular with visitors, including us.

Icebergs crowd together in Jokularlon lagoon. [0007]

We used Zodiacs to sail around the crytal blue water of Jokulsarlon lagoon. [0020]

This iceberg fallen off Breiðamerkurjökull has tipped over at some stage. [0026]

And then on the edge of Djupivogur there is a wide beach of fine black sand abutting a lagoon. We walked along a local airport runway (we were assured that no flights were coming) to get to the beach and enjoyed the great scenery and seeing a variety of wildlife as we went the km or so to the end of the beach.

The spectacular backdrop to Djupivogur's black sand beach. [0698]

Properly, the Fulmaris glacialis, the fulmar resembles a gull or a kittiwake, but is not related. The name is from old Icelandic meaning foul gull because of the habit of fulmars regurgitating a stinking vomit when threatened. Luckily, we did not experience that! [0689]

A curious common seal checks us out on the beach at Djupivogur. [0696]

A red-necked Phalarope, a species of sandpiper, in a rainy lagoon near the airstrip at Duupivogur. [0705]

Another angry arctic tern as we approach too close to its nesting area. [0720]

Map of Iceland showing the Djupivogur region.

No comments: