Iceland: The Eastern Fjords

The Eastern Fjords

I was anxious to move on to the Eastern fjords, so I drove the two hour trip from Mývatn to Egilsstaðir after the 5:15pm sunset. I may have missed some stunning features of Icelandic geology as I passed the hills, valleys and peaks in the darkness, but my restlessness was rewarded: glimmers of green danced and disappeared, lighting up the craggy volcanic rock in front of me. I peered over the steering wheel, doubting my perception until the evidence became so bright that I squealed aloud. Aurora Borealis, the northern lights, like shape-shifting spirits, pulling and pushing against invisible forces, dancing and waving, disappearing, reappearing, eerie green, sumptuous pinks and purples, arching across the entire sky. I’m Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’m Dorothy, on a journey to explore a mystical world that communicates to me through electrons.

Folk tales explaining the Aurora range from sinister predictions to communing ancestors to playful heavenly animals. Apparently it’s “just” electrons, but as far as I see it, the scientific explanation is no less mystical–both versions make us wonder at the magnificence of what is.

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I arrived at Egilsstaðir giddy from the light show, pulled into the N1 gas station and ate a salty, but deliciously warm burger and fries at Soluskalinn, the fast(ish) food joint inside and used their free wifi to contact home.

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Thank the Norse Gods for explanatory signs, because “Snyrting?!”

The campsite was just down the street with only one other camper van in the lot. I quickly fell asleep in the cold, peaceful, dark camper. The next morning I showered in the campsite’s facilities, even washed and dried my hair, though I mashed it right back into my hat.

As I was finishing up, I chatted with a young Danish woman Iceland 219eating breakfast. She was travelling alone and aiming to drive around the entire island in 4 days. It’s possible to drive the entire Ring Road in just under 20 hours, though not a goal I feel any desire to complete. I wonder if she succeeded.


Seyðisfjörður

Intrigued by descriptions lauding residents’ creativity, I veered off the Ring Road onto Route 93 to Seyðisfjörður, a fishing town nestled at the base of one of the Eastern fjords, accessible by only one road, or a ferry. Talk about isolation. The switchback road rose up a mountain and gave me a gorgeous view across valleys and more mountains before it opened onto a flat, straight road surrounded by oily looking swampland and narrow fjords. Eventually, I saw Seyðisfjörður below me, and a harrowing descent on acute switchback roads.

Ogling the dramatic vistaiceland-4382, I almost missed the waterfall in my review mirror. Not so spectacular, but gloriously unexpected. It wasn’t mentioned in any guide books I read, and I cherish surprises, especially from Mother Earth. This journey, the unexpected beauty and transitions around every corner, were just as fulfilling as the destination.

Most every shop was closed in Seyðisfjörður because it was a Sunday. Tea cups lined windowsills and families in golashes and yellow raincoats pushed prams through the brisk streets. It really was that quaint.


A Camper Van and No Plan: The Scenic Route

From Seyðisfjörður I drove back to Egilsstaðir and took Route 92 toward Reyðarfjörður, then Route 96, through the 5km-long mountain tunnel to Fáskrúðsfjörður. This detour from the Ring Road allowed me to drive the elongated tongue of each fjord, providing eye candy galore. No stop lights. Not a single passing car for an hour. Only a shepherd with his flock, the site of a hairy turf house, devilishly sharp mountains and a unicorn siting persuaded me to stop.
At Breiðdalsvík, a 2km long tunnel joins Route 96 back to the Ring Road. Around the bend of the next fjord were some of my favorite views. A small turf house, fit for an elf, sat at the tip of the swampy inlet at Berufjörður. Made entirely from nature itself, this type of construction has been around for at least a thousand years. (An in-depth article with great visuals here.)
turf house
turf house
To top off my Eastern Fjord roadtrip, PIRATE STORIES! Further south along the Ring Road, the village of Djúpivogur. It was raided in 1627 by North African pirates, who plundered the farms and took villagers as slaves. I’m curious how Icelanders think and feel about this today.
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Brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the 1700s, Icelandic horses have 5 gaits (walk, trot, canter, plus tolt and flying pace), 2 more than the average Mr. Ed!
As I passed Djúpivogur, I thought I saw a glacier rising from the Atlantic. Turns out it’s a fairly isolated island named Papey whose first settlers were Irish monks, and is now a haven for puffin. You can hop on a tour boat to set foot on the rich green and black volcanic islet, and to get a closer look at the silly creatures. As for me, I kept driving.
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Up next: Jökulsárlón, a jewel-toned glacier lagoon

 

 

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