Basalt, broomstick and birds

Day 9. Wednesday 22 May.

A road trip today to the west, the peninsular immediately to the north of Borgarnes called Snaefellsnes (the a and the e should have been conjoined). Good roads circumnavigate it, and there is a National Park at the far (western) end.

First stop was to get a couple more ‘surdieg’ bread rolls for lunch – and we also picked up a sweet roll, although no one in the shop seemed sure about what was in it – the advice came from the baker in the backroom that it was only cinnamon, but it looked suspiciously like chocolate chips. As T had missed out on chocolate last night when she’d had a craving (no, she’s not) this didn’t matter.

Our map noted some significant basalt outcrops, so we took the dirt road in. The Yaris didn’t like the stony surface – it wasn’t overly rutted – and slipped a bit here and there. We slowed down to calm it down. A walk up a steep dirt track took us to the top, providing tremendous views once we’d recovered our breath and D’s knees were back in place. A strong wind threatened to blow us off the plateau, and the 14 degree day at the bottom had shrunk by quite a bit due to the wind chill factor.


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We dropped into what would be called in Australia a ‘locale’ called Bouir. It had a lovely little church with an interesting history: when the original church ceased to be used (in the 1790s?) a local noblewoman fought to have it continued – and won. South Woden doesn’t have any noblewomen???


It had a cemetery attached, and there seemed to be two sections. One had many headstones with birds on top, usually peering over at the inscription. We weren’t able to find out the significance, although one source indicated that two birds meant that a couple were buried together: that didn’t seem to be the case in the photo below.  Perhaps it was just a link to the abundant bird life in the area? Any ideas?.

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And the really scary bit……


On to Arnarstapi, a small commercial fishing port, very like Port Campbell. Dropped in to a café for coffee – no espresso machine (we are so picky now) but we were too embarrassed to leave without ordering, as the woman behind the counter explained the lack by saying that it was because when the tourist buses come in, it takes too long to work the espresso, and she’d have to put on extra staff, which she couldn’t afford. D’s extra shot long black was fine, T’s cappuccino not so.

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We lunched on a deck overlooking the port, with fabulous views – and not one of the millions of gulls came to join us to beg for food!  A fishing boat came in and unloaded several large ice chests filled with rather large fish – but no idea what they were- and then cleaned the hold ( too cold for sharks?). By the way, the roll we’d picked up in Borgarnes was just cinnamon, and it was delicious.

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The day turned out to be mostly about birds and in the spectacular landscape and bright sunshine, it was glorious. There were nesting areas on cliff faces and cliff tops all around.

A 2.5 km walk took us along the cliff top, with a couple of lookouts along the way and the stone troll.


Here we met an American lady and a young man, and with phones in hand, they were examining and moving the lower stones about. T thought this rather odd. So she asked the woman if she was looking for something. ‘Yes’…She was a geo-cacher, and was trying to find the cache in the troll with no success – she knew, according to her device/app, that she was within 11 feet, but that was all. She was about to give up.



So, after we were given a detailed explanation of this activity (complemented with some rolling of the eyes from the young man and repeated disclaimers that he wasn’t one), D couldn’t resist the challenge and started to search for something ‘unusual’ within the rockface. Being the ex-spy, yep D produced a green jar tucked in above head height. Inside was a mixture of stuff (coins, a button, papers). The woman then put in her own geo-caching card (laminated of course) and gave a spare to T.  Another travel activity for us to pursue????

The nesting areas were bizarre. Birds seemingly hang off sheer cliffs.  Google later informed us that the nests were created using grass cemented together with saliva. Some nursery! Needless to say, with the wind in the wrong direction, the smell was overpowering: a bit like nurseries everywhere.

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T was desperate for a proper coffee, so we dropped into Hellisandur, but by now it had passed 5 pm, so nothing much was open. Nevertheless, we drove around, into a dead end that was a fish factory, and eventually cut our losses and headed for the next town, which appeared, on the map at least, bigger.

T advised that in this town there was the largest colony of breeding Rifs in the world. There were signs warning us to be wary of birds as we approached, and we turned in to see large groups in several ponds or grassed areas. They looked familiar, so we continued to search for the Rif colonies. At about this time it dawned that we were in the town of Rif, and the birds were Arctic Terns and we’d been seeing them all day. Why can’t the mapmakers make the text just that little bit bigger for senior’s eyes? Rif didn’t offer much other than an even stronger birdshit smell so, after re-filling our water bottle at the campground, it was time to head home. We posted a picture of the campground just down the road from where we are staying in an earlier post – these facilities seem to be peppered all over the island. Not sure what they might be like in peak season, but currently they are occupied by just enough campers – not crammed in. The facilities, that look more like overnight stops rather than caravan parks, including toilets, showers, power, dump point and fresh water are completely adequate – T reported that the toilet block was immaculate.  It looks like a great model.

Olafsvik, the next town, was bigger, so we were able to buy some additional supplies for tonight – but not the giant single turnip that D had been chasing for the mash ($3) – including the chocolate that T had missed out on the night before. Despite having watched and enjoyed the two seasons of ‘Trapped’, the real crime level in rural Iceland was probably better demonstrated by the car left with its motor running while the driver was inside the supermarket.

By now it was late, and although we knew that light wasn’t a problem, we’d driven enough, so we cut through the centre of the peninsular, across the mountain and lava field back to our cozy apartment via a final spectacular waterfall.Waterfalls abound in this lava landscape.


Mind you, that was over 100 kms and took the best part of an hour and a half. Time for a beer and a wine.

Another day of discovering/identifying birds: Great Ringed Plovers, Tufted Ducks, White Wagtails, Common Snipes (with their surprising goat-bleating sound overhead), Black Cormorants, Ravens, Fulmars, and Kittywakes.


2 thoughts on “Basalt, broomstick and birds

  1. Well what a day you had. Fantastic. And not only is geo-caching is a thing, it seems to be a massive thing. Quieter tomorrow? Yours Ian


    • Yes, in fact just got back from a long drive, but earlier than usual. About to walk in to town to find a pub and have a beer – and that was T’s idea! Keep well, D&T


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