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01 July 2011

Driving West Fjords

Day 34: Thursday, 23 June 2011

We woke up in Blönduós at Christina's apartment. Christina had to go to work and left as I was showering. After making breakfast and getting ready, it was nearly 11:00. We had an 8 hour drive ahead of us, so we had to get moving. We drove toward the west fjords, through more spectacular scenery. We drove through Brú and turned north toward Hólmavík. This part of the drive took about 2 hours. My guidebook mentioned a restaurant in Hólmavík that served puffin meat, and we were all interested in trying some. We went to the restaurant, Café Riis, only to find that puffin was not in season yet, so we settled for a hamburger and some salad bar food that cost ISK 1600. The drive continued, and the scenery continued to change every few minutes.

I fell asleep for nearly an hour, thanks to eating so much food (and the road was smooth). I woke up as we pulled into a gas station in Reykjanes, but the self-service pump was not accepting our credit cards, so we decided to risk it and drive on with our gas level at about 30%. The next petrol station was not for another 130km, and our car had enough fuel to last just about that long. So instead of worrying, I enjoyed the drive as we wound in and around several deep fjords carved into glaciated 500m-tall mountains with waterfalls cascading down every kilometer or less. It was, yet again, an unreal landscape. By this point, I had started "getting used to" the ever-changing spectacular landscapes everywhere in Iceland. Anyway, we made it to the petrol station and filled up the tank with ISK 12 000.

We continued on to Ísafjörthur, the major "city" of the west fjords, where we snuck into a Bonus supermarket right at closing time, and then got some Thai food in the city (after navigating a series of confusing one-way streets). The Thai food was highly recommended by both our guide books, but I found it to be overly sweetened and comparable to the Panda Express rip-offs you find in the US. We ate at a picnic table partway up a mountain, our food chilling quickly in the cool breeze.

We drove through the mountains, passing through a long tunnel, about 6km long with an intersection in the tunnel! The road also became one lane, such that cars had to pull over for oncoming traffic. We headed toward Dynjandi, one of the most spectacular waterfalls imaginable. The water fans out into a widening cascade as it rolls down the mountain. Driving toward it, you see the falls from across the fjord. It was past 9pm but the sun was shining brightly on the falls, bathing it in warm, orange light.

After several moments of awe, we continued on some gravel roads, Jurate taking over the driving. We drove over some mountain passes with snow around us, and around a couple more fjords, and finally we arrived in Bíldudalur.

There was a festival going on in town (this town only having 200 or so people, so the nearly 3000 people in town were camping on people's hards), which I later found out was to celebrate the green beans that the town used to can and process. Our host was Georg, a German guy (our German encounter of the day) who works in environmental research. We first drove through, trying to find his house based solely from the picture posted on his profile - and I had pretty accurately guessed which house it is. He was having a beer with a colleague, Louie from Namibia. We stayed up a bit, sharing good conversation and Georg giving us some good tips on what to see in this part of the west fjords.

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