Iceland Road Trip: Across Eastern Iceland

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Read all of my posts about our Iceland road trip here.

After catching sunset at Stokksnes the previous night, we were up early again to try and get a glimpse of sunrise. Arriving in darkness and rushing around the dunes to find the perfect clump of grass to foreground our shots of Vesturhorn, we waited for light to start creeping into the sky. Instead of pastel tones we were greeted with building grey clouds, covering the tiny tinge of pink in the distance, and before we knew it we were standing in full daylight. The details we'd mostly missed in our nighttime visit came into focus: huge swathes of black sand, blown into ripples and growing yellow wheat. After an hour or so we jumped back in the car, turning up the heat and warming ourselves for the next leg of the journey. We followed the ring road alongside the coast, crossing river deltas, admiring the craggy coastline and pointing out the remnants of old farms as we went. It was here that we stopped to have a closer look at a little farmhouse perched on the hillside of Hamarsfjörður, the pyramid of Búlandstindur pushing up behind. We drove up a little track, waded through grasses to the front door and hopped in through an open window. Inside, there were still pots on the stove and crockery on the shelves, lace curtains still flapping in the breeze of the open window. We creaked upstairs, finding traditional wooden beds much like we'd seen at the old farm in Skaftafell. Abandoned houses like these were common as we moved round the more remote parts of the coast, battered by the cold and with corrugated iron walls stripped of paint by the wind. 

We continued on Route 1, passing through valleys where red and yellow poppies grew in huge clumps at the side of the road and snow was still sitting on the tops of the mountains around us. Our slow drive ended in Fellabær, across the river from Egilsstaðir. The earlier bright sunshine turned to black clouds and heavy rain, beating down on the car whilst we ran our bags into our little guesthouse. Instead of braving the downpour, we ate cereal bars and watched Icelandic music channels, falling asleep early. The next morning we discovered our host's land was dotted with rusting vintage cars - too expensive to move now, and not worth selling in the first place, he said. The day's drive was to take us a hundred miles northwest of the little town, ending by the picturesque lake of Mývatn. As we drove, more and more snow started appearing either side of the road, until the entire landscape was totally white aside from dark cracks in the lava flows. Here was where I managed the third disaster of the trip; a gust of wind which blew over my tripod just as I turned to grab another lens. I watched as my camera crashed against the road, smashing the lens straight off the body and rolling it straight into the path of an oncoming car. I was fully expecting everything to be damaged beyond repair: my lens' glass was intact, but would no longer stay put on the camera, and turning on the camera resulted in an ominous TV test pattern kind of display. Over the next few hours it slowly returned to life, but we decided to give it more time to recover and headed to the Mývatn Nature Baths instead. The baths had the same milky turquoise colour of the Blue Lagoon, but hotter and cleaner, minus the hordes of people and over priced drinks. We alternated between the sauna and the pools, bracing ourselves against the freezing wind outside the water, and stayed until darkness fell and we drove back to the hotel through the snow.

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