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ICELAND    INFO & DIARY  1

1/7 30/6-15/7 2021

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Iceland or ═sland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 357,000 and an area of 103,000 km2. The capital and largest city is ReykjavÝk.
 Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a polar climate.

HISTORY
The Sagas of Icelanders say that a Norwegian named Naddodd (or Naddador) was the first Norseman to reach Iceland, and in the 9th century he named it SnŠland or "snow land" because it was snowing. Following Naddodd, the Swede Gar­ar Svavarsson arrived, and so the island was then called Gar­arshˇlmur which means "Gar­ar's Isle".
Then came a Viking named Flˇki Vilger­arson; his daughter drowned en route, then his livestock starved to death. The sagas say that the rather despondent Flˇki climbed a mountain and saw a fjord (Arnarfj÷r­ur) full of icebergs, which led him to give the island its new and present name
According to the ancient manuscript Landnßmabˇk, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingˇlfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin.
The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.  Iceland thus followed Norway's integration into that union, coming under Danish rule after Sweden's secession from the union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence.
On 31 December 1943, the DanishľIcelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944.

GEOLOGY
A geologically young land, Iceland is the surface expression of the Iceland Plateau, a large igneous province forming as a result of volcanism from the Iceland hotspot and along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the latter of which runs right through it. This means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes including Hekla, Eldgjß, Her­ubrei­, and Eldfell.
Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 8ľ10 minutes.
Renewable sourcesŚgeothermal and hydropowerŚprovide effectively all of Iceland's electricity and around 85% of the nation's total primary energy consumption.

PLANTS
Around three-quarters of the island is barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland, which is regularly grazed by livestock. The most common tree native to Iceland is the northern birch Betula pubescens, which formerly formed forests over much of Iceland, along with aspens Populus tremula, rowans Sorbus aucuparia, common junipers Juniperus communis, and other smaller trees, mainly willows.
When the island was first settled, it was extensively forested, with around 30% of the land covered in trees. Today, many farms have been abandoned. Three-quarters of Iceland's 100,000 square kilometres is affected by soil erosion, 18,000 km2 serious enough to make the land useless. Only a few small birch stands now exist in isolated reserves.

ANIMALS
The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the Arctic fox, which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. On rare occasions, bats have been carried to the island with the winds, but they are not able to breed there. Polar bears occasionally come over from Greenland, but they are just visitors, and no Icelandic populations exist. No native or free-living reptiles or amphibians are on the island.
Nowadays, the animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chickens, goats, the sturdy Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic Sheepdog,  mink, mice, rats, rabbits, and reindeer, all descendants of animals imported by Europeans. Around 1,300 species of insects are known in Iceland.
Birds are more common: Around 85 different species nest regularly in Iceland, although around 330 have been recorded here since the settlement. Most are sea- or beach birds, but here are also Ravens, Rock Ptarmigan, Common Starling, Snowy Owl, Gyrfalcon, White-Tailed Eagle, several pigeons and dove, Cuckoos, Swifts, Storks, Great Tit, Larks, Warblers, Swallows, Osprey and quite some more.
Marine mammals include the grey seal Halichoerus grypus and harbour seal Phoca vitulina.

ROADS
Iceland has 13,034 km of administered roads, of which 4,617 km are paved and 8,338 km are not. Route 1, or the Ring Road (Icelandic: Ůjˇ­vegur 1 or Hringvegur), was completed in 1974, and is a main road that runs around Iceland and connects all the inhabited parts of the island, with the interior of the island being uninhabited. This paved road is 1,332 km. I have only spend a small car in myself, and might have to hitch-hike to a sight or two - but it is a rental....

DIARY
The flight, car and hostels are booked, now I just hope the Covid-19 situation allows me to go on the 1/7-15/7 2021. Well, a few days before I planed to reach the island, the rules changes: Now, the 2. Covid-19 vaccination have to be given 14 days before entering, you have to present a negative PCR test on arrival AND spend 5 days in quarantine. As mine vaccination is only 2 days old, I have to spend 14 days in a special quarantine hotel.
Plan B: Leave one day before, and spend only one day in quarantine. Real expensive flight by now, but I gain one - or 14 days! Just have to change the train, car and hotels as well.

30. 19C and a drizzle make it easy to leave the Danish "summer". I get the extra day of car confirmed at the gate. Three hours in the air, passing northern Denmark; Skagen. Pass the Faroe Islands. Then the glaziers of southern Island and blue and green ponds and - lots of lava, and I'm in Iceland. One more hour, and I have cash, a PCR-test and a fairly new Toyota Yaris. As I didn't have a credit card, only three debit cards, I have to pay some sort of insurance, around 60.000 Icelandic kroner - Ç400. Almost the same as the rent.  Well, everything is expensive, so what?

I have to follow the highway to Reykjavik, and it leads thought endless lava fields, covered in blue lupines. Might look great, but is you know it is an invasive species, brought from North America in 1945 in the top-soil for the air-strip, is looses some of the attraction.
Besides from the lupines, here are lots of lichen, some are bright white and covers the boulders, making them look like snow. I reach Reykjavik and its modern buildings. I have the code for the door, and my room number, and I go into quarenteen. I thought I had a electric kettle in the room, but no. I'm not supposed to enter the kitchen, but I need some hot water for my instant noodles.

After a real long and pleasant chat with a German girl; Ester, I have eaten and got water for my tea. It is still 13C, but cloudy. As I can't leave the room, I just sit and work, while I await the result from the Covid-19 PCR-test - hoping to get it soon, and visit the volcano with the German before midnight.

At nine, I get the negative result, and stuff Ester in the car, and head down south to the Fagradalsfjall volcano. A real nice area with quite some Alpine flowers, and a black river of lava. The entire area is warm, and in the cracks, orange lava can be seen, and a lot of cracking can be heard.
We make a long stroll up towards the peak, but it vanishes in mist. It have passed midnight when we return, but it is still kind of daylight.
I finish up diary and photos around 2;30, and grab some sleep. Photos of the day in Day 1.

1. Four hours of death-like sleep, and it is time for adventure. The morning shower is Icelandic: The cold water from a cold spring, great drinking quality. The hot from a hot spring, having a bit of a sulphur ordure. I fill the tea-mug and the car, and set off towards Borgarnes. It is a murky day, actually feeling darker than midnight. All attempts on making photos from the car fails miserable.

I pass a six kilometre tunnel, but stick to the coast most of the day. The city of Borgarnes is not that interesting, but they do have some old houses at the edge of town. Outside the town, they have what they call a forest. Well, they are almost two metres... The mountains are fare from tall here, and they are more or less covered in grass - and lupines. Many waterfalls find their way down the slopes.

Here are some scattered sheep, quite some Icelandic Icelandic horses but I only see two small herds of cows the entire day. Next up the the wall of basalt columns at Gerduberg. Quite impressive, especially due the the otherwise so flat area. While I'm out of the car, I do some botanizing. Here are a lot of flowering butterwort; Pinguicula.

Here are hardly any settlement, but I do spot a tiny wooden church from time to time. Along one stretch, the grass field changes into figure-like lave, covered in a thick layer of lichen.
Further up the coast, I find Gatklettur, which have some quite impressive rock formations covered in nesting seabirds. I also find a nice, little waterfall.

The sheep now tend to be found on the road, and in combination with the dense fog in the high areas, it does make the driving challenging. The temperature remains around 10C, but with the lack of wind, it does not feel that cold. However, there are still snow found in some areas. 

I reach the sea again in the SnŠfjellsjokull National Park, which look pretty much the same. Well, except the real tall antenna, sticking up, into the skies. And only when I see the outer wires, I realises how tall it is.
As I reach Sv°dufoss at eleven, the sun start to peak through. The large waterfall sits in the shadows, and I fail to talk myself into crossing the river bare-footed - and -legs, to get closer.

I head further up the peninsular, and get to the 463 meter mountain of Kirkjufell. However, the Kirkjufoss take all the attention. Two sets of falls with direct sun on! The photos fail to document its glory.
I find the sea again, and walk to the beach. Or rather; fall, along with some turf. The sand and rocks are made up by lava.

On the peninsular SnŠfjellness, I find the cosy little town, and its Bonus supermarket. I stock dinner and chocolate biscuits for lunch. The prices are surprisingly close to Danish.
Is is a nice town, with many tiny wooden and colourful houses and a busy harbour. One house even have a little rock-garden with flowers. I do a big loop.

The last planned sight of the day is Eriksstadir, Eric the Red's old farm. Or where the remains were found. A turf house, build as Eric's was supposed to look, if found nearby. I get a extensive tour and lecture by a lovely geek.
It is almost five, when I head on, and it turns out the 300 kilometres to the booked
hotel, can take five hours! Well, half is gravel roads. I end up driving 666 kilometres today, around half on gravel.

I might speed a tiny bit, and only stop at the mighty Dunjandi waterfall. mainly because the sun is right on. A lot of water is tumbling down a 100 meter almost vertical cascade. As I head on, more and more snow are found in the ravines. I end up in a beautiful valley Korpusalur with next to nothing in the gas-tank. I've been looking fruitless half the day!

I try to cook some dinner fast, and get to work, but it seems like everyone insist on talking with me. Eventually, I finish half pass one, but only because I cut corners. It is more light outside at midnight, as it was in the morning.
Photos of the day in Day 2.

2. After fivers hours of sleep, I'm eager to see some more. The host lours me to some breakfast, but then I set off. Well, I have to ask; Where do the power socked in this house originate from? The came from the US under the war, and the plugs was then made in Italy. I have never seen this type before, despite I have visited 121 countries.

The car claim; it have gas for 0 km, but I manages to get it to ═safj÷r­ur - probably because is is downhill from the 6 kilometre tunnel, and I stop stopping for photos. The valley I stay in, is absolutely gorgeous! Green grass with flowers, cut through by blue creeks, surrounded by black, snow-covered and steep table-mountains. The sun just add to the glory.

After taking care of the car, I find the old part of this harbour-town. ═safj÷r­ur's old part is mainly right next to the sea, and here, many old tin-sheets are more or less maintained, right next to the sea. I make a stroll in the streets and along the beach, then a drive through the other parts.

Then I head back the way I came yesterday, as I didn't have time to stop at some sights. Luckily, I did stop at the Dunjandi waterfall, as it now is in the expected shadow. The GPS is set for Bildudalur. It is yet another great drive, through tall and steep mountains and green valleys along the fjords. The road is only sealed for some part, the rest rather rough. The tires on the car are slicks, and I feel like driving on ice!

Some of the fjords are like a mirror, and I make a photo or two... Then I reach a rather barren area, and I get the "highland-feeling", despite it is less than 500 height. It is probably more the lava that make it less attractive for plants, even lupines! Some of the creeks are lined with a neon-green moss, which turns out NOT to be peat-moss.

Bildudalur is a disappointment after ═safj÷r­ur, but it was a nice drive to it. I make a picture of the church and the sheets in the edge of town, before I continues of an even more narrow and bumpy track. Here are a few scattered buildings, some grass and huge mountains. Some of the beaches are strangely enough golden, but the boulders and rocks almost black. The sun have vanished, and I misses it! Not for the heat, but the colours.

My plan was to go around the peninsular to see The Pink, The Golden and the White Beach, but I forgot my Speedos, and 5-6 hours of driving on a crappy road, don't tempt at all. I turn around, and head back home-wards.
I do see a lot of sea- and beach birds all the time, but decided NOT to attempt to get any photos. Even up here, whole mountain sides are covered in lupines.

I find Skr˙­ur Botanical Garden, dating back to 1909. It is tiny, but well kept, and I do some loops. Then I head homewards, but do some walks, one at a river, covered in snow. That causes for the traditional snowman - with a twist.
 I'm home kind of early; at four, but I have a lot of different office-work to deal with. Further more, I would like to avoid the toll-tunnel more than once. Well, three times then? The house is nice and quiet at first, but fills up. There are no vacant beds in the Westfjords at present time!
I finally get early to bed - while the house fills up. Photos of the day are in Day3.
            It is time to open Diary 2, with the northern Iceland.

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3  4  5