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Iceland - The Island of Fire and Ice

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Part 6 - Isafjördur, Iceland

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Part 6 - Isafjördur, Iceland
 

Isafjördur is the largest town of the Westfjords despite its population of only some 2,600 people. Pure, rough Icelandic nature and isolation are the characteristics of this peninsula. The area is difficult to reach by land. In severe weather and snow, the gravel roads are often impassable and closed for long periods of time, which is why it is a largely uninhabited area. As a result, it offers protection for many bird and animal species such as puffins and the arctic fox.

The first indicator of the rough nature that morning was the cold, strong wind. Otherwise the weather gods meant well for us again.

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The Eclipse had anchored in the narrow fjord in front of the little town, and berthing was quite a struggle for the tender boats if they didn’t’ want to drift off the jetty.

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Like in Akureyri, I went ahead to pick up the rental car, which we had booked with Europcar/Holdur again. The pickup was just as easy and comfortable as the day before. No 10 m next to the jetty I saw a car with a Europcar sign. A friendly lady handed me the documents through the window and took my credit card details. The only delay we had was caused by another renter who had just entered his car. A warning shout by a port worker, a loud scratching noise and a few people coming running excitedly... The cars were all parked with their backs to the breakwaters of the jetty. Apparently, the driver wasn’t familiar with a stick shift and had hit the clutch without putting on the handbrake. He had rolled beyond the edge of the parking lot right into the rocks of the breakwaters. Although they had prevented the car from an involuntary wash, it was now stuck right there.

According to the driver, this was all the car rental’s fault, as he would have preferred an automatic in the first place. Luckily, nobody got hurt, and the clients behind me and I only shook our heads half amused, half in disbelief. We surely had no reason to complain. Our car, a big Volkswagen van, stood right there at the jetty, and all we had to do was get in and drive off.

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Today’s destination was Dynjandi Waterafall - and the picturesque drive there through the fjords. From Isafjördur we first followed a well-paved road up the mountain.

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Half way up, we crossed the mountain through a long, single-lane tunnel with turnouts and got out at the other end in the next fjord.

The landscape was as unusual as fascinating for us.

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On the other side of this fjord we climbed the next mountain, crossed a pass and descended into another fjord. The view of the following fjord as we drove down the steep road was another great experience.

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We crossed the water of the fjord on a little dam just before its end. Behind it, the street took us back along the shore towards a little village which consisted of only a few houses. That’s where we finally turned left to climb yet another mountain. From now on, the street was different. It was one of those mostly unpaved streets in Iceland, of which I had read so much before our trip. It went uphill in steep serpentines, and at the edge of the narrow road snow walls, which had been gashed by heavy equipment, were still piling up. Now we understood why these streets were impassable in winter.

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The view from the pass down was terrific, and all of us in the car commented on it accordingly. Mostly in admiration, but our female passengers also in view of the steep and narrow turns of the gravel road, which in many places wasn’t much wider than our VW van and led directly along the edge of the precipice. I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed driving here.

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Every so often we saw free-roaming sheep between the rugged lava rocks. I had read a lot about these Iceland sheep known for their robustness and their good coat. They roam freely in summer and aren’t taken back to the farms until a big sheep roundup in fall.

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As we went around the fjord, we also passed a herd of Iceland horses letting the stormy wind blow through their manes. On the other side of the deep blue water we could already make out our destination against the light of the radiant sun.

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The last few minutes’ drive went by quickly. Then we stood in amazement in the parking lot at the foot of the mighty Dynjandi, where the stream of the waterfall disgorged into the fjord.

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Dynjandi is the highest waterfall in the Westfjords. From a plateau above, it plunges about 100 m (330 ft.) across various levels, thereby creating an incredible thunder and roar. This noise is what gave the waterfall its name, as Dynjandi translates as “thunder”.

Up to mid-level of the waterfall, a path led uphill passing smaller falls and rapids, which all had their own names.

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The path ended in the upper part and turned into a via ferrata leading up to the big waterfall. The falls directly underneath Dynjandi were already higher than the ones before. The wind up here was blowing strongly and drove the spray ahead of it. If you didn’t watch out, it could even blow your cap off your head.

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Now it wasn’t far to go. Driven by the joy of this fantastic sight we kept struggling uphill against the wind, and a few minutes later we were standing in front of Dynjandi.

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It truly lived up to its name. Right in front of our eyes, endless amounts of water were running off the mountain roaring and thundering. To talk to each other we would have had to scream – but actually there was no need. This was one of those moments you rather enjoy quietly and reverently.

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Not just the waterfall was unforgettable, but also the view into the valley. You could let your eyes wander all the way down to the fjord following the water as it plunged as a broad wall down the steep slope, then turned into many small rapids flowing more shallowly through rocks covered in bright green moss before continuing its way crashing over the next falls into the plane. All the way down you could just about make out the cars in the parking lot, where the visitors looked like little ants running around in between.

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On our way back we once more enjoyed the drive on the winding roads and the spectacular scenery of the fjords.

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According to our guide book, it was worthwhile visiting the little fishing village of Flateyri along the road, so that’s where we turned when we saw the sign. After a few kilometers along the fjord we passed some wooden frames with Harðfiskur – dried fish, one of the most popular snacks in Iceland. Very healthy and full of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acid – but also quite unappetizing to look at.

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I found a manual on the internet on how to prepare Harðfiskur. The last part, which said it all, reads as follows: “After a few weeks, depending on your climate, your fish should be all yellow and hard and look very unappetizing. This is good.“

Flateyri itself wasn’t particularly attractive and completely deserted. We only briefly drove around the block and then got going again. Back across the last mountain, through the tunnel and back down to Isafjördur, where we could already see our Eclipse from afar.

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I refueled the car at a gas station. Since we still had some time on our hands, we parked the car and took a little walk through this tranquil town.

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But Isafjördur was also deserted and due to the Pentecost holiday, all shops and most of the cafés were closed. However, we managed to find one. It was rather quaint and attended by guests from the ship and young locals alike. Some locals were talking, others just sat there drinking coffee and knitting.

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Eventually it was time to return to the ship waiting for us in the fjord. After all, we didn’t want to miss the last tender.

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Again, returning the car was a breeze. I parked the car directly on the jetty of the tender and left the keys under the doormat, as I was told.

An hour later, when the Eclipse set sail again, we were warming up on the heated loungers of the Persian Garden. Through the large panoramic windows we could comfortably enjoy watching the landscape of the fjords go by.

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The evening still had something special in store. For this wasn’t just another extraordinary and exciting day, but it was also Birgit’s birthday, which we celebrated with a dinner at Murano, one of the specialty restaurants.

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In a stylish atmosphere we let ourselves be spoilt with delicacies like goat cheese soufflé, lobster bisque, flambéed lobster, lamb and filet mignon. Last but not least the head waiter conjured up crêpes filled with strawberries, which he flambéed in a balsamic reduction at our table right in front of our eyes. It was excellent.

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Well-fed, we went for our nightcap in the Sky Lounge to end another wonderful day. At around 11.30 pm we were presented with yet another magnificent sunset. When we went to bed well after midnight it still wasn´t dark outside.

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