We set off quite early in the morning, at least for us, as we had a long drive to Akureyri ahead. I read that we were moving into an area of Iceland known for raising horses and before long we began to see small groups of the shaggy ponies in corrals along the highway. I was particularly struck by their think forelocks, manes and tails and wanted desperately to take some photographs, but most were too far from the road for my camera.
I finally spotted a group in a pen near a small dirt road just off the main highway. There are no shoulders on Icelandic roads, so it isn’t safe to stop unless it’s an emergency, despite the fact that there is very little traffic. Anil waited in the car while I approached the fence and instinctively started clucking, just like I was back on my Uncle Bob’s farm when I was young.
The horses sensed I knew what I was doing and started moving closer to me. It was then I regretted calling them over when I had nothing to offer them. They lost interest in me pretty quickly, but I was able to take some photos before they turned away.
During the next few hundred kilometres we passed through ever-changing scenery with very few signs of human habitation. We had moved up and away from the coast and were now on higher ground where little more than wild grasses. We passed the turn off for roads that lead to the northwestern arm of Iceland that reaches out into the ocean like a giant lobster’s claw. This is the most remote and rugged part of the island and we would have liked to explore it had we allowed more time for travel there.
After crossing the high plateau, we descended down towards a fjord and turned eastward across the neck of yet another peninsula. Here and there we came across small pockets of arable land near the sea with tiny hamlets nestled along the coast. I studied the map and chose Blönduós as a spot to stop for fuel for the car and lunch for us. We had heard from Adia that there wasn’t much to eat outside of Reykjavik, and that when Icelanders eat away from home, their food of choice is hotdogs, fries and coke.
For that reason, we didn’t expect a gourmet meal as we pulled into a modern gas station with an attached restaurant. True to Adia’s warning, there wasn’t much choice, but Anil was pleased he could have a large slice of pizza because he won’t eat hot dogs, but I felt I had to try one of the interesting wieners wrapped in a thin slice of bacon. We both chose to have our caffeine hot (coffee) instead of cold (Coke) because neither of us likes our drinks to be sweet.
While we were eating I noticed a threesome who looked about as out of place as we did. They were obviously travellers as well, and I nodded to the two women thinking they were probably Europeans, assuming they didn’t speak Icelandic or English. They smiled back, appreciating a friendly face as much as I did.
That’s not to say that the Icelandic people aren’t friendly, it’s just that we had been isolated for days in our car, and there were few other people around where ever we stopped. The restaurant was full of men, young and old, probably taking a break from their work on the neighbouring farms, and happy to have a hot meal and another coke. There wasn’t a man without a bottle in his hand.
As we pulled out of Blönduós I was surprised to see a striking new church built on a hill just above the river. It seemed strangely out of place in this remote town, I was much more used to seeing old-fashioned wooden churches with tall, thin steeples. It’s not just the landscape that continues to surprise and delight the eyes.
We still have a few hundred kilometres to drive before reaching our destination, but they passed pleasantly for me. It was too bad that the rental car company charged an additional amount for a second driver. I would have liked to relieve Anil for part of the time and to give him a chance to look around, seeing that the navigation was as easy as pie. There is only one ring road around Iceland and you would have to be very directionally impaired to get lost here.