Húsafell to Patreksfjörður _travel notes 3

August 12th

Total distance covered: 425 km | 264 miles + ferry

 

Light filled the sky when I fell asleep at 1 a.m. and it was still bright when I woke up a 4 a.m. We needed to get an early start to catch the ferry which departed from Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and would deliver us, 3 hours later, to Brjánslækur on the Westfjords. As we hit the road I noticed the full moon hanging in the sky. The moon, along with a sunset after 10 p.m. and a sunrise before 5 a.m., and the reflective light grey ground, made it seem as if darkness had never covered Húsafell. On our 3-hour drive to the ferry which skirted the northern shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we saw a total of 4 vehicles before we entered town. Few people were out, but there was no lack of sheep: literally hundreds of white, grey, and black bundles of wool dotted the hillsides and convened on the roads, using the markers as scratching posts.

 

Ferry rides provide a wonderfully different perspective of the landscape. An island girl by nature, I stayed above deck as much as possible enjoying the fresh ocean breeze and layers upon layers upon layers of land on the horizon. The journey was slow and the water was smooth as we crossed Breiðafjörður. The shoreline of the Westfjords appeared- it was hard to grasp the enormous scale of these cliffs and landforms- wow! Since arriving in Iceland my impression of large landscapes has been trumped time and time again… 


Látrabjarg is the most westerly point of Europe. These enormous cliffs, at their highest point, surge 1,300 feet above the ocean and are home to the country’s largest colonies of cliff-dwelling birds. It is also believed to provide nesting and breeding ground to the largest auk colony in the world, although I must admit I was enamored with the puffins. Driving around mountain passes with numerous 180˚ switchbacks, directly along the edge of steep cliffs, on narrow dirt roads was exciting to say the least. Just making it to this location felt like a great adventure. It’s hard to believe the adventures of the past- after they had traveled to these cliffs, people would dangle, suspended from ropes, over the edge, on the mission of collecting seabird eggs. Today, signage suggests that visitors approach the cliff edge on their stomach- being careful not to get to close, as they might damage the cliffs stability and this highly prized landscape. The lack of concern for a person falling over the cliffs was refreshing- fall over the edge, that’s fine, but don’t hurt our sacred landscape!

 

Westfjords- stunning in scenery and isolated. I grew up on Mount Desert Island, Maine, and lived for a few years on North Haven Island, Maine (an hour ferry ride from the mainland). I thought I understood  isolation, but what I had previously experienced was nothing in comparison. Here, only a few small “towns” exist and in some places miles upon miles past before a single dwelling came into view. A view, in Iceland has an entirely different meaning as there are almost no trees blocking one’s sight. This increased visibility also raised the question of privacy, or lack thereof. We passed one farmhouse sitting at the crutch of a massive fjord, braving the extremes. Adjacent to the house we noticed the john (outhouse).  For miles around everyone would know when the urge was calling- Mom and I couldn’t help laughing out loud.

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3 thoughts on “Húsafell to Patreksfjörður _travel notes 3

    • Thanks for reading- wish you were here to enjoy it with me! Seriously the Puffins were INCREDIBLE! They were brimming with personality and curiosity – I think they liked the photo shoot! Hope all is well at the A-school and your semester is off to a good start.
      kel

  1. This was such a long, long day! 264 miles may not sound that grueling, but the ferry took the better part of 4 hours and many of those miles were traveling slowly on dirt roads.Traversing the mountains involved steep, nerve rattling descents, switchback after switchback on both paved and dirt roads, sharp, single lane curves with no visibility as to what might be coming the other way, and sharp drop-offs, sometimes on both sides of the road… in a 16 year old car. Hmmm… maybe she’s trying to get rid of me! On the road at 5 a.m., into our guesthouse at 11 p.m. My nerves were totally shot however, this experience gave me enormous respect for the people who settled here. The isolation in the Western Fjords is extreme today, but then I try to imagine what it was like a hundred years ago and I am overcome with wonder at how these people survived it.

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