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Posts Tagged ‘Hesteyri’

I woke up early and almost woke my bro because I could feel rain on the way.  But I was tired so I figured he needed sleep too.  I just scuttled into my tent before the rain started, sure enough.  One can hear so much more when you’re not in a tent.

In the rain I saw a line of swans come slowly down the hill to the pond, chattering away.  It was hard to kept count as they navigated the bushes, but there were possibly 9 little white S-curves behind the big capital S mama swan.

We got a break in the rain to break camp, and then we climbed the east mouth of the fjord valley, skirting the pond. We expected it to be very marshy but it wasn’t bad at all.  It rained most of our climb up the other side.  Already tired, it was a dreary and challenging trudge.  There was no view, because it was socked in, and there was no visual reference for our destination, because it was socked in.

Over and over there were “false summits”, where it appeared we’d finally hit the plateau at the top, but after walking a little farther more hill would loom out of the mist.

We had one Arctic fox sighting, one little brown furball dashing away from our intrusion.

Everywhere there were swans.  Usually there was one bright white couple in each small pond we came upon, but there were two pairs of swans in Teislavatn (sp?).  At the next lake, far up the hill in a pond surrounded by rock, there was another pair of swans.  In their rugged environment and the stinging rain, we dubbed them “back to the land” swans.

Today was hard going and plodding.  Over the top, there was a very long, long flat, on the rocky plain, marked with cairns.  In weather more inclement, they would be nearly useless, but from each cairn we could see the next; the visibility wasn’t that limited.

Our route drifted down towards sea level again after we saw the lighthouse at ? from above.  The rain lifted but the greyness didn’t.  Derek went blazing ahead because bugs suddenly appeared, swarming us like adoring fans.  Most unpleasant was sucking a bunch in on an inhale, something that fortunately doesn’t happen to Justin Beiber.

Over and over we crossed little streams, and the going was very up and down, although overall down.  Here trails began again, and it was very nice to have a trail to follow.  Pathfinding is kind of mentally tiring.

Finally we reached the beach and followed that to the attraction of Hesteyri, an “abandoned” town.

A trudging day. You can see how happy we are about it.

We trekked around, checking out the houses, and were disappointed.  Nothing seemed abandoned nor neglected.  Everything was locked up, well-secured and maintained.  Peering into windows revealed some very attractively appointed houses, that looked so much like they were locked up and walked away from yesterday it was discomfiting.  There was even a guesthouse, clearly equipped to entertain large groups.  There were coats hanging inside doors, boots in the tray, dropped gloves and tools, and food and dishes in evidence.

If this is a place abandoned in the 70’s, then the gnomes run an impressive maid service.

We cooked in the shelter of an old ruined foundation a little way from the “town”, barefoot.  My feet were cold and soaked white and they needed a break from the sopping boots.  A 100% hot meal, with soup to start, tortellini for main, hot chocolate to finish was just the ticket.   I got into dry clothes and we were off to bed at 6pm.  My legs were twitching as I drifted off, achingly tired.  I could feel them healing as I slept, trying to keep up with what I was asking of them awake.

I woke up again at 9, but the fjord was all locked up in fog, so there was nothing to get up for.

For just a few more pictures of this day, click Extra Photos

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Although I still love sleeping outside, I was ready for a hot pool.

I woke up irritated by the wind battering on my tent.  The sound of it intruded on my dreams until I woke up resentfully, and found that it wasn’t my dreams; the worst gusts of wind were flattening my tent right down to my face.  At least that was unique enough to be interesting.

There was nothing for it but to get up and bag my feet. I was pretty pleased with myself for producing two plastic bags somehow out of my luggage, out of the depleted food supplies no doubt, and I bagged my feet and last dry socks against my sodden hikers.  It was fabulous, however brief.  They didn’t last.  The plastic breached and slowly my socks sponged up water, but it started the day out right.

Alone, I hiked past Hesteyri to the mysterious red brick smokestack we could see past the town, that turned out to be an old whaling station.  I didn’t see any evidence of whales; the carcasses were of big beached iron ovens with rusted bellies and gnarled straps and gears.  None of it made sense to me, but the scale was amazing and impressive.  There were huge warehouse floors, ovens, and the tower was startng to crumble.  Some walls and whole structures were intact, but the roofs were caved in and rotting, and I felt weirdly unadventurous and reluctant to go squeezing into cracks in tumbledown buildings or to go under moss-covered partial roofs.  I trust the manmade much less than natural crevasses and outcroppings.  The trail to the whaling station was varied by bridges and little waterfalls, but I’d brought no camera.

Back near camp I picked some blueberries for breakfast (muesli) and woke Derek.  The wind was bad.  My tent had gotten all wet inside while I was gone and I was bitter about it.  I packed it all and hiked it to the one unlocked boat shed in town, right by the dock.  I finished the complete inspection of the town by snooping on the remaining four houses.  Like all the others, they appeared to be furnished, well-used, and every one locked up tight.

While Derek packed I picked blueberries in the low hills behind the town.  The blueberries were rampant and endless.  The mist was bordering light rain, heavy and dark.  That kind of moisture in the air seems to permeate waterproof clothes.

The yellow shed we sheltered in

It leaks in at your wrists and seems to come inside you with your breath, so it’s impossible to feel really dry although you may not be wet.  At any rate, I was cold.  By the time Derek came to get me I had a big bag of berries and my hands were stiff and vein blue, uncannily like  a corpse.  We went to the dock and hid in the yellow unlocked shed.

Self portrait of waiting

We waited.  We made hot chocolate, we looked around the shed.  We waited.  I can still picture the meagre contents of that boat shed in my minds eye.  A mysterious tool with a snarl of cable, nails and buckets, rags and old sacks, shreds of rope on the ground, oars and worthless warped lumber stacked on the rafters.  We were too cold not to stand, so we stood, stomping and clapping and occasionally mustering enough energy to shout and jump around, which didn’t really help too much.  Occasionally we laughed with a moment of objective perspective of us, hiding in a boathouse.  Mostly we stood staring numbly out at the long dock pointing into the bay, listening and longing for the boat that was coming to get us to appear out of the fog in the bay.

The boat was two hours late.  No zodiac this time; it could pull right up to the end of the long dock built far out into the deep enough water.  It dropped off two guys that had more luggage than I would think possible.  Boxes and drybags and backpacks, all impressively packaged gear, piling and spilling all over the dock.  They were rushing around, tossing and grabbing and hustling their stuff around at a near run.  I was soporific with our long hypnotizing wait in the boathouse, and dazed by their pace and the quantity of their stuff.  Probably the equivalent of six of our backpacks for each of them.  They tersely responded to my conversational questions that they were staying on Hornstrandir for 10 days, and continued barking at each other in German (I think), and hustling their gear around.   In fact, by the time we were on board, they’d moved their giant colorful pile of gear to the end of the dock.  It’s still a mystery what they doing with all that stuff.  Obviously it wasn’t just ten days of food, so they must have been up to something specialized, but their gear didn’t give away what.

The boat was two hours late.  No zodiac this time; it could pull right up to the end of the long dock built far out into the deep enough water.  It dropped off two guys that had more luggage than I would think possible.  Boxes and drybags and backpacks, all impressively packaged gear, piling and spilling all over the dock.  They were rushing around, tossing and grabbing and hustling their stuff around at a near run.  I was soporific with our long hypnotizing wait in the boathouse, and dazed by their pace and the quantity of their stuff.  Probably the equivalent of six of our backpacks for each of them.  They tersely responded to my conversational questions that they were staying on Hornstrandir for 10 days, and continued barking at each other in German (I think), and hustling their gear around.   In fact, by the time we were on board, they’d moved their giant colorful pile of gear to the end of the dock.  It’s still a mystery what they doing with all that stuff.  Obviously it wasn’t just ten days of food, so they must have been up to something specialized, but their gear didn’t give away what.

The pilot was the same driver as before, so needless to say he completely ignored me and spoke only to my brother.  The sea was rough, which made it very fun.  The prow of the boat heaved up and crashed  down on each wave, rain pelted the windshield and it was wild and noisy.  I played at standing on one leg at a time as long as I could in the middle of the cabin.  No one noticed.  The driver rattled on and on about “shelter” and finding the “right path” for the least turbulence.  I suggested we could go faster, and was ignored.

Back on land, we shucked our wet backpacks into our car and drove directly to a gas station.  In the washroom mirror, my face was dirty and my skin coarse.  The weather was more clear immediately. Back in Ísafjörður, we went on a binge of erranding.  A pile of food at Bónus, then back to Gamla Bakaríið for pastries and bread.  I was on the hunt for some light, simple sneakers.  My hiking boots were the only closed shoes I’d brought and I thought I could get by with them everyday, but these days it seemed they never got a chance to dry out completely, and wet heavyhikers were getting tiresome.  There was an ideal thrift store upstairs from the Bónus, but we could only gaze wistfully at the treasure trove of chaos behind the glass, as it was closed that day of the week.

At Hafnarbúdin, I declined to pay $100 (on ütsala – sale) for a pair of cheaply made $30 shoes.  Such is Iceland.  Hopefully, you’ve brought you everything you need, lest you have to buy something there.

Next we discovered the best souvenir shop, the Viking (Víking?), a chain shop.  It was staffed by a remarkable woman with a surprising UK accent.  The prices were relatively reasonable too; by this time we were adjusted to the gaggingly high price levels in general in the country.  The only customers in an oasis of kitsch, handverk (crafts, did I need to explain?), and brilliantly designed woolens, we piled things on the counter and ticked off nearly our entire list of people to bring back gifts for.  Feeling very successful with a big yellow plastic bag, we carried on Vin Búðin (“the wine shop” – Icelanders are literalists).

A friendly staffer whose name I was delighted to see was Snorri, gave us the lowdown on Brennivín.  The green plastic bottle with the striking black and white label is considered Iceland’s signature spirit.  While we were purchasing several to try out and bring home,  Snorri told us that it was cheap, trashy liquor, flavoured with caraway, and that many people died of the drinking of it so it came to be called “black death”, and had been packaged at one time with only a skull and crossbones.  The tense was a little unclear.  It seemed more past, when in harder times gone by more people were “dying of drink”, while in the present, it is considered a low level choice, but unique to Iceland, therefore a source of pride.  Iceland’s bottom of the barrel booze, in other words.  Sold primarily to tourists, it seemed. There were also lots of local beers and cider for sale singly, so we loaded up with an assortment of creatively designed cans for the road.

With that bender of shopping complete, counterbalancing a few days outside of civilization, we drove on.  At Súðavík, we stopped at the Arctic Fox Center, which was tragically closed.  I’d been so looking forward to it.  They had an inviting cafe, too, and posters outside cheerfully explaining how polar bears sometimes make landfall in the Westfjörds after swimming from Greenland and get shot for their trouble.   In the yard, though, there was a large enclosure dusted with seagull feathers around a fox play structure with one fox puppy (I know, a kit) with a big brush tail.  He totally made the stop worth it, he was such a photogenic and entertaining little fellow, not cringing or shy at all.  We lingered, taking lots of photos trying to capture his ultra-quick pouncing and smiling at his antics.  He was such a wild being.  Very primal somehow, and outside of the human world, especially in his eyes.

Can you see the truck on the other side?

The road east of Ísafjörður and Suðavík stays low in elevation and follows the coast, “fjörded” like the teeth of a comb.  For several kilometers, you drive south, pointed inland, while across the narrow finger of water you can see the next car ahead of you about 10km, driving the opposite direction.  At the “bottom” of the bay, you make a short turn and then drive several kilometers towards the ocean and the North Pole, while across the water you can see the road you were just on and maybe a big truck, the next vehicle behind you.  At the tip of the fjord, you turn again and repeat.  There’s the same car on the other side, still about 10 km ahead.  Repeat.  Repeat.

As the afternoon faded, we drove past Hotel Reykjanes and then turned around for it, deciding it was late enough to stop.  It was a strange looking place, a conglomeration of white cubes in the middle of nowhere, but it was perfect.  The owners were sweet and generous, and we paid (quite low) camping fees to tent on the big lawn in front of the buildings.  I produced a giant bag of laundry, and got taken into the basement and told all about how there was a problem with the breaker and the husband was working on it.  His tools were scattered around.  No charge for the laundry!

Their big square hot pool was about the size of a community lap pool (50m!).  It had a deep end and everything, but it was hot, clean water.  It was the perfect temperature to lounge in indefinitely, especially after days of hiking.  All the space to myself, I rested and stretched while steam rose off the water while the sky gently changed colours getting ready for the sun to set.  My brother stalked the sunset with camera, and it delivered another wild one.

For the first time, I had wifi in my tent, which was such a novelty that I had to stay up to 1am on the internet.

For a whole whack of fuzzy little Arctic fox pictures, click here.

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