We hit the sack as early so we can to make up for the past 24 hours of sleeplessness…lay down our heads and — BANG, BANG at 10 pm. It sounds like pile driving, or a broken heating system, or an armed attack. Marsha looks out the window and sees fireworks, yes FIREWORKS…and they don’t stop until about 2:30 am.
It turns out that a new trend in Iceland is to mark the end of Christmas with private fireworks displays (also to light up the ever present darkness probably). People buy the fireworks to support the Icelandic Volunteer organization…that takes the place of the military (that Iceland doesn’t have); they do rescues, disasters, etc. and are beloved. Well, they don’t love our sleep. We do make it through to breakfast and our excursion to the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
We leave at 9 am in total darkness, traveling north and west of Reykjavik on Rt. 1 (the ring road circumventing the island), finally arriving at the peninsula around 11 am as the light begins to make things recognizable and photographical. We’re now in the very west of Iceland where the beautiful white and black sand beaches lie against the North Atlantic Ocean.
The place was chiseled out with the help of the North Atlantic, glaciers and ever present volcanic action. Spectacular cliffs and cones and glacier tops. On early stop is at the Ytri Tunga beach, but didn’t see the seals that usually are in view. The rest of the view is amazing anyway.
The area is still dotted with small fishing villages that are literally dying as modern, commercial fishing practices take over and the young people go to Reykjavik to university and tend to stay there.
The weather is erratic and changeable, but it’s really much more moderate than our upper Midwest for example. This is the coldest month yet the temperature rarely goes below the 20s — and hovers in the 30s and 40s. Out by the ocean though, the winds make it bone-chilling.
We take a bracing, long walk along the shoreline for some of these unique and surprising sights around every bend. Some perfect examples of the erosion of volcanic rock formations.
Marsha, along with Nancy and Jeff — “enjoying” one of the first, and only, bits of blue sky we see so far.
At the end of our hike a sculpture of a person who fell to his death over the edge of the cliff and into the ocean. We drive off for lunch at a charming, really remote roadside restaurant with this view from the back. The Lutheran churches seem all to be set above the communities they serve, adding a spiritual nature to the spectacular vistas. Kinda makes you wanta go to church.
Leaving this part of the peninsula leads us into the Snaefellsjokull National Park, 70 km into the sea from the west coast. It was established in 2001, and is steeped in ancient and literary folklore — think trolls, hidden people, and seals shedding their skin to reveal beautiful women….
Marsha feeling the softness of the black sand under her bare feet (just hidden)…NOT. Each rock formation along the shore is even more interesting than the other.
And the glacial-carved cliff walls constantly show their stuff. Speaking of Icelandic “sagas”, see if you can find the hidden person in the shot above. He’s very kind, but don’t tempt his good nature leaning on his wall.
We end the visit along the shore by hiking down a steep incline to a spectacular, wave-smashed beach only to have a quick wind and sleet storm chase us back up the hill faster than we ever thought we could go…with a 50 mph wind at our backs.
Our last stop at last light is a volcano’s crater that you can actually drive int0. Our bus doesn’t take the chance as there is a large snow drift at the entrance. Marsha and Mary Ellen are glad, as am I, since a rescue bus would take about three or four hours to get here. But our driver has to back out the narrow, curvy gravel road about a quarter of a mile to the main road. He gets a big round of applause.
We make our way back to Reykjavik for a quick dinner and a ride out to the darker parts of town to see if there is any aurora borealis activity. Not too much in the just about breaking overcast, but at about 10 pm we spot a barely visible line of pale green that is a small, but real sighting. I got an interesting shot with my iPhone, but can’t get it into this blog with any degree of detail. I’m working on the issue and will have it for you soon I hope. And, there are so many more spectacular images (and I’m sure there will be more), so I promise I’ll send a link to all the photos after we get home..
We get back into bed at close to midnight with, you guessed it, a blast of fireworks (day 14?), but it mercifully ends and we get some much needed sleep for our day-long trip to Vik tomorrow. Sleep Well.