An unexpectedly great day. The past few days have apparently been more exhausting than I realized, and after a long ten hours of sleep I was awoken by an arriving tour bus at 9:30. The fog was still heavy, so the Wondermobile was guided to Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city with a population of over 16,000. The library there offers free internet access, and more importantly has a cafe with really good coffee, so I took a couple of hours to catch up with the news and get my caffeine on.
Since there wasn’t a real plan for the day, and since there was a paved road heading around the coast, I detoured off of the ring route and took in the countryside. Eventually the road turned inland, and as the mountains rose and a fjord disappeared behind me the Little Voice in my head started talking. The conversation went something like this:
“Stop and climb a mountain.” said the Little Voice. “Please? Why wouldn’t you stop. It’s perfect weather and this scenery is about as good as it gets.”
“Little Voice,” I replied, “my legs are very tired from all of the recent hiking, and I want to get to the west fjords to photograph birds. There’s no time to climb mountains.”
“But there are no trails and no other people around, so you’ll have the mountain all to yourself.” persisted the Little Voice. “And besides, why did you come to Iceland if not to climb remote mountains that overlook fjords?”
Duly chastised by my inner monologue, who made an excellent argument, I pulled the Wondermobile off of the road and set off up a massive and scenic peak. Following a zig-zag path through boggy fields, up snowy slopes, and over loose rock it took a couple of hours and a few buckets of sweat to reach the summit, but the experience was awe-inspiring. While at the top I took a handful of photos, including several of fog rolling in from the fjords; it was only after about ten minutes that the realization dawned that heavy fog would make it extraordinarily difficult to navigate back to the car, so a hurried descent was made, all the while making note of every landmark I could find to use as guides back to the Wondermobile. Luckily whatever was rolling in wasn’t terribly thick, and the long trip back to the car ended up being surprisingly straightforward.
After the mountain climb the next stop was a short detour along high cliffs to Siglufjordur, Iceland’s northernmost town. The place once had a population of over 10,000 but the herring fishery collapsed in the sixties, and now it’s a sleepy and very beautiful little outpost along a fjord. Most important about this town, however, is that by the harbor is a municipal campground with hot showers. As grungy backpacker Ryan stepped into the shower and turned on the water a chorus of angels sang out and light shone down from the heavens as the liquid cleanliness flowed forth. I really liked this town when I arrived, but after that other-worldly bit of refreshment I found myself briefly considering forgoing a return visit to the bird cliffs of western Iceland in order to stay here for another day.