Sooo… I guess I should confess to begging the Norse Gods for a Handsome Viking Tour Guide for my birthday.. and clearly I have been very good and not annoying the Elves or Trolls, as a handsome and very competent Icelandic man offered to show me a little more of his beautiful country. Jón clearly felt guilty for having misplaced me in the mountains chasing sheep, and sort redemption before he single-handedly gave all Icelandic men a bad wrap, and so a swift and thorough tour of the highlights of the south ensured- areas not frequented by the masses of tourists. Jón is based in Reykjavik, so I flew down on Friday and was lucky enough to get scooped up from the airport & taken to the nearest wine store Vínbúðin before heading south out of town – there are only 39 of these in Iceland, and we went to the biggest… I am pretty sure it was 1/2 the size of the Moss Vale Dan Murphys…. anyway, these places have a habit of closing early and the workers going on very annoying strikes, when they please- so its key to prioritise ones visits to these places- and for a measly AU$70 you can get a cardboard bladder box full of Australia’s worst wine!
We headed straight out of town to Eyrarbakki a small fishing village, I had booked a little rustic cottages for us which backed on to the Icelandic version of a beach… lets just say i was happy to view it from above the rock wall… The cottage was just down the road from a famous local Icelandic restaurant called The Red House, famous for their Langoustines and mussels… it was delicious!
After a quick breakfast at Selfoss where we picked up some picnic supplies we headed west through some spectacular countryside, past the sub-glacial volcano which no-one other than an Icelander seems able to pronounce, Eyjafjallajökull, which produced the ash cloud that brought chaos to the European air industry in 2010. Jón was exceptionally tolerant of my demanding he stopped every 5 minutes so I could take photos…
We stopped on the way at Gluggafoss, one of the millions of spectacular waterfalls that litters the mountain sides throughout Iceland. For some reason, I find viewing a smaller waterfall on my own more spectacular than some of the larger more well know falls with hundreds of other tourists… or perhaps the days of isolation in Hrisey are actually having some effect… could it be the berries???
We then headed up a valley to one of Jón’s favorited places along some crazy roads- that only experienced off road drivers and people with sizeable vehicles should attempt- luckily I was with Iceland’s version of Top Gears the STIG- no river too wide, no mountain too high and all that…. . Thórsmörk is a mountain ridge that is aptly named after the Norse god Thor – the one who delivered on the Viking! It is situated between the glaciers Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull (yep the smoky volcano). In the valley, the river Krossá winds between the mountains, and there are numerous crossing points (very hard to see any discernable difference between the torrent of what was or what was not a crossing point!!)- which change as continually as the river changes its course. The valley is closed in between glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull being at the rear end of the valley; this causes interesting climatic differences- apparently making it an especially warm climate (not by Aussie standards, haha), some say better than in the rest of south Iceland. In the protected valley, there is green vegetation of moss, fern, birchwood and other small shrubs and it is one of Iceland’s most popular hiking areas, with some fantastic little community owned huts for hikers to stay in, unfortunately we did not have time to do any of the substantial hikes in the area as we had evening plans… The valley was littered with huge boulders- that would have taken some power to launch them so far and wide! We passed a 4 wheel drive bus stuck and filled with tourists… I was quite smug about being in comfortable four wheel drive with my handsome guide masterfully navigating swollen rivers and rocky areas that really don’t look in anyway shape or form fit for driving over… Next stop, one of the biggest tourist traps in Iceland…..