Djupivogur – East Iceland

On Monday, July 2nd, we awoke in Djupivogur (population 386) to a semi-foggy morning, but at least we could see the harbor. Greg mentioned hearing birds all night. They run once a day cruises in the summer from here to Papey Island which is just offshore and was most likely, due to its name, once an hermitage for the Irish monks who inhabited Iceland before the arrival of the Norse. It’s thought that they fled in the face of Nordic settlement. The island was once a farm and now is inhabited only by seals and nesting sea birds. It has an old lighthouse dating back to 1922 and Iceland’s oldest wooden church. If we had the time we would have maybe done the day trip over there, but it only runs once a day so would hold us up here another 24 hours.

We set out (without coffee, a very bad idea we found later), and got back on the Ring Road 1 heading towards a town called Hofn (pronounced Hup like a quick hiccup), the gateway to Iceland’s Southeasten quarter dominated by the vast Votnajokull Icecap, the world’s third largest after those of Antarctica and Greenland. The roads were a bit better than the evening before and we wound our way along the water front stopping to take some photos of birds flocking to and fro. The wind was quite cold today and it was a bit cloudy (still barely any rain) so we didn’t linger too long outside the truck. We arrived in Hofn (population 1800) which is the main town and harbor of the southeast and seems like a “metropolis” after Djubivogur. It’s a fairly modern fishing and fish processing town set amid stunning surroundings. It offered us our first view of the Votnajokull Icecap and its valley glaciers. Unfortunately we missed their annual lobster festival by two days, but according to the books, there isn’t a lot of lobster at the festival, mostly drinking and ice carving competitions. We found a place to have lunch and coffee! Yay. A modern cafe called Kaffi Hornid which was in a very new timber house (1996) with good coffee and decent food. We later went to the Glacier Exhibition which housed an impressive collection of exhibits relating to glacier expeditions including an old tent, clothing, skis, sleds, crampons and snowshoes used in the 1950 trek. We’ve come a long way in outdoor clothing and gear! There were informational panels and photographs explaining glacial formation and action and current changes in the icecap. There was a 10 minute video of the 1996 eruption of Grimsvotn and also a film about the two James Bond movies that used the icecap as a backdrop for filming as well as the Tomb Raider movie that had a scene filmed there. From the roof of the museum you could get a very good view of the icecap which surrounds the city. All in all, stunning and impressive. I’m constantly aware of how good the museums and other facilities are in Iceland. High tech, and modern. Plus the bathrooms everywhere from the campgrounds to the smallest cafes in the smallest towns are clean and efficient. Hooray for Iceland!

On our way out of town we hit the N1 gas station and the adjoining Vin Bud liquor store only open from 2-4pm on Mondays. We got some wine and vodka to have in the camper and set out. After driving about one hour we rounded a bend in the Ring Road (1) and hit Jokulsarlon. It’s not every day you see luminous blue icebergs floating in a lake right beside a national highways, but that’s what we saw as we drove along. The 200 m deep Jokulsarlon is a must-see for anyone coming this way. We spent a good hour or so here taking photos and being amazed by what we saw. There is a boat tour you can take of the lake in an amphibious boat (land to water) but it was expensive and not worth it as we could see far out into the water. There were a fair number of tourists here, but it wasn’t too bad. Greg got out the tripod and took some great photos. We saw some gorgeous birds, but alas, no seals. Apparently a colony of seals has made a home at the river mouth but we didn’t see any in the lagoon even though they have been known to swim into the lagoon.

We left in a howling wind and a cloudy sky and drove about another half hour before finding a great spot to pull of the road and camp for the night. We are next to a waterfall about 1/8 of a mile off of the Ring Road, and 3/4 of a mile from the ocean. It’s very windy tonight but we feel cozy and secure in the camper. It was nice to get to our resting spot at a decent hour so we have had time to hike, set up things, cook dinner and relax. This will be a great place to sleep with the sound of the wind and waterfall. It’s cloudy so the sunlight won’t be an issue tonight. We grilled Icelandic lamb for dinner which was so delicious. Greg is reading a book on Cod (very appropriate) so we may buy some salted cod tomorrow. It’s available at all the local stores and the conveinence stores along the highway and according to Greg’s book, salted cod is way better than fresh. We shall see. In America it’s a cup of coffee and a donut while on the road, or fast food and here it’s coca-cola to drink and salted cod for snacks.

*By the way, Icelanders drink more coca cola than any other country per capita. How odd? Greg is contributing to the statistics by having at least two a day.

Tomorrow we’ll keep heading southwest. Not sure where we’ll end up, but there is still lots to see before we head back to Kefalik to fly back to the states on Friday.