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Travel for Less

Snaefellsness Peninsula

Time for a quick review of “Day 4” of my Iceland trip. We drove from our hotel in Stykkisholmur to the end of the peninsula then back to the hotel.

I’m not sure where on the map the beach is. I got the guide to show me twice but I hadn’t packed a highlighter (that is most certainly going on the packing list in the future) and had to borrow. Unluckily neither a bar nor a bus is a good place to highlight maps. Anyway, I’m guessing the beach was about half way to the end of the peninsula along the southern edge. We went to the tip, looped toward the North at the tip, then dropped back to the Southern road to return to the hotel. The peninsula is 48 miles long. So with backtracking and looping around and such we probably went about 100 miles for the day.

We then stopped off at a waterfall where the family planted trees as a way to keep rocks from tumbling down onto the house. Apparently this can be a common problem.

Further down the road we stopped at a wayside where a statue commemorated The Traveling Woman. The woman in question was Guoriour Porbjarnardottir, wife of Porfinnur, who settled in Vinlnd (America) around the year 1000. She gave birth to the first Viking baby in America, then promptly bundled the little tyke up for a trip to Rome. Seriously, this lady got around, starting from right where this rest area commemorated her on the place she was born.

The place also had a church and played host to the local assembly which is as close to government as they got back then. There are a lot of pieces of bare ground like that in Iceland.

On the bus we got a mini-lecture on the nature of volcanoes, lava names, and the composition of the earth. Frankly, I suspect you all already know about it, so I’m not real inclined to repeat it here.

I will point out some stuff about the photo below. That greenish band in the middle is lava coated in moss. It takes 2000 years to grow moss and 4000 for small bushes. The fact that most of the ground in Iceland is bare lava tells you a bit about how freshly made the land. More on that is some other post. Aren’t you glad? 🙂

The main stop in the morning was the beach below. We learned that the arctic fox is the only land mammal to reach Iceland before the Vikings, that the arctic tern which lays it’s eggs in Iceland flies from pole to pole so many times over the course of it’s life that it covers the same distance as three round trips to the moon, and that some roads are colored so driver’s can see the terns, who like the heat rising from roads.

From there we headed for the tip of the peninsula.
We reached Arnarstapi and got off the bus to hike to Hellnar along the coast in time to each lunch at the converted fishing cottage at the Hellnar end of the trail,.

Then we kind of tootled around. We stopped off at a museum that was essentially one room about twice the size of my living room with more Viking stuff and more wildlife stuff including a score of glass cases and accompanying bulletin board information stands. Plus bathrooms.

There happened to be a lighthouse nearby. We took a quick hike out to it, but it wasn’t open and not much else to see around it, so most of us quickly hiked back to the bus.

On the bus we were treated to more stories. For instance, we happened to pass by land where Iceland’s only serial killer used to live. He was a farmer who would kill visitors for whatever wealth they had on them. The neighbors noticed that more and more horses were appearing in his stable. They weren’t about to put up with that! When they apprehended him, his wife was accused of being an accomplice, but they let her off because she was pregnant. At his execution, his gentiles were thrown at her. Her son became a serial rapist. Connection? Who knows, but the ballads about them say the whole family was rotten to the core.

I mentioned before that there is some flexibility with respect to the schedule. In the past groups used to stop off to visit some caves in the area. I guess the caves weren’t so impressive because when they started charging a fee and requiring helmets etc it was dropped from the tour.

However, the bus driver heard from the friend of a cousin that there was a place where you could drive right into the caldera of an old volcano. It wasn’t officially part of the tour, but we checked it out. The bus took a short dirt road, flipped a Uey inside the volcano and kept driving. Forgive the glare on the window. It’s the best shot I could get.

At one point the guide pointed randomly out the window and said that we were passing the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. All I saw was more rain and hulking volcano. I can’t even clearly remember how far into the day we were. Pictures? Even if I snapped one off, I couldn’t tell you which it was.

I’m sure you noticed already that there’s some impressive scenery along the road all through the island. One of them is Kirkjfell. This is NOT the entry to the center of the earth. This is prettier.

Kirkjfell is also known as Church Mountain or Sugar Top. It’s one of the better known landmarks, according to the informational marker. Could have fooled me, though it certainly is dramatic. For me it’s particularly important because it puts the lie to my firmly held belief that there is absolutely nothing but lava in Iceland. They found fossils from the ice age at the bottom of this thing. To my credit, it also has lava layers above. Let’s just count it as an exception.

Then we were off for the last stop of the day. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The chance to eat some truly obnoxious food – Greenland Shark

This is one of those cases where people turn the food they ate because they were desperate into seasonal delicacies. Apparently some famous chef (Gordon Ramsay?) challenged a reporter to eat three delicacies including this shark meat, then threw it up. Hey, at least I kept it down. He just didn’t have enough Black Death to go with it.

For the Icelandic, it’s a bit like fruitcake. They only eat it once a year. It’s part of a rather grizzly menu for their Mid-Winter Festival. Also on the menu – sheep brains, salted dried fish, sour ram testicles, rye bread, smoked lamb, liver boiled and cured in lactic acid, meat soup, skyr which the guide called fake yogurt, and blood pudding.

Yep. The kind of stuff you eat because it’s better than starving.

Afterword they let us come up with our own supper.


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