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      September 2011 > Andalucia to Iceland part 16: Unkempt blondes

Andalucia to Iceland part 16: Unkempt blondes

Church, IcelandWe have come from east to west along Iceland’s southern coast, but now we are turning round to write the holiday as Inntravellers will experience it. They will be arriving in a hire car from Reykjavik airport in the west and travelling in the opposite direction to that we've just come. So, we are about to embark on the coastal drive which will connect their two centres via the small settlement of Vik.

There are many opportunities on the way for stopping and exploring. We walk along beaches of black volcanic sand, backed by black hexagonal basalt columns, and climb high headlands (at least, Linda does) with wonderful views (apparently) along the coast. Vik turns out to have another great folk museum like Skogar’s, and, more to the point, a good restaurant serving oven-baked Arctic char. It’s a hard life sampling dishes for Inntravel customers, but somebody has to do it...

If you know your Icelandic history, you might recall Hjörleifur, the brother-in-law of the first Viking settler and that he landed at a different spot from Ingólfur Arnarson. Well, we arrive at this spot now, black sands stretching for miles alongside a huge hump of green headland, the shape of a giant marooned whale. Before setting out for Iceland, Hjörleifur, like his brother-in-law, had first paid a visit to Ireland to capture his future work-force. However, the Irish slaves were not happy with their work conditions (no contract, no National Insurance contributions, etc) and so, when Hjörleifur got too pushy, they turned on him and killed him. When Ingólfur found his brother-in-law’s body he buried him on the highest point of the headland, where our Inntravel walk makes its turn-around.

IngolfurThe slaves had taken some of the Viking women and set up their own community on what came to be known as the Westman Islands (the Irish were called Westmen in Norse). Ingólfur tracked them down there and things got a bit nasty... This set the scene for the next thousand years. The Sagas tell endless tales of settlers falling out and scrapping – it’s a bit like Eastenders, but with swords.

Meanwhile, Ingólfur’s own slaves had been given the thankless task of searching for the carved ornamental wooden sides to his armchair, which he’d thrown overboard before landing. Why, one might ask? Well, he’d prayed to the Norse gods for a safe landing and promised them that he'd set up home wherever the wooden carvings washed up (hopefully, not in Morecombe). The slaves had their work cut out, as you can imagine, searching a place the size of England for a couple of bits of fancy driftwood. But they eventually found them (see picture) after a long, hard, dark winter and Ingólfur settled on the spot where they were found – it’s now called Reykjavík. (I wonder what he’d make of the weekend clubbing scene there now ...)

We now arrive at the second Inntravel centre, the un-pronounceable town of Kirkjubaejarklauster. (In fact, practically all Icelandic place-names are un-pronounceable, and Linda and I are reduced to referring to the K-place or the H-place.) We look for more walks. As usual, we get ideas for walks by talking to local people – in this case, the owner of the campsite and also our hotelier at the Inntravel guesthouse, again a working farm as in Skogar.

Following their advice, we discover a wonderful valley which doesn’t figure in any of the guidebooks. We follow a cinder track deeper and deeper into the hills, until suddenly, as we come over a brow, the valley appears, cut through by a wide river with tall, velvety green slopes on the far bank etched by rivulets of waterfalls like white streamers. The valley soon opens out into a flat-bottomed, high-sided grassy bowl, dotted with firs. Enchanting!

Unkempt Icelandic blondesAnother walk takes us along the rim of a deep-cut canyon, where a river has carved out crazy rock shapes. And for a third walk we scale the low cliff alongside the town’s waterfall and walk on the springy turf of a headland with great views across the coastal plain, where the delta of the river-mouth has traced ribbons of shining water across the flat, green land. This walk, like several we have seen, is marked out with yellow-topped wooden pegs to ensure safety if the weather closes in. Up here is a lake, a seemingly lost farmstead, sturdy Icelandic horses with unkempt blonde manes and tails blowing wildly in the wind, and views into another canyon, complete with what has now become for us the symbol of the Icelandic landscape – a huge, torrential waterfall.

One more walk to find – in the National Park of Skaftafell. But little do we know that something of an adventure lies between us and it... (Watch this space!)

Waterfall, Iceland

Posted: 28/09/2011 08:10:51 by Beth Hancock, Inntravel | with 0 comments
Filed under: heritage, Iceland, nature, walking

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