Hólmavík, gateway to the Westfjords, the first place on this trip that I might actually want to come back to. It’s calm and overlooking its own fjord, Steingrímsfjarður. Snow on the mountains far away on another peninsular. Still enough of the comforts and utilities of modern life but with mostly gravel roads in town and muddy 4x4 vehicles driving on them. No traffic lights: you can watch a car approach around the bay then follow it visually and aurally all the way to its destination in the town.
It’s a serious drive to get here, several 350 m. passes - think car commercials country - and the scenery is magnificent but the bleak beauty of the Westfjords proper only starts from Hólmavík onwards. There’s the long valley of Steingrímsfjarðarheiði leading to a 400 m. pass, just a turf-roofed bothy and a couple of aerial masts at the summit. The river down the far side falls over a sequence of rock steps, gaining flow each time, each waterfall more impressive than the last.
Then the fjords. Big and long to drive along. You drive a lot of kilometres for very little progression up the coastline. And then the same again for the next fjord. Sparsely populated by people but hugely popular as a nursery for seabirds. An abundance of food for them, seaweed and lots of midges.
The road continues onwards, it’s sealed as far as Ísafjörður but me, I have to turn round somewhere and the head of one of these fjords was the place. A picnic by a waterfall with enough breeze to keep the insects moving. The layers of the rocks here aren’t quite horizontal, which warps the perspective. And then the road back.
Having tasted the wilds, I appreciate more the comforts of Hólmavík. Twice, I was able to enjoy breakfast in sunshine on the deck of the guest house admiring the scent from the blue lupins which grow wild all around. Hólmavík is remote enough but the internet is well good enough. You have the sea in the fjord (changing every time you look at it), the rocks around are streaked with snow (high enough that anywhere else they would be called mountains) and the harbour has a few little ships and boats, the church’s architecture makes it a navigation aid (align the steeple and the doors and you are on the channel to the harbour). There’s a nine hole golf course that brings in the Americans. A trio of francophone Swiss females from Sion were off on a one of the boat trips to watch puffins or whales while their male partners adventured in the wilds further up the road to the wilds.
I watched over breakfast the seabirds grazing around the sewage outflow pipe; small birds are here also, some of the same ones we enjoy in our gardens in the UK. They sing and appreciate the trees and the small gardens. Swans also, they too migrate huge distances, looking magnificent in flight over the wild landscape. Arctic Terns too, but not at all friendly, I was driven away from one beach when they went into attack mode, including physical contact, diving to attack my head.
So thank you the Westfjords of Iceland, good to have seen you but I doubt that I’ll be back soon. Closing the loop of my tour back in Reykjavik, much of which that’s become a tourist hell-hole. Now writing this from the familiar comfort of the BA flight home, just now passing 11,500 m. over the beaches of the Isle of Lewis of the Outer Hebrides. Iceland was good but absolutely not cheap. You could do it on a motorbike but you’d have to be ready even in summer for drizzle, wind and temperatures usually not exceeding 12°C, although when you see the sun it feels strong through the clear, clean air. Sure the views are magnificent but all too often the mountains are obscured by mist, penetrating drizzle or rain...