ICELAND 2019 4 Days 14-17

My trip was drawing to a close, which was very sad, but I was nonetheless still heading east along the northern coast, my most easterly destination being the next farm I had chosen (Grimsstadir): one not too far from Dettifoss and nearby Selfoss. It was day 14 of my trip.
Long before I reached Dettifoss, however, I got somewhat and unexpectedly sidetracked by smouldering ground near Myvatn, and spent some time climbing this and that and exploring the region. I also found an amazing kind of cave or grotto (Grjotagja) with a thermal pool inside; and finally, I came upon another thermal area, with heaps of smouldering ground and red mountains and hills to climb (Hverir). Having done no research on this area, this was all rather fun: a serendipitous treat.


At Dettifoss and Selfoss, it was snowing quite heavily, so there was no point in setting up my tripod for long exposure photos. They would have misty blotches all over them. Besides, these waterfalls didn’t appeal. Not after the beautiful blue ones I have seen. They were just more massive amounts of water tumbling into an abyss, and not particularly outstanding as objects to be photographed. They were fabulous as exhibits of the power of nature, so I just enjoyed that aspect. In May, it seems, the waterfalls are just too voluminous and too white for good photography. It is hard to see the delicate shape under all that froth.

Selfoss. The snow made it rather fun!

Dettifoss, actually, is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which, flowing as it does from the massive glacier, Vatnajökull, collects water from the snowmelt of a large area. 500 cubic metres of water per second plunge over the edge. It is 45 m high and 100m wide. However, power interests me less than beauty and form. When something is that powerful, it tends to be “dirty” and formless. Perhaps the other, eastern side, of the river would offer a more scenic view, or if there were colour in the sky that might have helped. Can’t win them all. The east doesn’t open until mid June, when I will be gone.
Obeisance to power and might dispensed with, I was now free to journey back to the west. I had a couple of days to choose what I wanted to do, having made no bookings. I still made no bookings (day 15), but had in mind to reach Grundarfjordur, if I could, but no pressure. What would be would be. It would be a big day if I made it.


Adding to the long drive, I could not resist stopping at Viti to do a hike there by a magic blue lake and see more thermal action. I walked around the Viti crater for about half an hour, and then delayed myself still further by popping in to Leirhnjukur, just a bit back on same road. I climbed the little summit on offer here, and had a lovely time.
Now I had some serious driving to do. I arrived in Grundarfjodur at 7.30, and my favourite accommodation, the Old Post Office, had a room for me. Oh joy. Midnight photography followed. The weather was much clearer here, even if it was below zero.

Back at my very favourite haunt, Kirkjufell.

I had only one remaining full day here in Iceland. Day 16. Oh woe. I really did not want to leave. And where would I choose for my final night? I decided I had been too sick to do Arnastapi justice, so this needed to be rectified. I am now, in retrospect, extremely happy with this decision.

Brimlarholdi near summit

Before leaving Grundarfjordur, however, I needed to climb Brimlarhofdi, slightly to the west of Kirkjufell. From here, I had great views; it was a fun climb. I followed the ridge up to the north, having parked in an old quarry under the mountain (directly to its south). The return trip to the summit took 1 hr 35. The summit area was huge and flat, with birds everywhere, and views in many directions as long as you were prepared to walk to all the edges. I was, and loved it. I also sat in the grass for a while, trying to photograph the many sea birds that flew very close to me. Failure. A wide-angle lens is not meant for this task, but the trying was fun.

Little waterfall at Arnarstapi

And finally, it was time to depart and drive to Arnarstapi. Yes, they had room for me. hoorah. After I’d checked in, I occupied my afternoon by going for walk to Hellnar (and more) that served as recce for the evening’s shoot.
As you may have gathered, most of my accommodation in Iceland was on farms, with friendly hosts. This night was in a hotel, first for the trip. I was given a key and sent on my way. That felt cold and unfriendly. I went off walking straight away – besides, my room was very hot at the time. It was only after my return from the midnight shoot that I discovered I didn’t have a clue how to turn on the heating, and I was a frozen lump of ice. I was shivering and couldn’t sleep. In the end I had a 1.30 a.m. shower to try to warm up – not with a great deal of success. I felt so very sorry for my new French friend that I had met while shooting, who was spending the night in his van. We were both numb by the time we’d said “Goodnight”.

Middle of the night fun, Arnarstapi

How sad does it get? Here I was at day 17, the day on which I’d have to leave lovely Iceland. Before checkout, I did a fast coastal march for fitness, same as I had done more slowly in the middle of the night, and for my recce the afternoon before. It was a nostalgic walk.

More midnight fun, Arnarstapi

I also got some exercise climbing a volcanic lump which was rather fun. The joy was more in the colours of the ground, and the challenging conditions (back to furious winds and sleet) than in any vistas. It was steep and offered drama.
Bye bye wonderful, wild Iceland. I will be back.

ICELAND 2019 3 Days 10-13

Rather than be efficient (who wants an efficient holiday?), I drove the long way (roads 54 and 59) around from Grundfjordur to Blonduos, back on the infamous Highway 1 (Day 10). At this unimpressive town, I had booked to stay at the Youth Hostel. The long way took a long time: over six hours of slow driving, taking things in, but not doing much photography, and even skipping the waterfalls on the map – mainly because Michelin is very enthusiastic about marking waterfalls, and they are not always there, and rarely called by the name this French map gives them. My main memory of this day is the monstrous struggle against sleep. No scenery stands out in my mind. The sun was shining but it was perilously freezing outside. I didn’t do any real exercise. I was just too uncomfortable.

Heading east after Grundarfjörður

On Day 11, I also chose the long way around, but this time, I felt I scored. I was en route to Godafoss, and my accommodation at Fljotsbakki Farm, only 4kms north of the falls. Michelin had marked my chosen peninsula with green, which is usually a good sign. And this time it sure was – possibly more so as it was totally unexpected, and Jean Pierre at the Youth Hostel had specifically warned me against this road, as it was unsealed and slow.

On Skagi Peninsula

I think my favourite part was an area named Ketubjorg, which is a kind of gulch with massive cliffs. It sported an unnamed waterfall, so, in the absence of a given name, I dubbed it Ketubjorgfoss. After that took the main road, as I was sick of driving. I finally arrived at my destination after nine hours. Google had said it was a two hour trip (had I gone the short way and not stopped to ooh and aah at all the wonderful sights). I didn’t do all that much photographing, considering, as it was sleeting, and the wind was sharper than my kitchen knives (which, thanks to my older daughter, are of excellent quality).


Before settling in too comfortably, I paid Godafoss a visit. It was predictably lovely, but I was freezing cold, and there would certainly be no sunset of any description, so I hoped for better things on one of the later nights I had there.
History: Iceland was proclaimed a Christian country (divorcing itself from saga gods) in 1000 AD. Thorgeirr, the law speaker and a pagan priest, made the decision at the Allthingi (a kind of parliament held annually at Thingvellir, where a national park is now situated – see my blog Iceland-2019-1). Thorgeirr came back home to his farm here at Godafoss after this momentous decision, and, possibly to prove to the people he was serious, and to set a good example, threw his pagan gods into the waterfall, which has ever since been known as Godafoss, Waterfall of the Gods. I had always thought it had that name because any God of sensible choices would elect to have this waterfall as a token of beauty, might and wonder.


My visit to the Godafoss the previous evening had been to the more popular western side, so on day 12, I began the day with a visit to the eastern one, before doing an 8km hike in the hills behind my farm in snow and strong winds.
I also explored the stretch of the Skjálfandafljót River (which contains the foss) that runs past the farm. It is a magic blue for its whole length. Wild geese squawked as I went, but were never obligingly still enough for me to get a good photo.
I had planned to visit Aldeyafoss, also on the same Skjálfandafljót River, but a bit of a drive upstream. Emil, my host at the farm, encouraged me in this, saying it was definitely possible to get there. It was nice to have that assurance, as it sure didn’t feel like that in the final couple of kilometres.

Aldeyjarfoss on Skjalfandafljot R

So, on day 13, I set out. I loved the route by the river, driving slowly with geese following my car, sheep here and there, the river of magic blue beside me, and snowy fells above. I followed this side (the eastern) for 24 kms, when google told me to cross the river on the bridge. I obeyed. After crossing, I went 14 kms to Myri, and then, oh joy, there was a sign to Aldeyafoss 4 km, my first indication that google was not mistaken. When I only had 2.2 kms remaining, signs announced that it was illegal to drive on this (now) F road ( it had gained this status at the turnoff); we could be fined if caught; we were not insured if we damaged our chasis. It seemed very scary, and I wanted to just park and walk, but it was snowing and bitingly windy outside, so I took what was actually the safer option, and stayed in my car until the last moment. To be sure of not damaging my car, I drove like a snail on what had been, up until now, an entirely empty road (sheep and geese excepted). Four cars materialised behind me. 4WDs. I pulled aside. They belted past. Luckily, none of the flying rocks hit me.
When I got to the falls, the occupants of these hasty cars were there, totally absorbed, not by the beauty of this place, but in taking a series of selfies, where the self in the image was so huge that the wondrous nature behind was obliterated. These were “I got here” photos and nothing more. Their fists were raised in victory. And yet these braggish people are so insignificant in the face of the mighty, powerful and enduring forces of nature. What absurd pretensions. One guy was so preoccupied with the self and how it would look in his image he almost bumped me over the cliff. I would have fallen several hundred metres to my death.

Skjalfandafljot River, unnamed falls north of Godafoss.

This is not the first time a selfie taker has done this to me. I am terrified of them and try to give them a wide berth. Their next move, now that there was actually room for me to take a photo of the nature I had come to see, was to ask me to take a photo of their whole group. I told them they could wait until I had taken a few photos (the light was good right now, so I wanted no delay, and wasn’t in the mood for putting these people first). I took maybe four, but they grew tetchy. Hey, my shots lasted several seconds each. I was delaying these important people. A guy had lined up the shot I was to take. Yes, these people entirely filled the frame. Behind them, one of the most beautiful waterfalls on this planet was only a tiny bit of background glare. I took it as requested, and one more that gave some context because I hated my task (no doubt they will delete it). Off they went. I photographed some more, although I couldn’t do justice to these falls. The wind was so strong I didn’t bother with the length of exposure that would show them to their best advantage.
When I got back to my car, I saw they hadn’t left yet, but, noting my approach, their bodies visibly stiffened and a frenetic rush to get away took place. They feared that I would get away first and thus hold them up, so they quickly finished photographing the guy who was going to the toilet and started their engines. There was no notion of manners or consideration to make sure I got this difficult section of 4kms dispensed with safely. They accelerated quickly away, sending dust and stones flying. I covered my camera to try to protect it. God had made them masters of the universe, and to hell with the rest of us. For now, I dusted off my camera but refused to do obeisance to people who thought the world was made entirely for their benefit. I managed to get out safely.

Barnafoss on Skjalfandafljot R

In the afternoon, I went, again at Emil’s recommendation, to the Barnafoss of this area, which is maybe 8kms downstream from Godafoss. (So, I have now photographed 4 falls in this river). Emil pointed out the farm where I was to park, across the river and in the distance. Maya, his wife, helped by map staring with me. Even so, I had to ask a friendly farmer, as nothing was a perfect match with my expectations. Emil was right about parking at the last farm. The friendly farmer implied I could drive all the way. My Subaru could have, easily, but I am driving a Hyundai, with exceptionally low clearance, so parked just after a fence boundary and walked what could be driven if you weren’t worried about insurance company’s ire. The pleasant enough walk on a 4WD road took me 37 minutes in each direction. Nobody told me I’d be on a road. I enjoyed the chance for some extra exercise, and the wind was no longer quite as fierce. It had even stopped sleeting.
At the road end, there is a tiny path with ropes for the slippery sections. The waterfall was so powerful, it was actually rather hard to photograph; the white froth dominated the scene too aggressively, and I only have a .6 GND since my camera on tripod blew over in a massive gust and smashed my Little Stopper and .9 GND. I really enjoyed having such a powerful waterfall entirely to myself, without the slightest risk that anyone would come that way. This waterfall is for locals. The name is also local, and the mappers haven’t put it on. If it were in Tasmania, it would have accolades as state champion of something. Blueness for a start. Volume per second possibly also.

ICELAND 2019 2 Days 5-9

Day 5. It was sad to leave the farm at Fludir, but I was excited to see what lay ahead, so set out eagerly on the day’s rather long drive. My goal was a waterfall called Glymur, but I got a little distracted along the way, firstly by a nice early revisit of the Thingvellir National Park minus the tourists, and then by a little unmapped, unannounced waterfall called Þorufoss, beside road 48.

Thorufoss, Laxa River

Glymur is at the far end of the Hvalfordur. Herein lay my third distraction. I was driving along, minding my own business, and I saw a sign of a little man walking, and the word Fossa (the name of the river there. No, I am not driving in circles. Every second river is called Fossa).

Sjararfoss on Lana a Myrum R

Then there was a sign to a Fossarrett, which is an old ruin of sheep holding pens, and was a name I knew from my research. That is because next to this lies the unheralded, yet very attractive, Sjararfoss, which, of course, I needed to visit and photograph. In climbing up for a different view of the falls, (and because hills are meant to be climbed, because you just never know what you might see from the top, and the act of climbing is extremely pleasurable), I noticed an upper falls behind, so shot them too. Upper Sjararfoss, I guess.

Upper Sjararfoss

Now, at last, I was finished with distractions and diversions, and could proceed to Glymur. I parked and set out. However, I very soon encountered a sign that said “Leggjabrjotur”. I decided it meant “dangerous” or something of that ilk, so just kept going, as such signs are always overstated. However, it seems to be the name of a place, so my fourth diversion was to climb an extra, really lovely mountain, from which I could look down on Glymur, way across the valley. In climbing the wrong thing, I found another few wonderfully blue waterfalls with snow as their backdrop.

Leggjabrjoturfoss Botnsa River tributary

And finally, at long last, I had run out of other things to do, and set out on the real path to Glymur. Information says it is Iceland’s second highest waterfall, but I think they mean tallest, as we had not gained any particularly great height above sea level, which was not far away. It was a fun hike, as the path went through a cave, over the quickly flowing river on a log, and then quite a few roped sections. It was a most satisfying little exercise.

Glymur on Botnsa River

On the way out, I passed a German family who had obviously had a blow out on the rough road, and had then driven down a steep embankment. The situation looked quite dicey. I stopped to see if I could help. (Ha ha, I am useless, but maybe I could call, or drive to get, someone for them). Yes, yes, do I have a jack on board? Theirs had busted. I didn’t realise that I was now expected to use my jack, lift off their tyre, help put the other on, and more. Time went by and more time went by, as the process was very slow. I couldn’t believe that this person who cannot change her own tyres at home, had been made chief mechanic by these people, This does not mean my expertise had suddenly increased to be existent. It means they were even more useless than I am (and presumably won’t be reading this blog). In the end, someone else stopped, so, with great relief, I handed them over, and left, now running very late indeed for my destination of Borganes.
My chosen route (as dictated by Glymur) was along the Hvalfjörður, which is apparently now known as a “ghost” fjord, since most Icelanders bypass it through a tunnel under the sea (built a few years ago), saving 2 hours’ driving. Nowadays, the road of the old route is almost empty. I drove along, delghting in the calm water with reflected mountains to my left, dramatic mountains to my right, and the sheep and newborn lambs dotting the fields before the water. It was, nonetheless, a relief to have finished the day off – in time for a rather late dinner.

Hraunfossar on Hvita River

On day 6,  I set out after a fulsome breakfast at my air bnb for the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, which are basically adjacent (maybe 100ms from each other), and accessed from the same carpark. The walk is barely worth putting shoes on for. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of excercise, and the whole ‘episode’ was over in a very short time.
The “Hraunfossar” is a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 metres out of a lava field. The waterfalls pour into the Hvítá river from ledges of less porous rock in the lava. It is rather a fun sight, and the water is magic Iceland blue.
Hraunfossar, means Lava waterfalls, and Barnafoss, Children´s waterfall. There is rather a sad story yielding the second name.
Now, I was feeling cross at being so very exercise deprived by this silly “walk”, so, in order to get to actually move, I drove a bit further to Husafell, where I had been told there are a few hiking trails.I chose the yellow trail which climbed up next to Selgil, and the Salar River, en route to Beajarfell. At the start, this looked boring and moonscape-ish, so I didn’t burden myself with my camera or tripod. This was just going to be exercise for the heck of it. Drat.

Salarfoss 1 and 2 at Husafell. (Sorry; I only took my iPhone on this jaunt).

The actuality was really beautiful, and at the top I just adored the impressive gorge and the series of four waterfalls I discovered. (None of these was on my map). It was fabulous having everything to myself, and finding something so unexpected. I went up for just over an hour, and down, similar – a much more satisfying amount of exercise. The photo is only an iPhone one. At least I had that on board!

After lunch I set out for a different Haifoss (having found the well-known one on day 2). This innocuous, and on most maps unnamed, little waterfall nearly terminated my life. I have only felt that nauseous with fear on one other occasion that I can think of.  The way there had not been overly exciting, and, for whatever reason, I decided to climb the cliffs to a highpoint above, which would then give easy access to the road, and save much stuffing around through bushes at the low level of my approach. Nice plan. Trouble, was, the cliffs were excessively crumbly, and by the time I realised that I really, really shouldn’t be doing this, going back down was even scarier than climbing up. I am an animal who ascends much more happily than the opposite. Only, unlike pussy cats, I was not going to be rescued by nice firemen. I tested each rock before using it. Three of every four just came apart in my hands. The slope was vertical. The drop was enough to kill. I kept apologising in my mind to my younger daughter who is always asking me to be careful, and I had promised her I would. Fear of leaving her parentless kept me on my very best behaviour. My older daughter has absurd faith that I will always land on my feet, so I didn’t need to feel guilty towards her. I hope to never challenge this ungrounded faith of hers, however. The work was slow, and larded with adrenalin. At the top, I was sweating like a pig, and panting – but not from the physical effort.
I never want to climb a basalt cliff again. I was unmotivated to have any more adventures that day, so came straight home.

On day 7, I found that the experiences of the day before had left me quite drained, and I was quite listless all day. Trouble was, this was the day on which I was to drive to Grundarfjordur and its famous Kirkjufell, a most attractive and shapely mountain, rising with ridiculous steepness out of the ocean, and decorated with what is maybe my favourite waterfall in the whole world. Expecting to enjoy it, and wanting to give myself the best opportunity to photograph it, I was booked in for three nights. I discovered to my pleasure that the marvellous denizens of this little town have drawn up a map with hiking trails on it. I was about to have fun.

Bjarnarfoss on Bjarnaa River

To reach there, I drove around the Snaefellness peninsula clockwise rather than using the shortest route. En route to Arnarstapi, I passed Bjarnarfoss, just before Budir. I liked the look of it, so stopped for photos.
I was also interested in a gorge up ahead: Raudfeldsgja. Because I was not feeling well, I almost wasn’t going to bother exploring it, but luckily I did, as I really loved it. Unfortunately, my lack of energy meant I did not feel like carrying my tripod, so the photos do not do it justice. I really was feeling very lethargic at this stage.
By lunchtime at Arnarstapi, I was really feeling sick, and explored nothing. I ate a bit and drove on.

Svodufoss on Laxa River

Listless as I was, I still stopped for Svodufoss, with the snow of Snaefellsjokul behind, and, right next door – maybe 300 ms away – Kerlingarfoss. Svodufoss woud be great from a helicopter or drone, but an earthbound human is too low to get in the snow plus the falls ?. Maybe if I were taller it would have helped. I climbed a structure, but it still didn’t work.

Kerlingarfoss on Fossa River (yet another Fossa R)

The drive to Kirkjufell was amazing, but I was too tired, sick and nervous about falling asleep at the wheel to enjoy it properly.


With so many trails on offer, (day 8) which one should I choose? One that someone who felt very ill the day before could tackle, so I chose Eyrarfjall. Good choice. I was at the summit in a pinch over an hour, and down in less. Perfect quantity. It was an enjoyable climb, but I hated not having a real map. The contour interval on the one provided is 100 ms!!! That barely qualifies as a map.
I was still not well, so after lunch had another sleep. I didn’t even feel like photographing!! There were no clouds. I skipped it.

Grundarmon view. That tiny lump down there is Kirkjufell. It looks a bit different from up here!

Luckily, I felt a lot better next morning (day 9), so could do a lot more, and was a lot happier. I began my adventures with a lovely early climb up the stunning Grundarmon. Such drama!!! There was a knife edge ridge the whole way along. I climbed to the snowline before retreating.

Another of the views on offer seen while climbing Grundarmon. The views along the way were better than from higher up, actually.

From up there I had a fabulous view looking down on tiny little Kirkjufell way below. The water of the ocean was a deep blue. I just sat on the cliff edge, dangling my tootsies over a several hundred metres of free space, and enjoyed the spectacle for a while before descending.  Two hours’ exercise so far. Nice.

Grundarfoss on Grundara River

Next, I decided I’d better visit the other “legal” waterfall in the area (there are more but farmers don’t want us there). This was called Grundarfoss, and it took 23 minutes in each direction.

Gjafi, on the way up

After lunch, I chose to climb Gjafi until the point where it got too dangerous (violently sloping scree). The colours of the rock were wonderful and on the way down, I had great fun in the well-cushioned alpine vegetation, springing as if I were on a trampoline.

Another view from the Gjafi climb

Iceland is famous for its lamb, but up until this point in time, I had not tasted it. This night, I celebrated feeling well again with a lamb dinner at the local restaurant. It was wonderful! This was my final night night here, so my celebration did have a little grey cloud.
Yet again (a habit of every night but one), I set out near midnight to photograph Kirkjufellsfoss, returning in the early hours of the morning. It was also my habit to be awake at 3 a.m. and to roll over in bed and take a phone shot of the dawn pink over the snowy mountains out my window. I was simply too tired to do anything more than that.

Kirkjufellsfoss on Kirkjufellsá River

I enjoyed meeting the other togs in the midnight fun. Amongst many, I made friends with Denise and Stefan from Switzerland, primarily bird photographers (and macro), but I persuaded them to come and see what was to be seen of this waterfall at that hour. They were just down the corridor from me at the Old Post Office. We still have contact through instagram.
Next day was a big drive. Yawn.

ICELAND 2019 1 Days 1-4

I am not someone who enjoys dashing huge distances on a holiday, and thus, on my first trip to Iceland, I only saw the south-eastern corner, and took two weeks doing it. This trip, I opted to see the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and the coast along the north east. This particular itinerary meant I would be mostly having a huge waterfall bagging spree, with climbing mountains most days for my daily exercise … which makes this trip not much different from the last one.

Faxafoss Tunguflot River

I wan’t as excited about this trip as I was before the last one, as this time I would be all alone, whereas last time, I shared all the fun and excitement with my daughter, Yelena. However, I’m used to doing stuff alone these days, so I am not sure why this hassled me. I guess because Lenie and I had had such enormous fun last year, I couldn’t help but feel lonely about this year’s prospects. Na ja. Off I set into the blue yonder.

I’m not actually sure what other people do when in Iceland, but I obviously have an impoverished imagination, as I can think of nothing better to do than visit the island’s many fabulous waterfalls. As usual, I spent not a single second in the capital (or any other city). I landed, collected my car, and drove for nearly 2 hours to a tiny farm in the middle of absolutely nowhere, which is just how I like it. My base for the first four days was at Fludir. I had my own little house on a farm.

Hlauptungufoss Braur River

Day 1, I arrived fresh off the plane from Tasmania, forty long hours of travel behind me, at about 7.30 pm, so the hospitable farmer’s wife gave me enough goodies to see me through until the shops opened the next day. Out my window lay the huge River Hvita. I don’t actually like my rivers quite so enormous, but it was still nice to be near a river. The noises of cows and sheep and blackbirds could be heard on occasion. The trees out the window were just coming into bud. Spring was on its way. The snow was mostly in the process of melting, when it didn’t decide to have a last fling, which it did a few times. Due to snow melt, all waterfalls had massive volume. I hadn’t thought about that when I opted for May. I only thought of choosing “fewer tourists”.

Midfoss, Bruar R

Day 2‘s major fall was the Bruarfoss, easily accessible from my farm. En route, I passed a sign that said Faxafoss (given a different name on my Michelin map for some reason), so pulled in there to spend some time with it. The sky was moody; the day cold. The water was a pleasant colour, and I felt right into the swing of things by the time I continued on to my goal. Googlemaps was guiding me, which was helpful. I merely typed in “Bruarfoss carpark”.

Bruarfoss, Bruar River

There is a track to these falls which is 3.5 kms in each direction. It is very clear, and mostly follows the river Bruar, which contains not only the object of one’s quest, but also the lesser known – but nearly as magnificent – Midfoss and Hlauptungufoss. It was (ambling upstream, taking everything in) 23 mins to Hlauptungufoss, 12 more to Midfoss, and 15 beyond that (ie, 50 in total) to Bruarfoss. On the rebound, my gear was tucked away and I was faster: 50 mins up, but only 40 back. The blue of this river is spellbinding. It remains one of my favourites.


After lunch it was raining, but I decided to see this “thing” called Kerid, which announced itself as a major attraction, and wasn’t far from my intended route to my next waterfall, the rather boring Urridafoss, noted for being the most voluminous waterfall in Iceland, but, as pure volume fails to impress me, this was merely a box ticking exercise – although I photographed it for the records, of course.
Kerid was a pleasant surprise. Due to the now heavy rain, I decided it was just a bit of tourist hype, and was about to go away, when two other travellers came back from having visited. I asked was it worth the cost. The girl sat in my car and showed me her phone photos. I put on my raincoat straight away. What amazing colours! There were even some fun trails to walk. I loved it there.

Hjalparfoss Fossa River

Day 3 was a bit of a mixture of a day, with possibly more failures than successes. I won’t bore you with names, but several of the falls I had planned using the map were either not accessible at this time of year, or were non-events lying on the huge and unimpressive glacial river, the Þjórsá. I have now learned that what I love is “run off” rivers, and the big glacial ones, which tend to be a dull, milky olive green colour and full of sediment, fail to impress. But we are all different, I know others for whom “the bigger the better” is what gives them kicks. And so it was that I drove quite a long way along this monster, not delighting in its offerings, until at last I reached the Hjálparfoss, which is on the Fossa River, just before it merges with the Þjórsá. (How many Fossa Rivers are there actually in this country?? When in doubt, call your river “Fossa”.)
Hjálparfoss was a very pleasant diversion after so much milky mirk. It was the fabulous Iceland blue, with interesting knobs and bobs about the place, so I had fun climbing this and that, partly to get a different vantage point, but probably more because I do love climbing things. Apparently my antics were being watched from below by a trio of Koreans, for we met each other later, at the next waterfall, and they commented on their spectator sport at Hjálparfoss.

Haifoss and Granni, Fossa River

Content, I headed of for Haifoss and Granni. Luckily my googlemaps was cooperating, as there were no signs to these falls on the main road 32. The paper map said I needed rd 332, which is cute, as it wasn’t named either. Anyway, Siri spoke to me, so all was well, and I bounced along the gravel, happy that I’d decided to pay for comprehensive insurance. This road was, for me, pretty scary, and I drove like a snail, not wanting to ding the car (despite the insurance). My Subaru would have waltzed in , but this Hyundai was very low slung, and made me nervous. An unnerving number of stones mercilessly whacked its underbelly.
With enormous relief I parked at last, prepared for what I had been told was a three hour hike. Alas, the falls were about two hundred metres from the car. The challenge, yet again, was in the driving, and not in any physical exertion. I had fun meeting the Korean guys here. They were much braver drivers than I was.
On way back, I had intended to then visit Gjarfoss at Gjain (signed), but the road looked muddy and a sign  indicated they wouldn’t rescue you if you got stuck, and I got too scared to go, so gave it a miss. Sadly. The photos others have taken look appealing.

Pjofafoss, Þjórsá River. Burfell behind.

That was the first of many waterfalls I was locked out of that afternoon. I did an enormous amount of driving, but was pulled up short each time. By now the wind had worked up a temper, and I was less sorry about not being able to hike or see any falls than I might have been. Pjofafoss, which I did get to see on the way back after all this failure, was lovely, even if the mountain behind it, normally providing the perfect backdrop, was not visible due to heavy, low clouds. Not only had I failed on many waterfalls this day, but my exercise tally was a dismal twenty minutes. Not my favourite day in Iceland.

Gullfoss, Hvita River

I thought I was by now (Day 4) due for a pretty pink sunrise or sunset, but the rain continued.
My first stop for the day was the famous Gullfoss. It looks as if it is normally pretty touristy, but I shared it with only two others. It felt like it was about minus ten, and I was a bit miserable. The solution was to go into the shop (lucky it was touristy and had one), and to buy a pair of windproof, waterproof gloves and a sturdy yellow coat. Now I was set to enjoy myself, and went back to the falls. I could not have tolerated them or anything much else if I hadn’t done that. If you’re going to throw yourself at Iceland, you need to wear the right gear.
And now I could give myself over to the power and might of this place. The volume of water was absolutely mesmerising.

The top part of Gullfoss

Thingvellir was a huge disappointment. The idea of what it was thrilled me, but you weren’t allowed to go anywhere, or do or anything. You had to stick to a highway indicating that just out of sight was something lovely, but you may not have a look, in case someone with an IQ of 20 does some damage. Beauty was always a step or two away, if you wanted to get the proper angle. They teased and tantalised us, but never delivered. My ‘hike’ was a non event. There is no hiking in this park. And no real maps, and no information on what you can do (basically, nothing, other than a couple of granny strolls). What they should do is cull the numbers by making the path small, uneven and difficult. Instead, they’ve simplified, widened, smoothed and evened it all so they can attract millions of people who have turned up in busses and don’t seem remotely interested in what they’re looking at. They’re busy consuming food, the wrappers of which they throw on the ground as they go. I looked over the edge at one stage, and I have never in my entire life seen so many cigarette butts. These had company in the form of paper cups, tissues, and wrappings. That’s what happens when you go fishing for tourists at any price. How I would have loved to walk on a little path between those incredibly important tectonic plates and seen them in nature rather than with a road through the middle. I expected heaps of this park and got almost nothing back. My best photos were from outside it.

Oxararfoss, Oxara River

Just in case you don’t happen to know what this park is actually about, it has enormous interest if your inclination is for history, or for geology. Historically, if you have done any reading of the sagas or of Icelandic history in general (and I had read up big time before my previous visit), this is the spot where the annual kind of parliament met, in the amphitheatre where you can stand. Lots of incredibly important matters pertaining to Icelandic history were decided in this very spot – like the decision to change from worshiping gods to becoming a Christian nation (in order, mainly, to stop Norway from attacking). This mammoth decision was made around 1000 AD. The sagas changed their tune a bit after that.
Interesting as all that is, for me the most fascinating aspect, however, is the geology. The Þingvellir NP is located in a rift valley created by the drifting apart of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Is that not totally amazing? This drift of the tectonic plates is not exactly at the speed of summer lightning, so you are not going to do the splits if you put one foot each side: they are travelling in opposite directions at the rate of about 2cm per year. As they move apart like this, they cause the land between them to subside, and that is what is in the park. But they want to steer all tourists into one spot, so it is tricky to get a good look at what you’ve gone to see. In some of the gaps created by the rift, water has seeped in, and it is as clear as could possibly be, and also is, of course, that fabulous deep blue of Iceland.  Whilst being very annoyed, I was also in love, so returned the next day very early so I could have the park to myself, and have a better explore.

Ravine waters, Þingvellir National Park

The Almannagjá gorge path goes between the edge of the North-American plate and an old part of the wall that collapsed. Most tourists mistakenly think this is the corridor between the two continents. The gorge basically ends at Öxaráfoss, which used to look quite beautiful before they built the viewing platform. The beautiful ravines made by the tectonic movement have filled with the Langjökull glacier’s water, which has travelled underground for decades through porous lava rock, undergoing a very thorough filtration process. When it enters the ravines, the water is pristinely clean and crystal clear. This is nice. People are allowed to pay to go scuba diving there, but photographers are not allowed to get an angle on any of the ravines that demonstrates this beauty of colour. I did not go scuba diving.

Cow shed fun

This night, my fourth on the farm, was my final night at this location. The next day I would proceed to Borganes, further west. (Seriously, there was some logic to my route). That late afternoon, the children of the farm knocked on my door. They wanted to show me the newborn calves and lambs and to generally chat to me. They were 8, 10 and 13, and spoke excellent English. Quite apart from having fun seeing newborns and being-borns, and smiling at the children’s exuberance and their pride in their farm, one of my happiest memories was of us all walking down the muddy road, singing Abba songs together. I didn’t tell them that I have lived on a pseudo farm for most of my long married life, and have annually had my own newborns.

ICELAND 2018 4 Final four days.

ICELAND 4 2018 June. Final four days.

Day 11 dawned grey and moody, like its predecessor, … so, we didn’t rush out of bed for sunrise photos (which was a bit of a relief: we were getting rather tired by now), and chose instead to just take the Horn in our stride as we continued east. We were nonetheless thrilled with what we saw. We stayed there so long that we needed lunch not too long afterwards, a meal had in a bunch of lupins with dark grey mountains observing our table manners.

I hadn’t done any research on the next section of our eastward journey: life would end at the Vestrahorn, all the rest was just marking time, I thought. Ha ha. The road was full of drama and wonder, and we also ended up having a fun game of hair and tortoise with a couple of other cars:
(Us to the Spaniards): “We’d better get a move on. The Germans have taken off already. They’re now in the lead.”
(Spaniards): “Don’t worry. You’ll overtake them. They’ll be distracted by the next lay-by”.
100 ms or so down the road:
(Germans): “Ah, you got us back.”
“Yes, the Spaniards bet we would. Look, they’re pulling over too.”
“We’re moving on now. See you at the next beautiful spot.”
“Yeah. In a hundred metres or so”.
We pulled out of the game when we hit the coast and got out to do some walking as well as photography.

Coast past Eystrahorn

Coast after Djupivogur
And then we met Jay and Lissa, who are still our friends. Lena the brava had already crossed this big wide river with slippery boulders at the base of the Sveinstekksfoss. I was pussy-footing around its edges and had just decided to go back to the car when another couple pulled over. I watched while they did some vacillating about exactly where one might cross. (Lena clicked away, undeterred). I was relieved that someone else was worrying about their equipment like I was. I went up to them to make friends and compare notes. In the end, Jay crossed. I stayed on the safe side with Lissa, deciding the photos on the other side weren’t worth the risk to my gear.

Sveinstekksfoss from the wuss side of the river.
I had already determined we would next photograph the bigger waterfall behind from above, so drove there, and the same two parked near us. We liked them, but I was concentrating on my task. This time it was Lena who did most of the talking. They were gone when I once more entered the world outside my immersion in the scenic moment. We had found out their names, but not a great deal more. That night we checked out Jay’s photos on the web ( They were gorgeous. We were sad that we wouldn’t see them again.

The higher version.
Somewhere between there and our accommodation at Berunes HI (YHA), I became aware that my phone was missing. I decided I had dropped it at the cafe where we had had afternoon tea. We couldn’t do the “where’s my phone” trick, as we needed wifi for that, so pressed on to the hostel. I expressed disappointment in Icelanders. Surely someone noticed I’d dropped my phone.  Why didn’t they call me back? We eventually found it in the door of the car. This lead to a few stupid in-jokes about Icelandic phone thieves, in which we would giggle, but others were no doubt dumbfounded as to the point of our mirth. Don’t worry. I’m sure there are no phone thieves in Iceland. We felt delightfully safe there.

Our hosts at the fabulous Berunes HI were Steinn and Sigridur, so I have called this waterfall Steinnurfoss. It is on Steinn’s family’s farm. Hope he doesn’t mind the name.
We loved absolutely everything to do with Berunes: it was so delightfully isolated; the hosts so utterly friendly and lovely; the food, so extremely delicious. We wished we had arrived earlier, but at least enjoyed the tiny bit of time that we had allowed. The fish soup for dinner was exquisite. The cinnamon and apple porridge for breakfast (and fresh bread), just what anyone would dream about.
Day 12.

Steinnurfoss from a different aspect.

Gilsarfoss, also on the farm.
After these private waterfalls, our next goal was to go and see the puffins on the north east coast. Now, it is just a little failing that Lena and I share by bad genetics that we get so excited by the immediate happenings that we kind of forget practical little details like buying petrol. This was the third time this trip where the wretched petrol light went on in the middle of nowhere, putting us in mild panic. This particular nowhere was situated such that we knew we could not go backwards. We just had to hope that forwards would work. There was a name on the map, written in purple. Surely that was a good sign. Lena consulted Siri, who gave us directions. Hoorah, we made it over the mountain pass (always a test when low on petrol), and began rolling down the other side, still in the middle of nowhere. Siri announced we had arrived. We were laughing so much I had to stop the car. We would have had a terrible accident had I not pulled over.

Me playing with edges on the natural arch above Gilsarfoss.
What on earth were we to do? Well, we’d just have to go on until we ran out, and work things out from there. On we pressed. We saw yet more beautiful scenery, so pulled over to photograph it. Hey, you might as well run out of petrol with beautiful pics in the camera.  Who should pull over at the same spot but Jay and Lissa! We were overjoyed to see them, and said that if we make it to the puffins, and if there’s a cafe there, we must have coffee together. Meanwhile, Jay said he’d drive behind us to kind of mop up if we didn’t make it. This was a fabulous offer, and we felt very secure all the way to the funny little shed with funnier man who, unbelievably, sold us petrol.

Now we could relax photographing puffins with Jay and Lissa; now we could enjoy the over-an-hour having coffee when we really should be driving to our next accommodation, which we finally reached at quarter to eleven when the owners had gone away (but, never fear, it worked out fine). Driving into Seydisfjordur with ice and snow and steely gloom was very atmospheric. This was our final day of pure pleasure. The next two days would involve a huge drive west to get us to the airport in time.

A wretchedly truncated stop by the fabulous Gufufoss as we set out from Seydisfjordur. Don’t worry beautiful foss. I will be back next year to give you more time!
Day 13
. This day was earmarked for driving as far as Vyk. This seemed to me a daunting task, and I was very tense at breakfast time. We did not really stop much anywhere along the way (apart from at the Gugufoss, right at the start of the day), which was great as we arrived at Vyk, somewhat dizzy but alive, around 2 in the afternoon.

This thrilled me, as I really wanted to see Dyrholaey, and now we had the chance. It was fun up there watching the lowering sun, and enjoying the cliff edges.

Dyrholaey and its fabulous cliffs.
Day 14. This was such a sad, sad day: our last full day in Iceland, but we were too busy enjoying it to think much about sadness. We began at 4.50 a.m. with a climb up the Reynisfjall, to shoot the Reynisdrangar from above as the sun rose in the sky. It was utterly exhilarating up there. It was also rather cripplingly cold, but we managed. Beauty invigorates somewhat.

The rewards of climbing a mountain at 4.50 a.m. are many.
Our last full (delicious) breakfast in Iceland, and off we headed west again, bound for the airport, but with a swim at an historic hot pool, fed by a thermal spring in the mountains – a pool (we had been told by Timea) that was the oldest in Iceland. Lena swam while I climbed up high to a beautiful area above. We had some delicious soup for lunch not too far away, and then full speed ahead for the airport.

The famous Reynisdrangar from above. This perspective dwarfs them. A human does not even come up to the first and bottom bump on these giant rock towers.
Our very last night was utterly hilarious, mainly due to the discrepancy between expectation and reality. I don’t want to offend the owner of the accommodation, who, I assume, does everything she can to make it work, but the situation gave us so much mirth that tears ran down our faces, and we clutched our aching sides with the hilarity of it all (not in the owner’s presence). Instead of a final celebratory meal (to be had in a town that didn’t exist), we had a few scraps from our food box and more laughs. “The last night and the last meal are never good,” says Lenie.

Selja River, above the famous pool. Lenie swam; I explored the higher ground … both quite predictable. Farewell beautiful Iceland. I will be back!