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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.