Iceland day 4: no puffins

On our fourth full day in Iceland, we woke up in the southern-most town of Vík (technically Vík í Mýrdal), which only has 300 residents but is a main stop along the ring road, as much as any place outside of Reykjavik is a main stop! Vík lies just below a volcano with a glacier on top of it (not the famous one from this spring, but it’s just down the road as well) and the villagers have to practice evacuations to the church on the hill and the farmers turn off electric fences on the way out the door.

1-5. We visited the beautiful black-sand beach with the troll-legend Reynisdrangar, black basalt columns, poking out of the sea. You can see a rock arch in the distance and this whole cliff area and the islands along the shore are inhabited by sea birds, including puffins. I have been on a semi-mission to see puffins this summer and while more than half the world’s Atlantic puffin population nests here, I didn’t see any among the many birds. We were visiting right at the end of the nesting season so they may have already been out to sea until next year. I learned they shed the colorful portion of their beaks after breeding season!

We also gave a lift to two Swedish hikers. It seems everyone in Iceland is dressed in zipoff North Face pants, Patagonia shirts, and hiking boots. David has a special sympathy for people laden with camping gear and huge packs, and we managed to squeeze these women into the back seat for a few minutes.

6. The church on the hill is the only place expected to be spared when the deluge of melted glacier comes down during a volcanic eruption. The long white building was our hotel.

7-11. A short drive back toward Reykjavik yields Skógafoss, currently 5 km from the sea but these cliffs used to be at the coast a long time ago. There is a campground right in front of the falls, which I imagine makes for great white noise while sleeping!
7. We had another beautiful sunny day and it was even warm enough for shorts, though the person who took our picture managed to get her finger in it. Sigh
8. Our peanut butter sandwiches and Pringles sure were a cheap, great way to eat lunch in the most amazing picnic spot we could imagine!
9. There are a whole lot of stairs (I think I counted about 380?) up the hill on the right so you can view the top of the falls and also keep hiking out into the highlands between the glaciers. There are more falls up ahead on this route as you get higher in the landscape, but we did not take the long hike.
10. The classic rainbow picture. Legend speaks of a treasure chest in a cave behind the falls.
11. These sheep were hanging out by the fence that went along the stairs to the top

12. On our way out of the parking lot at Skógafoss, we picked up two hitchhikers from the Czech Republic. They were heading to this backup waterfall (I think it’s Seljalandsfoss) down the road which we wouldn’t have seen unless they had directed us to it. These waterfalls ring the now-famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
13. Icelandic horses are shorter and stockier than those you find at home. You can book a trip to ride with the farmers and dogs in the fall to gather the sheep in from distant grazing lands. We saw little white dots up on the steep hills and heard that a few get stuck up there and make it over the winter! I liked the king of the hill poses these horses struck along the ring road.
14. And finally, the Blue Lagoon. My guidebook described it like Disneyland: overdone schtick but a must do in Iceland. The water is around 100F and is fed from a geothermal power plant. The minerals in the water are supposed to have a medicinal effect and though I noticed effects on David’s skin (he even put the mud mask on his face), it just coated my hair in a film that took several washes to remove. The surrounding lava field landscape is bizarre (“soul destroying” according to my guidebook!) and it was a fascinating experience. We also enjoyed the in-lagoon bar!
15. We stayed in Reykjavik the next two nights before wrapping up the trip. First up: Mexican food! I haven’t had any since I left the States. This place was owned by actual Mexicans! Strange how it felt kind of like home.

I took a short video of Skógafoss so you can experience it too.

Skógafoss waterfall, southern Iceland from Amy D on Vimeo.

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