Day Eleven: Lost on Svalbard

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Day Eleven: Sunday 18th August
Journey: Holmavik to Isafjördur, Iceland

The landscapes changed dramatically as we continued our drive into the Westfjords.

The landscapes changed dramatically as we continued our drive into the Westfjords.

Okay, let’s continue where we stopped last…Yes, we were in Holmavik and the museum of Witchcraft was awesome. The weather, though, wasn’t. Like, at all. And there were only three possibilities left to us at that time:

  • Tent, in just plus seven degrees (celcius, you Yankees…) and with super strong gusts of wind.
  • Stay overnight in the car, crammed into two tiny seats.
  • Stay in actual accommodation.

We were weak so we choose the third option, but this proved to be quite wise in fact; for just the equivalent of Seven Hundred Norwegian crowns, we got a double room plus breakfast plus not freezing in pain and agony for a whole night, yeay! We’d completely recommend this place, Finna Hotel, to anyone.

So yes, we stayed there for the night, cooked some eggplants, met some rather crazy (in a good sense) Americans (who were kind enough to offer us some garlic) and slept. There was a quite nice kitchen, the breakfast was proper Scandinavian style and many books were left around for us to read. Here’s one that was quite interesting:

So yes, the next morning we left and drove to Isafjördur.

Linnea complained a lot about the roads, supposedly because those were about ten times worse than the ones we drove on the day before. Basically, these were the same as those between Akureyri and Holmavik but stuck in the middle of the Highlands.

The road was constantly going up and down the mountains, heading dangerously close to the fjords. Less and less cars were there to be seen, but on the other hand, the landscape also took a turn for the magnificent. You could start to see the Drabgajokull glacier on the north side of the fjord among other interesting things.

One thing which was also quite interesting was the fact that, bar a tiny isolated hotel at the end of the Reykjanes peninsula, we saw simply no settlement bigger than, like, one house, for about a hundred kilometers.  Desperate for some kind of human contact (and food too…) we made a turn at an unexpected touristy sign indicating some kind of human activity down by Mjóifjörður.

The Legsteinn, or Tombstone, as it is called in English.

The Legsteinn, or Tombstone, as it is called in English.

After fifty kilometers of gravel roads, we drove into a valley and found a large house that went by the name Heydalur (the name of the valley actually). The surroundings were rather beautiful and featured a rather large stone with an interesting story surrounding it:

A local peasant accepted a deal with the Devil and said he could lift the stone. He could not, and the Devil stole his soul. A local churchman just happened to see what happened and struck another deal with the Devil: if someone could lift the stone two hundred times (200!) around the farmer’s grave, his soul would be released. Considering that the stone is about two hundred kilos, I did not attempt it, but I guess some really showy strongman could try…

So yes, we then went inside and asked for food. Food was then served to us. We ate the food rather quickly. Delicious was the departed food. What served to adorn the inner part of my stomach was Icelandic Cod fish, how Yummy it was! Linnea, for her sake, ate a veggie burger. I heard her saying it was the best veggie burger she had ever eaten.

This strange parrot kept us entertained while we ate lunch.

This strange parrot kept us entertained while we ate lunch.

The best veggie burger ever!

The best veggie burger ever!

Completely unrelated, there was a parrot around too. Linnea filmed it for about ten hours because he made funny noises. Here you can sample some of those funny noises in a short video.

After this surprisingly pleasant experience, we turned back, heading onwards towards Isafjördur.

Then something really started to happen. Everything started becoming even more remote, less civilized; there were less sheep too. When crossing Seydisfjärdur, that’s when we realized that we had actually ended up in Svalbard. It was so beautiful, but a bit scary at the same time. It is also hard to tell why or how the landscape changed so much, just look at the transition between these three videos; the first one was shot in Hestfjördur, the second, two minutes later in Seydisfjördur, and the last one from the cape between Seydisfjördur and Alftafjördur. I can tell you, that was something.

Anyway, we could have stayed much longer, just peering at the immortal peeks and the titanic fjords but Linnea had other plans: she wanted to see some cute furry animals. And cute furry animals there were nearby, namely in the tiny village of Sudavik (192 souls).

Linnea’s plan, to be more precise, wasn’t to go on some Puffin/Seal/Horse/Reindeer safari, but instead took us to the local Arctic Fox Center. The center is some kind of a ecotourism museum with lots of information about the cute foxies. I won’t tell too much about it because I want to let Linnea do the furry propaganda herself, so you’ll be hearing about it in another post one day soon.

One of the houses in Sudavik decorated for the Blueberry Festival.

One of the houses in Sudavik decorated for the Blueberry Festival.

Anyway, it was nice and we also realized that the village was also in the middle of some interesting festivities, namely the Blueberry Festival (http://blaberjadagar.com/). As far as we understood, the festival was all about decorating the village with blue and purple stuff and getting drunk on blueberry liquor.

Moments later,  we quickly drove out of the village and within minutes we had reached the Skutulfjördur (please don’t ask me the etymological roots of all these place names; I doubt you’d really care anyway). There, we got our first sight of Isafjördur (2ooo people), the capital of the Westfjords.

We drove through town and arrived at the local camping site a bit before seven P.M. The place was described to us as being rather close to the University Center, and indeed, it is quite literally, two minutes away from the front door. We started putting up the tent as the skies darkened and the wind got stronger. The view from the tent was almost scary, and really, really Svalbard-like.

Our little Saami-style tent, or Lavvo, at the campsite in Isafjördur.

Our little Saami-style tent, or Lavvo, at the campsite in Isafjördur.

Still, we managed to set up the tent, both the outer Lavvo, and the inner tent. It looked quite good and we left our stuff inside before entering the University Center where we met the other students. We were a bit late but we still got a nice feeling of the place (complete with sandwiches or “Samlokka” in Icelandic) and met many interesting people that we’ll get to talk about real soon.

We then moved back to our tent and kick-started our Svalbard-tenting session in quite high spirits. The rest you’ll get in our next post. That’s all folks!

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