Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iceland: Fisherwoman

Murphy has traveled to Iceland with a Tenkara fly rod. Along our chosen route from Reykir back to Reykjavik, a particular stretch of water looks particularly inviting (drizzle and all), so we clamber down to check it out.

Tenkara, if you're not familiar, is a simpler approach to fly fishing. With a massively-telescoping rod and no reel, it's very travel-friendly and also represents a much lower barrier to entry.

Certainly the wrong fly

Rod detail

Horrible setting

No fish were harmed (or disturbed) in the making of this post.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Iceland: Drangey

After an excellent night of tenting it in Reykir, we awaken to a surprisingly somewhat-clear day, break our fast, and take a dip in the oceanside hot spring, simply because we can. The agenda for the morning is a trip out to Drangey, a richly-historied island out in Skagafjörður.

The tour out to Drangey is very much a family operation, a seamless continuation of the lodging, hospitality, and hot-springing we've had over the past 18 hours. We hop on the boat and enjoy the company of the father/son guiding team and of our fellow tourists, of which there are a good handful.

Drangey to the left; Old Hag to the right

Fresh breeze

Wear your layers!

The history of Drangey is two-pronged: first, it's filled with colorful legends of trolls and whatnot, and second, in more recent times, it's mostly about the harvesting of those cute cute (delicious) puffins and their (delicious) eggs.

Since most of this post is about the puffins, I'll take a second to address the legends, which are awesome, and include giants turned to stone (the main island is the giants' cow, the spire is the she-giant, and the he-giant collapsed ages ago), and the rich history of Grettir, who hid as an outlaw on Drangey and survived many attempts on his bountied head. If you'd like more on either, Drangey and Grettir will make for good search terms for you on The Google.

In short, though, the present-day island is characterized by treacherous terrain and hundreds of thousands of birds. Acrophobes and ornithophobes need not apply. Acroornithophobes, should they exist, should stop reading here.

Lovely texture; just hold your nose

Cave guards

As we approach the dock at Drangey, we find ourselves dwarfed by the sheer cliff walls that help to protect its secrets. Next up is an invigorating climb up a don't-trip-or-slip-or-stumble cliffy kind of trail that at least has some rails and ropes to grab on to. Once up top, travel is easy, just so long as you stay clear of the edge, where you'll certainly die if you fall. Also, the view from the top is fantastic, even with our gradually-worsening weather.


Back to Reykir

So...stay away from the edge, alright? The edge, however, is where the puffin-huntin' happens.

Get to work

There's a small clan of these dudes who hang out at the cliff edges with big nets on long poles. They used to be able to use snares, but now the odds are slightly tipped back towards the puffins. One rule they adhere to is to avoid snagging birds that are carrying fish, as those birds are headed back to the nest to feed young'uns. They also abseil down the cliff faces to collect eggs, which we do not get to see, but their anchor points are visible all over the island.


Puffin hunters' hut

Hut again

The island is absolutely overrun with birds, making it easy to understand how crucial this hunting operation has been for the region. We split the rest of our time up top listening to the guide and clambering around various terrain features.

So lonely...not

Think we're safe here?


Many many many

Small gang


Who you lookin' at

Finally, it's time to head back down, and the treacherous path seems even more so headed in this direction; it's easier to see the consequences! Thankfully, nobody dies, so we pile back into the boat and set course for Reykir.


This has been a great diversion and reason to get us to this side of the country, although what we really need is a couple weeks to explore the nearby Westfjords. Somehow, even in small places, it's far too easy to only scratch the surface.

We're now grudgingly counting the days until our departure, and the time has come to head back to Reykjavik. Even though it feels as though we're a world away at the moment, a scant few hours on the highway (remember, the only highway) will get us back there.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Goodnight, Remarks

We've got a sliver of a view from our rented house up to the Remarkables, Queenstown's instantly-recognizable and always-looming guardian mountain range. A few weeks ago, the day-end light was unreal up there, and I had no choice but to keep running outside with a camera as it went from rad to jaw-dropping to surreal.

If I'd known it was gonna be this good, I would have just left the camera on a tripod. And in case you'd like to see the individual frames...




20 minutes from start to finish of this show.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Postus Interruptus

For the seven of you regular readers, I'm going to apologize in advance, for once, for going dark for a couple weeks. This means no Iceland photos, no bad jokes, and no wanton abuse of adverbs.

We're off to a friend's wedding in Bali (awaiting sympathy from you...still waiting...), so we've left the house under the watchful eye of The Chosen One.

Bah, who are we kidding?

Please don't steal all the nice things.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Iceland: Reykir

We pass through Sauðárkrókur, do some resupply (pro tip: restaurants are expensive in Iceland! Shop in grocery stores!) and stop in Reykir for the night. Reykir is the jumping off point to Drangey, a special little island with a unique past and a unique present. Drangey's awesomeness, however, shouldn't take anything away from Reykir's own flavor of rad. Just to set the stage:

Much green; Reykir and Skagafjörður (click for bigger)

About all that's out there is the ubiquitous guest house/cafe/campground that serves as the one-stop shop in countless little locales across Iceland, and the huge bonus is the pair of hot springs that's mere steps away from the ocean. They. Are. Epic.



Reykir isn't on the open ocean, but rather alongside a big fjord (Skagafjörður) that sure as heck feels like open ocean. The setting is nearly beyond description, and the young family who runs it is super friendly, too. They operate the tours out to Drangey as well as fishing trips etc.

"Summer" oh god where's the hot spring

Minus the soggy grass (because Iceland), the campground is perfect. There's a bathroom building and a mess hall, both alongside the fjord, and as the afternoon presses on, the campground slowly attracts more and more visitors. There's a weeklong horseback tour pulling in, and then, in what I'd call impressive, we watch a crew of not-super-fit people clamber down the side of the mountain; they've traversed all the way from Sauðárkrókur without the benefit of a trail and through some pretty awful weather.

Perfect spot for a drink if you don't mind a wet butt

Mess hall, overgrown

The Old Hag looms

As the eternal evening wears on, the weather eventually improves a little bit, so we commemorate it by going for a walk around their little mini-peninsula. Drangey is prominent on the horizon, but the shoreline of the fjord is plenty interesting on its own.

Farm shed

Rain, always rain (or drizzle)

Eventually, between rounds of hot spring, snacking, wine, and wandering, we decide that we've had enough for the evening and retire into the Not Even Remotely Dark confines of our tent, where sleep comes easily.

Hardy little flowers

Even if we weren't going to be visiting Drangey the next day, this excursion would have been perfect as-is. Idyllic setting, super friendly people, and stunning oceanside hot springs ought to be enough to keep one happy!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Iceland: Highlands Crossing

After completing our stint on Vestmannaeyjar, Murphy and I cruise off the ferry and back on to the mainland. Before we've covered too much more ground, we have left the coast and started across the highlands.

Rad way to see the country; good job guys!

Could explore for weeks

We've barely covered any ground before the paved road gets narrower, then turns to dirt, then becomes a poor dirt road. Not to despair; it's still a state highway! In reality, it's one of the better roads across the highlands; many of the others require armageddon-ready 4x4s and feature treacherous river crossings every few km. So, really, we've got it pretty good.

Sorry, Hertz #sorrynotsorry

We eventually figure out that the trick to the potholes is to not drive too fast, but to also not drive too slow. Classic Goldilocks scenario. Otherwise, you have to drive so slow that you'll never make it anywhere. Seriously.

Escape from the fierce storms that scour the highlands

Endless ribbon across the landscape

We post up for the "night" at a roadside pullout in the middle of nowhere and deploy our tent. It's darker than expected as the weather is atrocious, and the combination of thick cloud cover and incessant rain allows us to sleep more peacefully than normal. The weather is kind of a bummer, as I've been really looking forward to seeing the highlands in their surreal glory, but hey, you can't win 'em all.

Water everywhere

After a few solid hours of sleep, we start driving through the potholes again, and before too long, we've made it to Hveravellir. Hveravellir is an awesome little outpost literally in the middle of bloody nowhere, and it features lots of geothermal activity, a little lodge/cafe, and a variety of trailheads that head off even more into the middle of nowhere. Most importantly, though, "geothermal activity" = "hot springs" sucka!

Alien rock farm

Yeah, things grow here, but they might have a rough go of it

The hot spring is largely a Choose Your Own Adventure type of place, with two pipes running into the pool. One pipe feeds cold water, and the other pipe feeds near-boiling death water, so it's up to the users to best mix them according to taste. And safety.

Geothermal feature

After a hearty dip in which our flesh stays attached to our bones, we go for a wander through the geothermal attractions. A key piece of guidance is to stay on the paths, as any diversions may result in hilariously grotesque hot water- and steam-related injuries. Around one corner, I spot the overgrown roof of a cool hut, take a closer look, and then run back to the car for the flash. Murphy does an excellent job of lighting the place, and I leave smug about the #neverleavehomewithoutalight mantra I've been on about while traveling.

Oh what's that?

Good job Murphy

Finished product

We finally continue down the "highway," bouncing along and fording puddles instead of rivers. Around every corner is the hint of an incredible vista, and sadly most of them are locked beyond highly unpalatable weather that either robs visibility or hinders movement. Probably the most unfortunate thing is that now we have to go back and catch some better weather; the secrets of those highlands may never be known in full, but I'd like to have another crack at a few of them!

Cold-ass stream

Can't feel my legs

When we emerge back into civilization on the north end of the country, we point the car towards Sauðárkrókur and count our lucky stars that we haven't run out of food or fuel or gotten swept down some glacial river or driven into an ice block.

First sign of civilization...awesome Icelandic horses

Behind-the-scenes aka how to get horse slobber on an expensive lens


We pause in Sauðárkrókur for snacks, coffee, and wi-fi before continuing out to Reykir where we'll spend the night before a mission to Drangey...up next!


Past Detritus