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.


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