rainbow bricks leading to church in Seyðisfjörður

Fire and ice day 8: “Something is rotten in the state of Iceland”

June 28, 2021

Photo Credit: Carol Madigan

fog rolling in on road to Seyðisfjörður .
The first inkling that visibility might get worse before better

   The “plan” (as rare as that term was to be employed on this trip) was for a short hitch over coastal mountains to the little fishing village of Seyðisfjörður. We’d walk around a bit, and if the campground looked good, and there was a decent cafe, we’d stay the night. In other words, it was set up to be the shortest driving day of the trip. And I was all in.

   Though a secondary road, the route over the mountains was paved. But there were sharp switchbacks, and as we approached the summit of the snow-covered range, a thick fog threatened to sock-in our route. All the way down the slope leading into Seyðisfjörður, the specter of the snow, the fog and the switchbacks were already playing on my mind like a reindeer stampede. I did not relish going back over all that in the same day. Seyðisfjörður would have to be a complete bust for me to attempt it.

 It was here, I believe, where Carol reiterated her preference not to do any of the driving. That was fine with me, as my grip on the steering wheel had created personalized indentations that matched my clenched fists anyway.

rainbow bricks leading to church in Seyðisfjörður
Oh Seyðisfjörður. Would have a been a quaint overnight but for the overpowering fish smell
driving Ring Road in fog and rain
Leaving an imprint of my fists on the steering wheel

   The town was cute enough. One of those picturesque corrugated metal churches, a small harbor leading out to the ocean, a quaint enough village with a friendly cafe, and then out of nowhere, a stench of rotting fish that grew stronger with each shallow breath. I was gagging, and Carol’s nose was far more sensitive than mine. I could just imagine —

narrow one lane bridge in Fjarðabyggð
Lengthy one lane bridge in Fjarðabyggð was like driving blind

   “I can’t breathe,” she cried out, covering her nose, a slight greenish pallor across her face. “We can’t stay here.”

   Fifteen minutes later, we were traversing the snow-covered mountains, the fog having thickened a bit more, and a line of traffic stacking up behind what the drivers must have thought was a one-van funeral procession too slowly making its way along the switchbacks.

the view for the four-hour drive on Ring Road along the east fjords
Four hours of this same view along the east fjords

   Back on the Ring Road, Carol consulted her charts and announced there wasn’t anything between us and Hofn, some four hour’s drive away. So much for the shortest driving day suddenly looming into the longest. Thus ended any further attempts to “plan” a day ahead for the remainder of the trip.

seaside road in Iceland
The day’s only respite: pb&j lunch at a Ring Road turnout

   Though Hofn was indeed a four-hour drive away, had the way been straight, it would have been maybe 20 minutes (don’t double check this). Instead, the Ring Road circumnavigated each and every fjord lengthwise like a five-year-old tracing the fingers of her hand trying to draw a Thanksgiving turkey. There were seven or eight of these geologic fingers, each with narrow, sweeping curves and one-way bridges that had the cumulative effect (especially in a driving rain with passing transports roiling waves of surf across your windshield) of turning the day’s drive into a white-knuckle monotony. It was here, I believe, where Carol reiterated her preference not to do any of the driving. That was fine with me, as my grip on the steering wheel had created personalized indentations that matched my clenched fists anyway.

   We pulled into Hofn at dinner time. Hofn is also a harbor town, but it didn’t reek of rotten fish. It is also known as the Lobster Capital of Iceland, so it made for a good spot for our first restaurant meal since being in the camper van. Icelandic lobster is really langoustine, which is kin to real lobsters the way tube steak is kin to hot dogs, I suppose. But the meat is sweet and the toasted  “lobster” sandwiches and fries washed down with a couple of Gulls (the Icelandic equivalent of Heineken) made for a pleasant evening back in the campground after what would turn out to be the longest day driving of the entire trip.


Need to catch up on our Iceland trip from the beginning? Start here! Fire and Ice: Day 1

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