Saturday 18 August 2012

Start: 0km
End: 401km
Distance travelled: 401 km (240 miles)

Having collected the jeep last night we were free to take a more leisurely approach to breakfast and to getting all packed up and ready to leave. At 10 o’clock I reversed not just my first 4×4 but my first automatic vehicle out of Funafold 13 and onto Janet’s quiet side street. First time too, driving on the right, I made it the short distance around the block to Oli’s filling station, and we were off.

From a hazy, misty start to the day we soon hit thick fog through the Reykjavik suburbs and this caused us to think we had missed the road to the Akranes tunnel – then the sun came out as we entered the tunnel – carved out from the actual rock deep beneath the fjord rather than being built from concrete. Out of the tunnel and the road to Borganess was of thick, thick fog, that cleared in time for the bridge and the causeway across Borgafjördur.

Quick stop for provisions a the local Bónus and we were back on the rod, leaving the main N1 until tomorrow and taking the road to Snaefellsnes. We carried on watching the white-capped mountain that is Snaefellsjokull loom closer.

At lunch time we arrived at the tiny black-painted wooden church at Budir. Nestled in the sand dunes above a sandy beach with rock pools in the black lava outcrops, surrounded by lush meadow grass, bathed in bright sunshine and blue sky and watched over by a glacier, it is an utterly breath-taking and beautiful spot to have lunch. Lunch is Icelandic flatbreads with cheese and salami followed by a mjolkurkek and an apple. After lunch we head down to the beach for a paddle and a stroll before continuing on around the peninsula.

Three more stops follow: at Pulabarg, where there is the dark, rocky remains of a troll amongst a forelorn lava field and teeming with Kittiwakes. Then to Malarrif where we are told there is a very pretty beach of round black stones, the remains of a wreck, and a lighthouse. We don’t find the wreck but for the rest they aren’t wrong. We’ve overshot our turning (deliberately) and so lastly we visit the exceptionally small and pretty Amarstapi – a little fishing village set down amongst the familiar hexagonal baslt rocks, that form, in there arrangement, a natural harbour. Breaking for a cold drink and a toilet stop we are on our way, Emma driving for the road up and over Snaefellsjokull. From the turning it is a gravel track, and from the start it is perilously steep and rutted. Until now having the jeep has been fun but now it is essential, although over the brow of a ridge we do come across parked cars, including a Toyota Yaris. It is actually the Yaris that follows us up the path on a road that we don’t think is made for it.

The road takes us right beneath the main glacier but above some of the snow and the views both north and south are spectacular. As nervewracking as it is spectacular, the road down is, in places, ‘interesting’.

Back on the main road we wind our way over hill and round fjord to Stykkisholmur for dinner – arriving about 6pm. It’s Danish Day today on Snaefellsness – the day wen all its people celebrate their Danish ancestry and the menu at Fimm Fiskur (Five Fishes) is a special Danish one. Great food and great service: we both have the mushroom soup and I had the fish of the day for mains – we’re still not entirely sure what Torsk is but it was very nice.

After our early dinner we had a short stroll round a very windy harbour, enjoying the otherwise quietness and checking out the curious knitted hand pump and knitted bin – to go alongside the knitted trees of Reykjavik.

Leaving Stykkisholmer we pass a petrol station on the edge of town – for a moment we do deliberate whether or not to fill up but the gauge looks okay and so we go on, keen to get to Brautaholt. It’s not long on the surprisingly gravel road along the norther shore fo Snaefelsness that we decide we have made a mistake. The gravel road is long and the petrol gauge drops alarmingly and the journey is not as enjoyable as it might have been.

Still daylight, but it is getting late, and we are incredibly relieved to finally meet the metalled road surface. We find Brautaholt easily too – the middle of three houses on the side of the valley. We drive past it though to Budadalur, hoping beyond hope for a petrol station. There is one. It’s closed of course but the pump is an automat self-service one and we guess at the amount of money we want to put in.

With a full tank once more we speed back up the road and arrive at Brautaholt, our destination for the night. However, a different kind of panic is to set in. None of the four keys that Adi has given us fit the front door – indeed only one of the keys actually slides into the lock. I remember Adi saying something about the back door never being locked anyway, so we go round into the back garden with the view down over meadow grass to the shore of the fjord. I try and rember if tis a grave or just a memorial to Adi’s parents in the back garden – I can’t.

The back door is firmly locked. Starting to fear the worst now Emma goes to look at the side and I go back round the front – I think I had seen another door to the old shop. The door is unlocked – I enter in and find Emma coming towards me. The side door was unlocked with the key hanging out of it.
Forgetting our panic of earlier Emma is drawn immediately to the old shop which is just the same as it was eight years ago when I first saw it, and was for Emma strangely, impossibly familiar from having read the descriptions of it in my book.

We fetch in our things and have a proper look around – the miscellany of objects from down the generations , the 1950s kitchen and the old wind-up telephone in the hall, to the family photographs. Then to further instructions: we find the light switch in the kitchen to turn on the electrics in the kitchen okay but the hot water tap in the shower room…? There are seven identical taps in the shower room all at different positions and with signs tied next to them. We have to phone Janet for some translation and eventually we figure it out.

The house is old, creaky, and a little bit creepy but we settle in happily with some toast and tea. Ideally we would snuggle into the lounge and write our journals and play scrabble but it has been long and (mostly – if you discount the 70km of driving near the bottom of your tank on a gravel road) enjoyable day and we are shattered.

Day 6: From Brautaholt to Akureyri…