Skjaldarvik Guesthouse is just outside Akureyri to the west but they will pick you up from town and 1.5hrs gentle trekking is 10,900kr. There’s also a hot tub you can use after, though I just headed back to the hostel. Icelandic horses are not ponies. However as a midget I really appreciate not having to climb a fence to mount them! They are descended from horses brought over by the Vikings and are tough, sturdy creatures well adapted to the cold with their thick coats and extra furry ears. They also have an unusual running walk called tölt, a smooth gait where you don’t have to rise and fall but instead sit into the saddle like a sitting trot.
The next day was supposed to be lashing rain but the overcast skies turned blue as I baked in the Botanic Gardens, a nice spot with lots of alpine plants and a seed repository; before strolling down to the Akureyrarkirkja church, by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect as Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik. Akureyri is Iceland’s second city but even in the 18th century, 800 years after the first Norse-Irish settler Helgi Magri arrived, the trading post had all of 10 residents, which increased to over a thousand two hundred years later. Still, it makes a good base for exploring the north.
On the road to Egilsstaðir
I had planned to go to Húsavik but either my bus never came or the time was wrong and I took the Egilsstaðir one instead. The forecast for the whole east isn’t the best for the next week or so. I’ve totally lost track of days. On Friday I went on a veritable waterfall extravaganza tour. First I hitched back up Route 1 to see some falls by Þjóðvegur. I got a lift part of the way from an old man, the first local not to speak English. A little while later I got picked up by another guy who had been swimming in a lake further south. He said Icelanders are spoilt by the geothermal pools and the cold made it quite difficult. We chatted a bit about Greenland, he’d been sailing in Scoresbysund. After a cloudy start it had turned into a warm day. Along this stretch of road there are a half dozen falls all easily accessible and pretty. Unfortunately, I forgot the bag I keep my camera gear including the tripod base plate and filters in. So I had to improvise off rocks. I walked back and it took quite a while to get a lift, the roads are noticeably quieter, before being picked up by two Italian women. One had been in Dublin a few weeks ago with her students in another English school I know. Small world.
After grabbing my gear bank in Egilsstaðir I headed south and got a lift first from a Seiss couple and then from a painter to the falls at Hengifoss. Actually he had passed and turned around a few minutes later, moving ladders, groceries for his barbecue and paint. People go to so much trouble. We chatted about literature and Icelandic writers like Hallðor Laxness as we dropped off his ladder on the way at the school he was painting for a few weeks. By the side of the lake this is a girls boarding school too. Hengifoss is the third-longest waterfall in Iceland and was deep in shadow by the time I arrived. It also meant that I had most of it to myself which is one of the nice things about the less visited east. On the way back I got a lift much sooner than expected from a lawyer with her son fast asleep in the back. She was on her way to Akureyri and didn’t mind bringing me back to down as she could stop for coffee. We chatted about politics, she was a lawyer in Brussels, and how Brexit might impact Iceland as they would dominate the greater EEA group.
I have to say Egilsstaðir is the best campsite I’ve been to. Great amenities, in the centre and spotless. The only reason I didn’t stay longer was that it’s raining in the east (and south and north) for the next week. At 7:55 I checked the forecast and at 8:55 I’d checked in on a flight to Reykjavik. This not planning anything is quite liberating!