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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Tuesday 21. July 2009

Back in Iceland

I returned to Iceland on the 8th of July for a short trip, mostly to visit the Hornstrandir Nature Preserve on the north coast of the Westfjords. It was a trip that I was thinking of being kind of tangential to the Focus Westfjords project as a whole, with its emphasis on the people of the Westfjords and how they live. But as the days of the visit progressed it occurred to me that the trip was more central and less tangential than I had anticipated. I´ll talk about this in subsequent blog posts this week.

I arrived in Keflavik at about 6:40 in the morning, which was later than scheduled and a little troubling as Gusti had arranged with the marketing office in Isafjöður to have several hours of flight time over the Westfjords that day to photograph the land. The first flight from Reykjavik was at 8:00 a.m. and the second was at 5:00 p.m. It is almost an hour´s drive from the International airport in Keflavik to the domestic airport in Reykjavik, longer if you take the Flybus. So like any self-respecting traveler, I took a cab to the domestic airport (not cheap). I made my flight. In fact I could have rode a bicycle from one airport to the other and still made my flight, as the planes to Isafjörður were delayed on account of weather up north. We got out; I got in; had a quick bite with Gusti at Thai Koon, and got the news that we weren´t able to fly that afternoon because of the weather.

 

When Gusti asked what I wanted to do, I responded with the default, ´‘Let´s go for a drive.´‘ He selected a route from Þingeyri to Hrafnseyri out along the coast of Dyrafjörður to the end of the fjord at Husanes and back into Arnafjörður just south along its coast. Gusti was excited to do the route as he had never taken it before, and I was excited because I had never taken it before (not surprising), but also because the route passes by historical sites from Gisli Sursson´s Saga, which I had read a couple of times since my previous trip. This is the classic saga of the Westfjords, whose hero, Gisli, lived in Haukskadalsá River valley off of Dyrafjörður. The photographs of the abandoned boat and farmhouse are from, I believe, that valley (though I would certainly appreciate being corrected if I am wrong--we didn‘t have a map with us.)

 

Gisli suffers from the throes of fate and some decisions that might be called rash (he revenges the death of his brother-in-law, Vestein, by killing another brother-in-law, Thorgrim, whom he strongly suspects is guilty; but that fact is actually never quite certain). He acts out a code of honor and fate intervenes, and he becomes an outlaw who spends the rest of his days hiding out in a valley off of Arnafjörður until he is finally discovered and killed. Of the sagas I have read, I find this one most interesting; I think in part because of being familiar with its setting but in part because of the way it deals with Gisli who seems played upon equally be the social ethic of revenge and the consequences of fate and choice. It is a good read.

 

The road around the end of the fjord is precarious at moments, to say the least, and passable generally under good conditions. When we had stopped at the end of the fjord to take photographs, a passing family warned us that we should be sure to complete the journey before the tide comes in. I‘ve included a few photos of the road that provide some documentation of its character, and that provide some explanation of why the tide might be an important factor. Aside from the interesting driving conditions, perhaps most the most striking part of the journey itself was the coast line on the far end of the fjord. The water there was the same kind of turqouise color that you might expect to find in more tropical climates. And the rocks were colored with a seaweed that made them appear to be gold.

 

A word on the b/w photo of the black rock. The rock is actually red. I called it first when we got there, but Gusti beat me to the punch, and then posted it first at his FB site. I couldn't do the same, so I did it black and white. :-)

 

Coming tomorrow: We catch our flight

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