Circumnavigating Iceland, Part 2

The following day we embarked on the Ocean Endeavor. Built in 1982, it had been a jack of all trades – transport, cargo, ferry – before being reconfigured as a passenger ship in the early 2000s. It had a reception area amidships with a library/bar and three lounges, one on each of three levels, aft. Fore was the dining room, one level up from where we were berthed. We were in a cabin at the very front of the ship – two beds, a little sitting area and a small bath room. Quite comfortable, although as we soon discovered, in heavy seas it was rough going. Modern stabilizers were not installed!

One of our few days moored at a pier

Our steward was Miguel, who left wonderful towel creations for us each day. And we were awoken to the public address system each morning with: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning.” At whatever time it was decided we all needed to get up for the day’s activities. It was 7 AM most of the time, but 5:30 or 6 AM occasionally. I am not a happy camper at that time, especially since it was 2 AM at home.

The food was really good – with a seemingly endless selection for lunch and dinner – and I had to restrain myself not to gain weight.

Our first stop on our circumnavigation was the next day – in a town called Stykkisholmur on the Snaesfellness Peninsula – don’t even TRY to pronounce these names. I had to use a picture from their Chamber of Commerce – don’t get fooled by the sun! It was chilly and wet!

Stykkisholmur has well preserved and beautiful old houses in the town center and a beautifully modern church. I can’t remember if this was one of our ‘dry ’landings, where we walked off the ship onto a pier, but chances are it was not. Most of the time, our ship anchored somewhere off in the harbor, and we were called in groups down to the mudroom to put on our life jackets, then go down some more stairs of an exit where we boarded (with lots of help, depending on the roughness of the water, a Zodiac to take us to the town pier.

Smooth water or rough, you needed wet weather gear. I’m on the far side of the Zodiac in the left picture.

From the pier we took a bus. Our guide, Einar Einarson, provided us with lots of facts and figures which I promptly forgot as soon as we got on our bus because I would drift off. This happened for the first couple of days.

The bus took us on a lovely route to the Snaefellsjokull glacier, which sits atop a 700,000 year old dormant volcano and where we were to take a Snowcat up to 4,600 feet. Wouldn’t you know it – it was raining and foggy, and by the time we got to the mountain base, the Snowcat drivers had closed up and gone home. But never mind, we had a wonderful day of seeing lots of beautiful landscapes, and frankly, it was so cold and wet, I’m not sure I would have managed 4,600 feet. This is from the Snowcat brochure since we didn’t get to see this!

By the following day we had travelled north and slightly east on the west coast of Iceland and were moored in Isafjodur. This is the largest town on the Westfjords peninsula, with about 2,600 people. It is a very ancient site with a trading post dating from the 1500s, and the town’s main industries are  tourism and salt fish production. The harbor, as the name implies is a fjord, as were most of the places.

It was still not sunny that day, so I got this picture from the Isafjordur guide. The main sightseeing object that day was the Dynjandi waterfall, the highest and definitely the most thunderous waterfall in the region. One of our tour mates climbed to the top of the fall, where she picked up a rock to being home. We were told the trolls didn’t like people taking any rocks.

Trolls, you might ask? Well, there are ten primary Islandic sagas, written during the High Middle Ages by authors who identities are not known. The aspects of the landscape, the language, folk tales, and Norse mythology in these sagas were influential in shaping the legendary fantasy world of Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy. Tolkien had an Icelandic nanny from the West Fjords who lived with the author and his family in the early 1930s in Oxford, England. It was through the nanny that the author became further acquainted with Icelandic folk tales and mythology and was able to practice Icelandic. And so Iceland has trolls and elves.

Sure enough, she slipped, fell on her back, and slipped to the edge of the fall, where her feet hung over the edge. Luckily, she was largely unhurt, but she did put the rock back.

The following day was a busy one, preceded by a night of rocking and rolling on heavy seas. In our cabin, we bounced up and down and side to side. I rolled myself into my duvet and then tucked it into the tight space between the wall and the mattress to keep from being rolled of my bed. Did I mention we took Meclizine every night? It’s a non-drowsy anti-motion sickness medicine that worked perfectly.

So on to Siglufjordur and Grimsey Island.



33 thoughts on “Circumnavigating Iceland, Part 2”

    1. Thanks, Gracie. Most of the tours are land tours. We chose to circumnavigate because we thought it looked interesting. Our ship mates were largely from another tour company, Adventure Canada – fitness buffs, long distance hikers etc. But we endured!

  1. What gorgeous photos! You’ve made me add Iceland to my bucket list. But I don’t think I’d make it on a cruise, since I get sea sick on a DOCK much less a rollicking ship. Most meds don’t help, but haven’t heard of Meclizine – is that over-the-counter? I love hearing about the trolls and how Tolkien learned about them from his Icelandic nanny..

  2. This is quite a trip – it’s good you had your sea legs. I’m not sure how I would be on rough seas, especially below deck. These sights were no doubt worth the trip – just gorgeous, especially the waterfall! Looking forward to the next installment!

  3. Pingback: Circumnavigating Iceland, Part 2 | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  4. Thank you for this glimpse into your Icelandic adventure. I loved learning that “Tolkien had an Icelandic nanny from the West Fjords who lived with the author and his family in the early 1930s in Oxford, England. It was through the nanny that the author became further acquainted with Icelandic folk tales and mythology and was able to practice Icelandic.” How fascinating that that the choice of this particular nanny by Tolkien’s family would end up sparking the imagination and creation of JRR many years later!

  5. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and annotations. Very impressive. Iceland is on my bucket list, but due to the low temperatures it’s on my ice bucket list: Once I’m hot enough to cool down with Ice I will go there. Your pictures and stories serve as perfect distraction until such time.

  6. Seems like a wonderful trip. Iceland is trully amazing and so beautiful. The ever changing landscapes make his place so magical. Brought the family there in sept/oct really cold but trip was unforgettable. Happy travels!

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