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Friday 8 October 1999

We stayed too late last night basking in Birna’s boreal aurora, and decided to sleep in a while and leave at 9:00. We wandered into the book and music store and spent too much time browsing, and left even later.

Snow had fallen overnight, a dusting in town that melted off with the rising sun, quite a lot on the mountains that did not. Akureyri sits near the head of a fjord with spectacular mountains on either side, and the fresh snow and clear sky gave the country a new brilliant aspect.

We headed up the west side of the fjord, having decided to circle the peninsula between Eyjafjörður and Skagafjörður. The road climbed up away from the water and quickly became icy. At the top of the hill was a tunnel, not apparent on the map, which cut through the mountain to the interior of the peninsula. The tunnel was a single lane, with turnouts, 3.4km long, with jagged walls cut from the naked rock. On the other side, we descended into a vale entirely covered with snow. The treacherous road made me hold my breath; the view took it away. At one point I stepped out of the car to take a picture. Standing in the chilly silence, I felt immersed in this white world, unsheathed from the rental car.

The rest of the day was spent driving and stopping for pictures. The road cleared at lower elevations. We saw some rocky islets in Skagafjörður, similar to Rocher Percé and Île Bonaventure off the Gaspé Peninsula. We took a break in Sauðárkrókur, a fishing village at the head of the fjord. The road iced up through another pass, but we arrived safely in Reykjavík at about 8:00 and found the Kaffi Brennslan for dinner and a beer or three. This is beer heaven in Reykjavík, with more than a hundred different bottles available. A Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale is no more expensive than anything else. If only Birna had served it to me, this would be heaven indeed.


Freshly fallen snow on Eyjafjörður.

Two squinty tourists along Eyjafjörður.

The valley between Eyjafjörður and Skagafjörður.

A lonely house in the valley.

I believe this mountain is called Hvammsfell.

The fishing village of Sauðakrokur.

This church is part of an outdoor museum of Icelandic life.

Sod houses like these were common well into the 20th century.


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