#5 Sheep Dog, Glaciers, Berries, Diamond Beach & Ice Cream

It was around this day that Stewart, who had been coughing and sneezing asked to be seated in the back row by himself with the reasoning being that by sitting forward of most of us, any germs would flow directly back over all who sat behind him. None of us, nor Reynir had any objections to this decision, as it seemed the prudent course of action. Most of us wore masks. But, more on that in upcoming chapters…

After breakfast we continued on our way, still in the South Iceland sector. A long streaming waterfall next to a farm drew our attention and Reynir drove up the lane to where we could get a better look. As we arrived a neighboring sheep herding dog, a Border Collie, crossed under a barb wire fence and then through a stream towards us. He approached us with a stone in his mouth which he laid down in front of us. Obviously he wanted to play, so I picked up his stone and threw it which he quickly ran to fetch. Wanting to make a game of it he would not release the stone immediately but with some playful tugging he would drop it and wait anxiously for me to throw it again, and again. Miscalculating one throw, the stone ended in the stream, but no bother to the dog, he searched, nose in the water, for another stone for us to throw. But, play time was over as we mounted up and continued on our way. Looking back I could see the dog had engaged others who had arrived to view the waterfall. I can only surmise that this must be the highlight of this dog’s life. Waterfalls were plentiful but not all could be closely admired or we would never have made any distance each day.

Visible for most of the day, as we came into the eastern sector was Iceland’s largest glacier, Skaftafell. Not only was it in sight, we got up closer in Glacier Lagoon where, in an amphibian boat, the captain drove a short distance overland and then into the water. Cruising upon the lagoon amongst the glacier’s icebergs was chilly but to see icebergs up close was awesome. 

The lagoon is very near the ocean and those icebergs eventually float out into the ocean. However, the currents carry many of the icebergs, or chunks of them back onto the beach. Aptly named “Diamond Beach”, those icebergs glisten in the sunlight, appearing much like sparkling diamonds upon the beach.

Further along, a treat was awaiting us as we stopped for some Iceland Ice Cream at a small shop in the country. A few unusual flavors tempted us, with me settling on dandelion version. Yes, the yellow flower, dandelion. Not really knowing what a dandelion should taste like, I found it to be very yummy and hit the spot.

That night we lodged in what was our least favorite hotel. Rooms were very small, on a lower/basement level, no luggage racks or useable desk space, cold, or warm, depending on the room, tiny showers…the complaints were started at the morning buffet by one of our group to which others also chimed in with their own dissatisfactions. These complaints rained down on our guide Reynir for whom I felt sorry. But he was attentive to our concerns, listened and reported them to the tour operator, Nordic Visitor. Those reported complaints would soon lead to an unexpected outcome for our group.

But the day ahead was packed, traveling on the Ring Road in the east of Iceland. The seaside drive was long, the day mostly overcast and foggy. Still, with the ocean to our right and mountains to the left, it was a more barren landscape. 

On the mountain side, though not as lush as previous days, sheep grazed here and there and ocean side we occasionally saw swans floating on a calm sea. 

At the small fishing village, Fáskrúdsfjödur, which once was the French fishing hub of East Iceland and boasting many French street names, Reynir told us more about the fishing industry. The Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic currents around Iceland all contribute to some ideal fish populations. But overfishing, which is a real concern for the Iceland fishermen, has nearly depleted fish catches and has had an impact on Iceland. Quota laws are helping to protect the fishing, extending the fishing boundaries to help deter the English, French and Dutch from overfishing,. Another example of the need to help protect our planet and the species that also live here.

What would a day be like without stopping to see another magnificent waterfall? Yes, another, to which I took the path leading away from its top plunge and along the way admired the flowers bordering the path.

 Reynir pointed out the blueberries and crow berries growing abundantly upon the hillsides. Most of us spent some time gathering up and eating the small berries of both species. 

Here Reynir explained about the rather unusual landscape which is evidence of the earth’s strata that is sinking. But no cause for concern, as this is all part of the slowly evolving nature of Iceland. 

Though it was a dreary day the next stop was a bright spot. Petra’s Stone and Mineral Collection is a small open air collection of a woman’s lifelong pursuit of accumulating stones and minerals. It was a fascinating place with varied rocks, stones and colorful gardens where whimsical garden gnomes peeked out amongst the flowers. Here we lunched over steaming bowls of soup, sandwiches and hot tea.

The shortest distance from A to B in this mountainous terrain could be THROUGH a mountain, which is exactly what we did. A 3.75 mile long tunnel brought us to the other side as we approached our next stop, Seydisfjödur. 

This town displays its accepting diversity with a rainbow colored walk along a street leading up to the iconic Blue Church. It was heartening to see and know Icelanders are open and accepting by displaying this symbol of gay pride. It is known as an artistic hub in Iceland and home to an assortment of creative types. The Blue Church is also the location of summer concerts.

Not only was the street colorful, but the homes were also multi-colored, many with interesting and notable doors.

Heading for the Hotel Hallormsstadur, the scenes along the way abounded with dozens of long trailing waterfalls, appearing as lengthy narrow white ribbons extending and trickling downward over the mountain edges. And other waterfalls stepped downward from one level to the next and next and next to their misty culminations as the rushing waters, their power diminished, then quietly flowed onward to the sea.

Arriving at the hotel, Reynir informed us that due to the unpleasant accommodations of the previous night we would be treated to this hotel’s dinner buffet as compensation. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease after-all!


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