Iceland – Day 6

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Drangsnes to Sauðárkrókur – 168 miles

Hut By The Water

This was one of our longer driving days, but the roads would be less challenging as we made our way out of the Westfjords and into the North of Iceland.

The Westfjords were so beautiful. Anyone who visits Iceland and doesn’t take some time in this part of the country is really missing out.

Cynthia

It was one amazing site after another.

Bridge

Falls

We had a few gravel roads to navigate and a few proved quite challenging. I felt the car trying to slip out from underneath me a few times, but was able to make the necessary corrections without much trouble, never once letting Cynthia suspect we were in any danger.

Church

The route of of the Westfjords and into Skagafjörður district took us past many Icelandic horses

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horses

They look great, but we had no desire to ride them even though there were many places offering the opportunity.

We continued driving toward Sauðárkrókur which meant joining up with Highway 1 for part of the distance. This is the main road around Iceland and after driving in the remote Westfjords it seemed like a veritable traffic jam. Things we moving quickly and the towns along this route are much more modern, as far as Iceland goes.

I have to say, the churches here in Iceland are fascinating. In the Westfjords and other rural areas you see churches like this.

Prestsbakki Church

While in the larger cities it is not unusual to see more modern churches like this one in Blönduós right off Highway 1.

Blönduós Church

Or the one we saw back in Stykkisholmur

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

We arrived in Sauðárkrókur around 4:30pm and were pretty beat. It’s was then I remembered that this was the Icelandic Labor Day weekend, Verslunnarmannahelgi. That explained the numerous cars and people. Like our Labor Day weekend, Verslunnarmannahelgi is when a lot of Icelanders hit the roads and head for the countryside for camping and other activities.

We found a place to have dinner and then retired to our hotel room for some rest. Tomorrow we head for Akureyri.

Cynthia at the Glaumbær (Skagafjörður Folk Museum)

Iceland – Day 5

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Ísafjörður to Drangsnes – 146 miles

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

Ísafjörður has been very nice. Lots of good restaurants and the town is just beautiful. Now were off to Drangsnes.

Shcack

This drive looks short, but took us through some very interesting landscapes. We were up and down mountain passes and driving along fjords for miles and miles. There’s not a particular iconic site on this leg of the journey. This part is all about driving through majestic scenery and just soaking it all in.

Mountain Fjord

One of the first things you notice about driving in Iceland is the lack of guardrails. You will find them now and again, but not very often and certainly not where you would expect them. We’ve been on some roads that were high up in the mountains with drop-offs that go for hundreds of feet straight down.

Gravel Road

Road

Add to that many blind hills and corners the fact that in this part of Iceland many of the roads are gravel and you get some tense driving conditions.

Blind Hill

Another thing that is worth noting is that many of the petrol stations in the more remote areas of Iceland are completely unmanned. That means you have to decypher the instructions and use a chip and pin credit card to be able to get gas. Fortunately my credit card company (USAA) offers a chip and pin card and it has been working perfectly.

Getting Some Petrol

Another thing that is worth noting is that there is not an abundance of places to pull over to take photos. You have to make due with what’s available or simply make a judgment call as to whether or not it is safe to stop in the street and take a picture. Fortunately there is not a lot of traffic in this part of Iceland so it’s not unreasonable to do this as long as you’re careful.

As we get braver we find ourselves doing it more and more because the scenery is just spectacular.

Falls

Church

House

Fjord

Shack

As you drive along there are dozens and dozens of waterfalls pouring down the sides of the mountains.

Falls and Road

Cynthia commented that the tap water was very clean tasting and wondered what it would be like to drink from a waterfall.

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As it turns out, it’s freezing cold and delicious.

We have been quite emboldened with our successes so far

I'm On A Rock

But we are also aware of the signs sent by the universe telling us not to get too cocky.

Disaster?

We arrived in Drangsnes without incident and settled in. After a nice dinner I had planned to update this blog, but the Internet connection at the guesthouse was not working and I had a very weak data signal on the phone. So it was a good night’s sleep for me with a long drive to Sauðárkrókur in the morning.

Iceland – Day 3 – Part 2

The Edge of Oblivion aboard Ferry Baldur

After our day in Stykkishólmur it was time to board the ferry and make our way to the Westfjords. The ferry takes about 3 1/2 hours to make its way to Brjanslækur where we would depart and then head to our guesthouse near the Látrabjarg cliffs, home to millions of nesting puffins in the summer.

For this ferry ride only the driver of the car is allowed in the car when it goes on board. That meant Cynthia had to walk on and wait for me to get parked. It would not have been an issue except it took me a little extra time to get parked. When I drove on to the ferry there was an exiting car that was stuck because the owner had locked his keys in the car. The attendant had me maneuver around him and at one point had to lift the protective gate that keeps cars from plunging into the sea so I could move into position. It was exhilarating and terrifying. See the photo above.

Once we made the crossing I drove the car off of the ferry and collected Cynthia and we drove on to our guest house out toward the Látrabjarg cliffs.

The Long And Winding Road

We came across the statue of Kleifebui, a rock statue made by road construction workers in 1947. He stands on the road between Flókalundi and Patreksfjörð. It was cool to see.

Kleifebui

We also came across the wreck of the Garðar BA 64.

Gardar

According to Atlas Obscura

Originally known as the Globe IV, the large ship was completed in Norway in 1912 as a state-of-the-art-at-the-time whaling vessel. The hull was specially reinforced to break through the icy Southern seas in which it operated and the powerful engine kept the boat sailing even in calm waters. During its active lifetime it was sold around to a number of different countries before finding an Icelandic owner after World War II. Once whaling restrictions became more widespread, Garðar BA 64 (a name it finally received in 1963) was used or fishing herring in the waters off of Iceland.

After decades in faithful service to its bevy of owners, Garðar BA 64 was finally deemed unsafe for service in 1981 and as opposed to being scuttled, the old ship was run aground in Skápadalur Valley where it remains to this day, falling apart bit by bit. It is now a popular site for photographers and anyone looking for a lovely mix of Icelandic scenery and industrial ruin.

This drive took us to our first gravel roads. I had read that the road was a bit harrowing but was not fully prepared for what we encountered.

Road Conditions

Thank the gods for the good weather, otherwise this journey may have ended up being too much for us.

We made our way to the guest house which was quite basic. The owner welcomed us and was very kind and offered us a great dinner that consisted of vegetables, bread and a fantastic pan fried fish.

To say this area was remote would be an understatement. We had no cell service and the Internet at the guesthouse was all but unusable.

After dinner he suggested we head on to the Látrabjarg cliffs to see the puffins. It was around 9:00 pm with the sun shining that we headed off. We were in awe and somewhat terrified of the road that lead from the guest house to the cliffs.

I don’t have the photos to truly convey what we went through. But suffice to say it was some of the bumpiest, scariest driving I have ever done. We found ourselves high on mountain passes that twisted through the landscape with no guardrails and numerous warning signs. Fortunately there were very few cars on these roads.

When we got to where I thought should be the end of the road, we were merely on a beach. A car drove up and a French man that we had encountered earlier in the day excitedly told us about the puffins and cliffs ahead. He showed us some photos on his camera and this encouraged us to keep going.

When we got to the cliffs, we were not disappointed. Hundreds of puffins lined the top of the cliff and were happy to have their photos taken.

puffin19

puffin14

puffin13

puffin6

I have many more puffin photos here in my Flickr gallery

It was cold and it was windy, but it was the perfect conditions for puffin viewing. After about an hour Cynthia and I decided to retrace our treacherous steps back to the guesthouse. This was around 10:45 pm. Fortunately the sun stays up well past this time.

10:45 PM In The Westfjords

So far, this has been an awesome trip, despite the terrifying bits.

Iceland – Day 3 – Part 1

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The sun was up and bright well past 11:30 pm last night. We woke up around 4:30 and it was back up again. Our hotel does not have blackout shutters so that’s unfortunate. We managed to sleep until around 6:00 am before giving up on sleeping in any later.

Stykkishólmur Light House

Breakfast is not until 7:30 so we went for a short walk. Stykkishólmur is a beautiful little town and the abundant sunshine is encouraging for the day’s activities.

Stykkishólmur Harbor

Our ferry across Breidafjördur Bay isn’t scheduled to leave until 3:45 this afternoon so we decide to book what is called the Viking sushi Tour which is a boat tour that takes you out and around the numerous small islands of Breidafjördur Bay. Cynthia was not keen on the idea and offered to stay back while I went. We talked about it for a bit and I was finally able to convince her to come along.

We bought tickets and went back to the hotel for breakfast and then packed up and checked out. Stykkishólmur seems very safe and we were not worried about leaving the bulk of our luggage in the car.

We goofed off for a bit more before boarding the boat to take the 2 hour tour. The weather was fantastic and this did a lot to bolster Cynthia’s spirits.

Cynthia On A Boat

During the tour we saw many birds, including the bird we came to see, the Puffin!

Puffin

It was difficult shooting them from the distance we were at and certainly being on a moving boat didn’t help, but the excitement of seeing all these birds took Cynthia’s mind away from her concerns and she ended up having a really good time.

In the middle of the tour was the event that makes this tour a Viking Sushi tour. They scrape the sea bottom and pull up all manner of sea life.

Viking Sushi

Viking Sushi

And serve them to you raw with wasabi and soy sauce. Yum!

Viiking Sushi

Viking Sushi

Once we were back on shore we got some lunch and prepared to board the ferry for out 3 1/2 hour ride to Brjanslaekur, our entry point to the Westfjords. That part of the adventure will be chronicled in my next post.

Iceland – Day 2

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From Reykjavik to Stykkishólmur. A grand total of 214 miles. For scale, it’s 239 miles from Houston to Dallas.

We picked up the car, but were delayed by about an hour as they didn’t have our car ready. On the plus side, they discounted the rental due to the delay. We set off for Stykkishólmur at around 9:30 am via the scenic route and didn’t look back.

Kia Sportage

Today it was raining for most of the drive. Still, Iceland is fantastically beautiful. We saw mountains with misty clouds rolling over the top and countless waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. We stopped several times for photos but were slightly discouraged by the weather. We did the best we could and rolled into Stykkishólmur around 4:30 pm and checked into our hotel.

Snæfellsnes

Snæfellsnes

We drove way out to the western tip of the peninsula to see Snæfellsjökull, the mountain that served as the entrance to the subterranean journey in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Unfortunately the clouds cut off most of the mountain.

Snæfellsjökull

The weather in Stykkishólmur is a dramatic improvement over what we experienced on the drive and we set off to explore and find some dinner.

We found a restaurant called Narfeyrarstofa which came highly recommended. We were informed that that the catch of the day was a pan fried blue ling fish which is a type of cod. They suggested a pairing with a pinot grigio and we decided to go for it. BEST MEAL EVER!

Stykkishólmurcatch

On the way into Stykkishólmur we got our first up close look at some Icelandic horses.

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse

We’re winding down now. Tomorrow’s a big day as we have a boat tour scheduled in the morning and a ferry ride to the Westfjords in the afternoon.

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

Ship Docked At Stykkishólmur

Trip to High Island

Seagull Shrimp Buffet

I finally made it out to High Island to visit the Audubon bird sanctuaries. I drove to Galveston and took the Bolivar Ferry over to the peninsula. Had fun watching the seagulls get fed by the willing tourists and the shrimpers.

Cheeto Party!

Once on the peninsula I found my way to High Island and the world famous Rookery. Hundreds of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets building nests. Used the Sony A99 and my Minolta 300mm lens combined with a 1.4 teleconverter.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Egret

Little Planet Panoramas Of The Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace, also known as Gresham’s Castle, an ornate Victorian-style house in the East End Historic District of Galveston, Texas.

he house was built between 1887 and 1893 by Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton

Reportedly listed by The American Institute of Architects as one of the 100 most significant buildings in the United States, and the Library of Congress has classified it as one of the fourteen most representative Victorian structures in the nation.

Bishop's Palace - Galveston, TX

Bishop's Palace - Galveston, TX

Ireland – Giant’s Causeway Long Exposures

Shooting Giant's Causeway

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was experiment with long, daytime exposures using ND filters. These photos of The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland were taken during the day and each exposure is approximately 30 seconds. The NDX 400 filter allows for this without overexposing the shot. The long exposure causes the crashing waves to appear as fog or smoke while the rock formations remain clear and detailed. I would have preferred a more sunny day, but the overcast skies actually aided in the final look and feel of these images.

Giant's Causeway - 1

Giant's Causeway - 2

Giant's Causeway - 3

Giant's Causeway - 4

Giant's Causeway - 5

Ireland – The Conor Pass

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The Conor Pass is said to be the highest mountain pass in Ireland. The road is quite narrow in places and passing oncoming traffic can be harrowing. I wanted to drive over the pass on the way to Dingle rather than taking the easier route down the main highway from Tralee. Cynthia was nervous, but agreed to cross if the weather was good. As it turned out, the weather was good and so we crossed. It should also be noted that we crossed on Friday the 13th. Cynthia is a little superstitious, so this was significant.

We were fortunate that there was not a lot of traffic on this road on the day we went over.

Here is a video I shot of our crossing using a GoPro Hero 3 Black mounted to the outside of the rental car. You can see the truly narrow point about midway through the video.

This drive offers one of the most dramatic and scenic ways of entering or leaving Dingle.

View from the top of Conor Pass

Conor Pass Waterfall

View from the top of Conor Pass

Ireland – Day 11

First full day in Dublin and it has been raining all day. This has dampened our spirits a wee bit. It doesn’t help that we are also getting very tired. The whole trip has been so fantastic, but also very exhausting at times. We busied ourselves visiting the National Museum, the National Library and National Gallery. Admission was free to all of them, so that was a bonus.

I did get some interesting photos inside some of the spaces so I am happy for that. I was particularly mesmerised by the elevator/staircase in the back of the National Gallery

National Gallery - Dublin

National Gallery - Dublin

Cynthia enjoyed the reading room in the National Library

National Library - Dublin

National Library - Dublin

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is looking very good with sunshine predicted for the day. That means we get to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, ChristChurch and many other sites in the glorious sun (fingers crossed)

The