There I was, standing in an intersection watching Haukur, Eydis and Runar dive off towards Akureyri. We woke up in Stykkisholmur that morning and had spent the entire day driving and hiking around Sneafellsness–about a hundred kilometres to the west. Now, at eight in the evening, I was once again by myself in the middle of nowhere; only this time with wet boots.
For about five minutes I watched their dusty white truck drive away from me, knowing that I had left both my new found friends and gloves inside the cab. I looked down and fiddled with my bag, making sure my soggy footwear was securely tied to the back. Although it’s cold, the Icelandic wind is also very dry, which meant my boots would probably be wearable in a day and a half. Once the truck disappeared from view, I hefted the backpack onto my shoulders and began walking north along Hrutafjordur, towards my eventual destination a few hundred kilometres away.
The road was long and the sky was threatening. I was prepared for rain, but wasn’t keen on the idea of my boots getting any wetter than they already were. Even less appealing was the concept of getting my tent wet, so I decided to continue walking as long as the weather stayed menacing.
In the eight and a half hours I walked that night, I covered over 45km of ground and saw a total of two cars, both of whom passed me in the opposite direction. Around four in the morning I concluded that the sky was clear enough to warrant pitching the tent and began to search for a suitable location. Exhausted, I found a reasonably flat section of ground, slid my backpack off my shoulders and went about connecting the tent poles. It hadn’t rained so much as misted, so I used my towel to clear the dew from the grass before setting my tent down.
I woke up to paradise. A light breeze was working alongside the sun to create an idyllic twelve degree day. With a smile across my face I ate some breakfast, packed up and continued my march, undeterred. My legs weren’t yet terribly sore but my feet ached. I had two pairs of shoes with me, and I was wearing the ones I had brought specifically in case I found myself out on the town. To clarify: they were not comfortable shoes.
Unfortunately for my feet, I ended up walking for a further ten hours before finally getting picked up. The ride was short-lived but very appreciated–only about six kilometres or so into the town of Holmavik.
Since coming home, I’ve found out via Google Maps that the total distance I walked between leaving my friends and arriving in Holmavik was 98km; nearly double my previous record for distance walked in 24 hours.
After getting picked up and dropped off a few more times, I eventually made it to Isafjordur, my destination and metropolitan hub of the Westfjords. With 2,500 inhabitants, Isafjordur’s denizens account for roughly one third of the region’s population; a statistic well-represented by the vibrant nature of the city. Quality restaurants, cafes, bakeries and hotels can all be found within the community and there is even a large indoor swimming pool available to the public, offering inexpensive showers to tourists.
I was deposited at the end of the fjord, about three kilometres from town. Thanking the driver, I did the routine check with my left hand. Towel… Wallet… Water Bottle… Guitar… Sunglasses… Waving goodbye with my right hand, I watched as the driver sped off to the left, continuing along highway 61 towards the next town. After a few seconds I lowered my hand and realised immediately that during my left-handed check, I had neglected to pat my right pocket. Sure as the sun sets, I had left my iPod in their back seat. Damn.
Off to the campsite I shuffled, fairly concerned with how I should approach the unlikely task of finding the couple who had picked me up (and who were currently driving off with my camera and sole method of communication). I set up my tent, washed some clothes and hung them to dry. The sun was quite hot and the breeze was still steady, so I expected they would be dry upon my return.
I decided my next step should be to walk into town, asking passers-by for directions to the police station. Perhaps my one saving grace was that during our drive into Isafjordur, the car which currently housed my device had been pulled over for speeding. Although we had not been ticketed thanks to a malfuntion in the officer’s ticket-issuing device, the driver and vehicle’s information had been recorded.
I explained my situation to the officers and asked if they could contact the driver. After that plan produced no results, I had them contact the rental company for the car and request that they hold onto my device until I come to pick it up. I wasn’t terribly fond of this plan, since I knew the car would be returned in a few days, whereas I would not arrive in Reykjavik for two more weeks. Thankfully this option was never needed and I was reunited with my iPod the coming morning after following up at the station.
Isafjordur is a gorgeous city, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend visiting. Although the Westfjords are well-removed from the Ring Road’s main circuit, they are in my opinion, coastal Iceland’s most rugged and picturesque region. I think that tourists often skip past this area for the sake of time management, but truly, if one wishes to see Iceland, they shouldn’t get away with neglecting this remote and rugged corner of the nation.
As for me, my desire to visit Isafjordur stemmed from my interest in Hornstrandir nature reserve to the north, several hours away by boat. The preserve is the main reason I decided to come to Iceland in the first place, with its fantastic hiking opportunities, massive bird colonies and immense sea cliffs. Surprisingly, as I stood in line to charter a boat, I had a complete change of heart and simply walked away from the idea. Looking back I don’t regret this decision at all and attribute the flip flop to a combination of having just walked 100km and the very steep price of the boat. Instead I opted to take my time and explore the region directly surrounding Isafjordur, which you can read more about here in my spotlight for the region.