The Westfjords of Iceland are a wild and wondrous place, and thus, also a little hard to traverse. The main ring road that runs the perimeter of Iceland is easy driving. But the Westfjords (the northwest corner of Iceland) are off the beaten track, filled with “F-roads,” which are a kind of dirt road that were specifically forbidden to our little rental car, as well as other roads that were marked with a sun symbol that I think meant they were only open in the summer, and which we were told were “not good” by Westfjorders themselves.
We spent time on the eastern and western sides of the Westfjords, though we didn’t (couldn’t) go too deep because of time and car limitations. The eastern side of the Westfjords is a little less Badlands in terms of road surfaces, but a whole lot of quaint and cool and marvelous landscape. We stayed in a little hotel in Bjarnarfjörður, arriving just after a dancing display of the Northern Lights. Hearing this, we rushed outside but, unfortunately, the clouds had taken over the night sky and there was nothing to see.
The next morning, we walked across a field to lovely natural geothermal springs, named after Gvendur the Good. It was a little on the hot side for me (hot water and I are not close), but my travel companion reveled.
Bjarnarfjörður had a spectacular example of something we had seen a few days earlier in Southern Iceland: a turf house–semi-sunken houses that are covered with mud and grass, making them look like Hobbit homes. This one had been recreated as the “Sorcerer’s Cottage”–alluding to Iceland’s rich history of sorcery and magic and hidden people (elves and trolls and other supernatural creatures).
We then drove to the picturesque town of Hólmavík, where the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft displays a bizarre collection of runes (spells) and the fates of those sorcerers who cast them (burning at the stake).
Hólmavík is also where we had a major brain fart (I blame the farting rune; this photo is for my little brother) and instead of buying $100 of gas cards to refill our tank, we bought $1,000. Yes, we’re idiot artists who cannot be trusted with putting decimal points in the right place. Luckily, the gas station attendant (who had asked bemusedly if I were sure about the amount) got his manager to return $900 to us. Albeit in Icelandic Króna.
This scene was then capped by my walking through the parking lot trying to stuff $900 worth of Króna into my wallet and the wind taking the entire stash and blowing it all over the lot. A frantic scramble later, we got all the bills back and drove away. It’s okay to laugh. We deserve it, and the foreign transaction fee twice over.
And I’ll end this post with one of the highlights of our trip to Iceland, which we encountered while driving through the eastern Westfjords. It was an ice mass on the side of the mountain that we just happened to see to the side as we were driving.
We pulled over straight away (and precariously; there isn’t much in the way of road side shoulders in rural Iceland), walked through a spongy mossy meadow of flowers, climbed down into a small ravine, and river walked up to the mass. I called the mass a baby glacier, though it’s not even close to the scale of a glacier. But it was gorgeous and strange and a river had tunneled itself through it.
The inside ceiling of the ice mass had drip-melted into a meringue pattern, tinged blue from the sky, and the roof opened out like the wings of some alien butterfly. Totally marvelous. And to think there was still more wonder to come.
Abeer Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. See more at olivewitch.com.