Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iceland's southern coast

I left Reykjavik, on the west coast of Iceland, a few days ago - how easily one loses track of the days of the week on vacation - and am now in Egilsstadir, on the east coast.

The weather has been on and off, with a knack for raining right when I'm taking down my tent. Oh well, you can't have it all and otherwise I'm having a wonderful time.

I have had some wonderful weather, too, like in Vik (fantastic views of sea-stacks, beaches, thye sandar [sand + river wastelands at glacial outflows], Dyrholaey island, Myrdalsjokull glacier) and at Skaftafell National Park (surrounding mountains and glaciers and more sandar, plus many shots of alpine flora).

Speaking of the flora, one thing that you cannot overlook in Iceland are the lupines. They were introduced (apparently from Canada?) to stabilise or improve bad or nutrient-poor soil, like on the sandar, but they've proven to be invasive in this climate; they crowd out native species, and the sheep don't eat them. You can see entire meadows, lava-fields, and mountain-sides painted blue. It's quite beautiful actually, although ecologically not so great.

Speaking of sheep, there are lots of lots of lamb everywhere in the countryside. Usually there are fences but there are free-roaming sheep, and sometimes the buses have to make a quick stop to avoid them. They are mostly white (cream) but some black, a few brown, and a few multi-coloured. They are also very tasty, if I can go by the lamb I had for supper in Vik. Even people who don't like lamb might like it here; it's very mild and tender.

If you ever find yourself in Vik, do check out the church, it's beautiful inside in a nordically restrained elegant way, and the stained glass is marvellous. I would say it's the most beautiful small church I've ever seen. Vik's black-sand beach is stunning, too, though cold for swimming. Bring your own wetsuit/drysuit? But definitely bring your own swimsuit, for the many swimming pools with hot-pots.

I'm in Egilsstadir - the library here has free internet - and in a few hours, I'm off to Seydisfjordur for sea-kayaking. Next stops: Myvatn, Akureyri, and the north of Icleand.

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