Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Aurora

Around midnight, the hotel reception calls to let us know that the aurora borealis or Northern Lights could be visible from the front of the hotel. Not seeing anything, we walk to the harbor. After some time, the show begins and what a thrill it is! The photo doesn't do it full justice as I am unprepared and not very knowledgeable in how to set the camera properly; the iPhone does an ok job. 

Aurora borealis is the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of the earth's atmosphere. Starting in August, especially in the north, when nights get darker and the air is crisp and cool, away from city lights they can be seen as green waves and arcs that twist and turn. Knowing this, we will watch for them when we are out camping in the next few days. 




The Hotel Kea serves a great breakfast buffet with a wide assortment of breads, eggs and meats. We are delighted to see blue skies and sunshine for our drive up the western Eyjafjorður (fjord). This area is  farmland and the big plastic balls of hay stand like big bowling balls on the grass. Ray tries to push on one and it barely budges; we estimate each to be 500 pounds. Now let me tell you about those hay bales. After they are gathered into balls, the baler's huge prongs pick them up one by one, spinning it as the rolls of white plastic wraps it like Saran Wrap. 

Dalvik is the jumping off point for ferries to the island of Hrisey, a barren teardrop
Occupied by ptarmigans and a few hundred people. It is also the quarantine center for Galloway cattle from Scotland. 
The road winds uphill and suddenly we see a gorgeous waterfall cascading over the cliff into the ocean. We spend several hours here photographing the falls. An elderly Icelander with a white bucket appears to be picking berries on the grassy slope, and is very friendly but doesn't speak English. We rush back to the van to look up berries on the Internet and sure thing, growing in the wild are Bilberries, closely related to wild blueberries. We pick a bowl for our cereal tomorrow. 

From this point, you can see Grimsey Island in the distance, part in Iceland and part in the Arctic Circle. 

Onward to the highly recommended drive around the tip of the peninsula and through the 2 mile, one lane tunnel, a pretty wild experience! The opposite lane has the right of way, so if you see headlights, you are to turn into the bays until they pass, then continue on. 

Olafsfjorður is a nice place for a break and the Kaffi Klara, a book cafe with homemade cakes, great coffee and two lovely women is the only place in town. I photograph the angular lines of the local church and boxey brightly colored buildings made of corrugated metal. 

Two more tunnels, this time two way but long, at 7 km and 4 km which separate the two towns. We arrive in Siglufjorður, an old herring fishing town that sits amidst glacial mountains, population 1,200, 40 km from the Arctic Circle, and as far north as central Alaska.

There are two campgrounds but difficult to find. I stop to ask for directions in the garage of the hostel and a friendly Icelander shows me about a dozen assorted electric carts that he has just purchased from Tsingtao, where he says he goes often. He is obviously delighted and proud of them, and asks me if my ancestry is Chinese and if I can read the characters on the back; I think he is disappointed that I do not know what they say. They look like big tricycles with flat carts on the back and I have no idea what he plans to use them for. He tells me, "to transport things"!

We check out both campgrounds then decide to have dinner at the picnic rest area high above the town and wait to see if the aurora appears tonight as it is crisp and cool, and we are as far north as you can go. So here we sit, with a view of the bay, waiting for darkness to fall. The lights are twinkling from the town below and the sky is a beautiful shade of blue. 

Ready for winter!

Hay bale wrapping machine


Ray picking bilberries


One lane tunnel

Olafsfjorður

Siglufjorður

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