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    • Day9

      The North Coast

      September 12, 2021 in Iceland ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

      We wake up after a very quiet night. It's not every day that you have an entire hotel to yourselves. We figure out what the maximum number of layers of clothes is that we can comfortably wear. Temperatures are dropping as of today to a chillier 5 to 7 degrees Celsius whereas we previously had a gentler 10+ degrees. Especially on the open water it might be cold, so preparation is everything.

      We leave our hotel room in search of breakfast. When we pass by the reception desk (that is still closed) we see the key for the other guest(s) is still there. In the hotel lobby there is a tea kettle and some instant coffee. The door to the breakfast area is locked with a paper that breakfast starts at 8AM. We decide to wait a couple of more minutes. In the meantime, we put all our bags already back in the car. After breakfast we won't have much time left because the whale watching tour starts at 9AM and they asked to arrive at least 15 minutes prior. Luckily, we saw the location already and it's not that far.
      When at 8 o'clock nothing happens, as we actually already expected. We take out our backpacks and start making our own breakfast. Bread with chocolate paste, some cookies and an instant coffee. Whatever starts your day. As we're about to finish and check ourselves out, the hotel owner arrives. After a friendly morning chat, she opens up the door to the breakfast area and starts preparing coffee and other stuff. We have a nice conversation about Dalvik as a town and the whale watching tours where her son is one of the boat captains. She also re-ensures us that we don't need to be that early there and encourages us to have something for breakfast or take it at least with us. I take one cup of her freshly brewed coffee and open the fridge to find some milk. There are many bottles and Skyr-yogurt. We take two yogurts for later and I pour a bit of oat milk in my cup to reduce chances of it being spoiled. However, when taking a sip of my coffee, it's immediately clear that it was spoiled. I casually leave the cup on the table and after a few more minutes we really have to leave for the whale watching tour.
      Although the tour office isn't far, we decide to take the car. In case we're all wet and cold when we return from the trip, at least we have a warm car nearby and we don't have to walk back to the hotel. In the lobby of the touring office there are already some people. All gathering around the coffee machine.
      After redeeming our voucher at the desk, they start handing out thick clothes to everyone. Everyone looks ready to go on an Arctic expedition! We walk to the boats and to our surprise a lot of people booked a quicker, shorter, more expensive RIB-experience. We're happy, because that means that we have the whole ship to share with only 10 people. As we leave the harbour, we get some information about the different species living in the fjord. Our main target today: humpback whales. They are frequent guests in the fjord and beautifully show their tail before taking another dive.
      Not long after we've left the harbour, we get onto the forecastle of the ship to see the most around us. It's actually a beautiful morning. It's not raining and there's a light cloud cover that doesn't block all the sun light. During the night the very first snow has fallen on the mountains providing a majestic view.
      About 10 minutes in the tour, we spot some harbour porpoises or white sided dolphins. We're the only ones who saw them apparently.
      After a longer period of nothing our guide spots the spout of a humpback whale. We set course and everyone stares in the distance to catch a glimpse of the whale. By the time we arrive some other boats from neighbouring towns have gathered here as well. A cat and mouse game begins. By the time we arrived at the spot where the whale was last sighted, it has moved on and we need to start searching again for the whale to surface. When we do, all boats immediately set full power to the new location to get closer before the whale dives again. We're able to see the whale a couple of times rather close before diving again into the depths. After 4 or 5 times, it's time to return to the harbour. Satisfied, but silently hoping to spot something else on the way back, we return to Dalvik.
      Ann didn't cope too well with the floating and wiggling of the ship in between the sightings and is feeling nauseous. She gets back down and sits on the main deck. I stay at the forecastle in search of some more wildlife and to enjoy the beautiful landscape around us.

      Unfortunately, no other wildlife was to been seen that morning and the ship docks again in the harbour around noon. After giving back our borrowed warm clothes, it's time to drive on to Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður. Two towns further north that, like everything else here, thrive on fishing. Siglufjörður was in the first part of the 20th century the most important city for herring. However, after the 1960's the herring left and the once glorious city with more than 10.000 fishermen now only has 1.000 residents left. There's a famous herring museum, but we didn't take the time to pay a visit. We drive further, around the top of the peninsula, and back south to Hofsós. This is another tiny village where fishery is the main activity, but also renowned for its most beautiful swimming pool in Iceland. Just next to the swimming pool, there are basalt cliffs. Worth a stop and find a place to have lunch!
      We park the car next to the swimming pool. The sky has darkened, and it started raining a little bit. After a few minutes staring through the window, we get out and walk down a staircase to the basalt columns below us. It feels weird to walk on these (mostly) hexagonal structures and see the water crash into them. In front of us lies another fjord but because of the clouds we don't see that much of it. When going back up the stairs we pay attention to the swimming pool. Like in a lot of Scandinavian countries, swimming is a sport Icelandic people love. In almost every town or city you can find a swimming pool. The outdoor pool, the one with the beautiful view, has two people in it. We hope the water is nice and warm! On a clear day this probably is a great place to swim. Today, we just want to get out of the rain.

      In the same village we find a gas station. Usually, you can also eat something there or at least we can ask if we can sit there to eat. As expected, there's a little area with tables and chairs. After looking around what we can eat here, a young girl arrives behind the counter. She asks if she can help us and takes our order. The older woman who was there before must be shy or unable to speak English. Everything feels a bit...funny as we take place at a table. We ordered two hot dogs a coffee and hot chocolate. The coffee I had to take from a percolator, only to find out later that if you want milk, you can take it from the fridge where you can usually buy soda bottles. After a while the girl arrives at the table with a little bag of chocolate powder which she got from the gas station's store. When we ask her for some hot water, she turns on the kettle behind the counter. After about 5 minutes we go check on the hot water, and when she happily takes it to the counter, realises that there isn't enough in it. So, she needs to refill, and put it on again.
      After a while, we enjoy our drinks and hot dogs and drive off. We'll drive passed the town where the hotel is, because we want to see some cliffs that are further down the road.

      Not long after we've passed the town where our hotel is, we have to leave the main road for another gravel/dirt road. Because it's been raining the whole afternoon it's a mixture of dirt, sand and small rocks. There's quite a distance to travel, and the road conditions are generally okay-ish. We speed up and cruise towards our destination. When we arrive there's no parking, no sign, nothing. In fact, based on the maps on our phones we decide that it should be somewhere here. We park the car in the entrance of a field and go further by foot. At the end of the field, we can see the cliffs and a waterfall. This is the only waterfall that crashes directly into the see (or on the beach). Because we're at the end of the field, and there's no way to cross the wire, our framing or composition is limited. We make a short walk in the other direction and decide to go back. Once more 25km of dirt road in the opposite direction. The things we do far a waterfall...

      There's still some time left before going to the hotel. We read about a little natural hot spring in this area as well. Worth paying a visit as we still want to experience that "real" natural pool feeling. That, however, means that as soon as we get back to the asphalt road, we will need to leave it again and drive another 12km off-road to the hot pool. By the time we arrive at Grettislaug (the hot spring) our car is covered in mud. We pay a very small fee compared to the Mývatn Nature Baths to the owner and can enter the pools in his yard. Turns out there are actually two pools: one smaller that is slightly less hot than the biggest one. There's a container that serves as a changing room with a shower. Because it's still raining, we quickly make it from the container to the pools. It's nice and warm!

      With the green mountains before us, the waves crashing ashore behind us and some rain droplets on our heads we relax. This is a natural hot spring!
      We hop from pool to pool and every now and then some other people arrive. There's plenty of room for everyone. After our relaxing time here, we shower, change and go back to meet our hotel for the night.

      We're spending the night in Skagafjörður, a tiny village at the end of a fjord. When we enter the hotel it's immediately clear that we're in a very old building. Full of wooden structures and a cosy atmosphere. We need to make it through some halls before we arrive at the reception desk where a friendly man is awaiting us. Because we're so amazed by the old architecture of the house, the man gives us an upgrade from our standard room. Normally we would be staying in an addendum building that is more modern, but today we can stay at the attic of the old building in a very spacious room.
      Turns out the hotel has its own natural hot spring...
      Tomorrow we head back into the highlands to start our trip back south. Let's hope our car survives another highland trip!
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Laxá, Laxa

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