We didn't have the beautiful weather of yesterday, but we still enjoyed driving the crazy back roads of the West Fjords, visiting Rauðasandur Beach, soaking in our first Icelandic hot spring, and seeing the magnificent Dynjandi waterfall.
We also experienced our first one-lane tunnel and, after driving 244k (about 150 miles), we ended the day in a campground that had its own waterfall.
It was overcast and a little rainy as we left our wonderful little campground near Látrabjarg. Our first stop was going to be Rauðasandur Beach or Red Sand Beach.
I had it on the agenda for yesterday, but it was getting late in the day, and we opted to skip it. It would have been better under the sunshine and blue skies of the day before as the beach lagoon colors would have contrasted nicely with the sand. But it is what it is with the weather in Iceland - you just never know what you are going to get, and it was still pretty.
We drove down the rough, steep, curvy road where the large beach revealed itself far below. A 4WD is not necessary in the summer, but this road has sections that are not for the squeamish, and a 4WD would provide a little extra confidence.
In my opinion, the best views of this beach are from the road above, but we still intended to do a little walking on red sand.
At an intersection at the bottom of the hill, it's not really clear which way you should go. We turned right, and just past this black and red church is a trailhead on the left side of the road.
There is a sign that says how far it is to the beach but, unfortunately, I can't remember if it was 1k, 1.5k or 2k to the ocean. In any case, that seemed a bit long just to walk to the water, so we continued on to where the road turned sharply at a farm.
There was another car parked there, so we decided to give that a shot. It was, however, a little confusing as there was both a "private road" ("Einkavegur") sign and a hiking trail sign.
We started down the road and took a photo of our van under the high cliffs.
Again, it wasn't really clear. It looked like we were just walking through someone's farm, but there were paths. At one point it appeared that we were perhaps supposed to cross a small canal, but we kept walking.
Eventually, the road we were on was blocked by a bigger canal and it turned toward a pond. There were some swans on the pond and other birds flying around, so we thought we might do a little bird-watching and then just head back.
Well, that was our introduction to the feisty Arctic Tern. Apparently, a few were nesting in the area and they proceeded to engage in an aerial assault.
One in particular was quite aggressive. I videoed while Linda laughed as I was repeatedly dive-bombed.
I had read about these attacks; we just weren't expecting to experience them next to a farm pond. Well, that was an interesting little side excursion.
Back in the van, we returned the way we came and went to the opposite end of the road to Melanes where there is camping and cute little hut-like accommodations.
We learned that access to the beach was much easier from there, although the beach is still quite wide, and it's a long walk to the water's edge. Linda took the more direct route through the sand, while I walked across the lava on the left for more elevated views.
Well, the red sand beach had two faces - one with hundreds of stranded jellyfish and one without.
At certain times of the year, seals hang out here, but this apparently wasn't one of those times.
After spending much more time than we really needed to at Rauðasandur, we finally drove back up the windy gravel road and eventually made it back to pavement.
Note: For what it's worth, some people love Rauðasandur and others say it's a waste of time. We probably fall somewhere in the middle - it's not a "must do" (especially if you are tight on time), but I'm glad we did it, but the enjoyment of the beach and the scenic beauty would certainly be better on a nice, warm, sunny day.
We buzzed by Patreksfjörður and drove into Bíldudalur where we fueled up. The quaint little villages on the edges of the fjord were in lovely settings, but they weren't places where we intended to spend much time.
From Bíldudalur we drove around the fjord ....
until we came to a swimming pool out in the middle of nowhere.
Nice view, huh?
Iceland swimming pools are all heated with some being hot pools and others being warm, but not particularly hot. Most villages have a pool with an entrance fee of a few dollars, but this one was 20k from the nearest town and free.
There is no one monitoring it, and it's not cleaned on a regular basis, so the water was a little greenish. Now, Icelanders don't seem to mind a little algae in their pools and hot pots, but if it's a man-made pool, we prefer it a little clearer.
There was a changing room, but no showers. Most Icelandic pools have a strict rule about showering naked before and after getting in the pool, but that wasn't an option here.
This location is called Reykjafjarðarlaug, and not only does it have the man-made pool, but there are also natural hot pools (which are quite a bit hotter) behind the main pool.
We opted for the natural pool and don't mind algae in those. The larger natural pool above was quite hot, so we could only stay in it a short time before moving down. Each smaller pool was a bit cooler with the concrete pool being the coolest.
It was an enjoyable first experience, and we looked forward to a few more I had picked out. This one we just happened to see on a map and decided to stop.
On the gravel roads, we continued along the water making way for farm equipment as necessary.
We drove past waterfalls and climbed up into the mountains with views back down to the fjord below.
We encountered snow and tundra-like scenery.
I loved this view of the river tumbling over the side of the cliff with the fjord and mountains in the background.
The road descended, and we had this look back at Gyrðisfoss waterfall. It certainly was worth stopping to get a few photos.
As impressive as it was, just around the corner is the Dynjandi waterfall complex with Dynjandi, at the top, being the star of the show.
Dynjandi (meaning "Thunderous") is often called "the jewel of the West Fjords" and it deserves all its accolades.
In addition to Dynjandi, there are seven other named waterfalls each of which would have garnered some attention on their own.
When we arrived, it was raining, so Linda decided to watch from the van as I hiked up to the base of this stunning waterfall. In this next photo, there is a person on the rocks in front of Dynjandi which provides some perspective.
I had put on my rain gear, but it wasn't easy keeping the camera dry and getting photos. However, I loved this waterfall, and a little rain and wind wasn't going to keep me from getting up close and personal.
Still, I didn't get as up close and personal as the fellow in the lower right hand corner of the photo above. He took his shirt off (it was not warm by any means) and was clearly paying homage to the magnificent Dynjandi.
I took a short video as the rain continued to fall.
This shot is looking down to the parking lot and the fjord into which the Dynjandis River flows.
I tried to wait out the rain, but eventually had to descend the trail. I took some photos of the other waterfalls along the way.
Like the red sand beach, Dynjandi is not easy to get to. However, unlike the red sand beach, which I'm a little wishy-washy about, Dynjandi is absolutely worth the effort and time to see.
We then continued our journey around the fjords heading north.
We rounded the fjord and were blessed with a distant view of Dynjandi. Impressive even from far away.
Not far from there was another waterfall along the road in a pretty setting.
Then we drove up and over on these crazy roads.
Eventually, we reached the village of Þingeyri, although, again, we didn't stop.
Back on pavement, we got a little bit of sunshine as the views continued to impress.
These sheep in the road were a bit more stubborn than the others we had seen. They just stood there looking at us rather than giving way as we slowly approached.
We encountered them just before our first road tunnel in Iceland.
It looks pretty straightforward, but this 9k (5.6 miles) tunnel had about 7k (4.3 miles) that was one lane. We weren't really sure how we were supposed to deal with that; however, we didn't meet another vehicle while we were in there, so we didn't have to make any spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Along the way, there were pull-offs built inside the tunnel that were on the opposite side of the road. Eventually, we figured out that if we met anyone in the tunnel, they had the obligation to pull into one of those turnouts. The lane without turnouts, in this case our lane, had the right of way.
Another unusual thing about this tunnel was it branched in two directions near the end. We actually came to a "T" in the tunnel with a right taking us to Ísafjörður where we were headed.
Soon we passed by our campground for the night at Tungudalur which is right before Ísafjörður. It was on our Camping Card and was supposed to be one of the better campgrounds in Iceland. It had its own waterfall with the stream running through, and the facilities were the nicest we had seen in our limited time thus far.
Soon, we were parked for the night after another enjoyable day in the rural, remote parts of the West Fjords.
Day 4 Driving - 244k (152 miles)