We arrived in Seydisfjordur and getting off the ferry and through customs was quick and easy. No checking what food (and how much wine) had been brought into the country (we hid the dried mushrooms for nothing!) and covid/vaccination formalities were already completed on board. Apparently all passengers had negative PCR tests which were administered prior to boarding the ferry in Denmark (drive-through service) and with completed double vaccination certificates, there was no need for any quarantine upon arrival. We were pleasantly surprised with the 2-day ferry crossing which went by quickly and in total comfort. The boat seemed to be about one third of normal passenger capacity (maybe even less) so we enjoyed the space that this afforded.
Landing in Iceland was like stepping into a new world from a covid-perspective. The very low number of infections during the period when the rest of Europe and the world suffered, and the strict testing and certifications required prior to entry, resulted in an environment where one could feel safe and secure and far from the worries and formalities of masks and social distancing. Plus the fact that most travelers to Iceland spend the majority of their time in the great outdoors where over-crowding is not an issue. What a relief…….it feels like life as we knew it before! Spontaneous behavior is a natural reflex and today we shook hands with someone for the first time in over one and a half years!
Our first destination was mjoafjard, a remote fjord in the Eastern Fjord region. We overnighted next to a lighthouse with the permission of the local landowner. Wild camping is no longer officially allowed in Iceland but it is still tolerated in some places outside of national parks.
Our plans to drive through some highland areas on the way to the north were quickly put on hold as many of the so-called mountain F-roads, only open to 4 x 4 vehicles, were still closed due to late snowfall this year.
Driving in Iceland is relatively easy, at least this has been our experience so far. The main roads are well maintained and usually asphalted while secondary roads may be gravel. Even so, they are usually relatively wide with places to allow cars to pass each other safely. One big danger however, is the wind, which can change very quickly and makes driving extremely difficult at times. We overnighted in one spot that was so windy (there was actually a weather alert for the wind with gusts up to 108 km/h) that we could not sleep with the top of the camper up for fear of it either getting severely damaged, or causing the vehicle to tip right over. We met a French couple who had their roof window literally ripped off by the wind! Another danger is the sharp and high drop-offs on each side of the road. If you lose attention for a fraction of a second and fall over the side of the road it will take more than a tow-truck to get you back up! Oh….I almost forgot to mention the sheep……they are everywhere! Now I understand why Laurent installed extra horns under the hood! OK so not so easy after all. What makes driving pleasant is the scenery, including the purple lupine flowers you can see everywhere; on each side of the road, on mountain sides, and in the meadows. Also pleasant is the lack of heavy traffic on the roads, at least so far.
While on the subject of driving, we had the rude surprise to discover about one week into our trip, that the most important document we could have in our possession (after the vaccination certificates) had been left behind at home, safely tucked away in a drawer so it would not be lost. It was not our passports, nor our health insurance cards, but the vehicle EU insurance certificate! After some unsuccessful panicked searching through the vehicle, we called our insurance company who agreed to send us a new original to one of the post offices in Reykjavik for pick-up when we would be in the area. We are keeping our fingers crossed this will work!
It did not take long after being on the road again, to get back into that familiar feeling and routine of overland travel. It just feels right! One new experience for us was witnessing the long summers days and the midnight sun for which the Nordic countries are famous. The first few days were a bit strange (bright sunshine at 2 am when you wake up and go outside to the loo) but then you just get used to it and enjoy the long long evenings!
Iceland is full of amazing views and natural sites and we have thoroughly enjoyed discovering them during our first week in the country. However, the first place we really fell in love with was the remote eastern coast of the Western Fjords and the beauty and tranquility of the landscape with some amazing opportunities for private overnight spots!
Iceland is a birdwatcher’s paradise and there are flowers, mosses and lichens growing everywhere.
One major highlight so far was fishing with Captain Kristinsson in the waters near Isafjordur. It was a unique experience catching fish like cod and pollack which for us were always industrial fishing catches. It’s still up for debate who caught the biggest fish! You decide! Needless to say we enjoyed fresh fish filets for dinner that evening and have frozen a few more for later on. Bon appetit!