Iceland Road Trip – Chapter Four: Bloody Sheep Invasion

dettifoss-2

Size Matters

Driving in Iceland is like travelling through desolate alien-looking landscapes. No wonder the country has become one of Hollywood’s favourite playgrounds. We arrive at Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, which has featured in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movie ‘Prometheus’. According to a new bible study size does matter, and the big daddy of Icelandic waterfalls is no exception. Straggling an impressive 100 meter wide abyss, Dettifoss plummets 45 meters into the canyon below with a deafening sound. In ancient times local tribes called it ‘The Boss of the Foss’.

But even the relentless power of Dettifoss is nothing compared to what we would encounter in Skalanes. Our prayer to the Old Gods is responded with the most dazzling cosmic spectacle: rippling curtains and shooting rays that paint the black sky with a green eerie glow. The chef of Skalanes Mountain Lodge tries to explain us it’s a collision of electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, a phenomenon called the Aurora Borealis. But I don’t buy it, I’m pretty sure these northern lights are the spirits of the puffins we are chasing. It’s a sign!

Northern lights at Skalanes

The Beast of the East Fjords

Waking up in Skalanes Guesthouse is pure heaven. The farmstead lies within a private nature reserve at the mouth of Seyðisfjörður and is only accessible by 4WD or a 9 km hike. Just like the Fisher vs. Spassky game, Skalanes is a ‘symphony of placid beauty’. On top of that, the staff who run the place are very welcoming (just as their Labradors) and the chef’s cooking skills make me burst into tears.

skalanes-2

skalanes-hike-3Fully recharged we continue our road trip along Iceland’s east coast. The East Fjords are an untamed wilderness of snowy mountain peaks, Kardashian-curved coastlines and quickly changing weather like the mood of Kanye. After driving on a long stretch of highway we take a break at the natural wonder of Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon that stems down from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Watching big chunks of translucent blue ice roll out into the ocean is very peaceful, but be aware of rally racing amphibian boats, as they might run over you. Another contribution to the human gene pool are the dozens of brainless idiots that can be spotted on drifting ice. Since Justin Bieber jumped in the freezing glacial water of Jökulsárlón, the death rate of copycat Beliebers has increased steadily.

Jökulsárlón-icebergJökulsárlón ice

‘And the Darwin Award of 2015 Goes to…’ BADUM TISH

That’s right, we’re entering Justin Bieber territory. His latest video was shot around numerous locations in Southeastern Iceland where he’s seen joyously damaging protected areas of vulnerable moss-covered lava fields that take hundreds of years to recover. Following his trail of destruction we go to Fjaðrárgljúfur, a spectacular canyon of palagonite cliffs towering 100 meters above the Fjaðrá river.

The ‘King Joffrey of pop music’ has also molested the DC-3 plane wreck in Sólheimajökull by skateboarding on top of it. In 1973 the US Navy plane ran out of fuel and crashed on a black volcanic beach. Today, this surreal scenery is a photographer’s paradise.

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in Iceland

Fjaðrárgljúfur-2

DC-3 plane wreck in Sólheimajökull, Iceland

Sheep Invasion

It’s getting late and we don’t have a place to sleep yet. We try several guesthouses but we always get the same answer: “Sorry, we’re fully booked this weekend. We celebrate the annual sheep gathering”. Say what?

Apparently, during the summer months Iceland’s wooly residents roam freely in the Highlands (and on roads, with tourists often involved in sheep-related accidents). Then, in September the annual sheep round-up takes place and local farmers invite family and friends to help them out with gathering the sheep. After they’ve been sorted, people get shitfaced and start twerking or wrestle fluffy sheep. As is tradition.

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Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

In the small village of Árnes we finally find some accommodation for tonight. We aren’t surprised that the guesthouse is packed with heavily drunken festival-goers who are pumped up to go to the sheep celebration party at the local community centre. After a couple of Brennivín shots we are in for some dirty dancing as well. We arrive at the party scene and suddenly darkness comes upon us. Damn, we haven’t seen puffins yet and tomorrow is the last day of our road trip. Reality check. Was our goal overambitious? Indeed, the puffins’ behaviour is unfathomable, but we did everything we could. In the face of defeat, we straighten our backs and yell out loud: “HELVITIS ROLLUR!!”, meaning ‘bloody sheep’ in Icelandic. What followed that evening is not suitable for publication but I can tell you that we became members of the Icelandic Farmers Association after an unorthodox initiation ritual. Pitch black…

Stuffin’ the Puffin

Aargh…I wake up with an earthshaking headache…and WTF! What is this sheep doing in my room? Get out, you monster! We skip breakfast and load up the car. Me and my friends say nothing. I’m on the verge of breaking down.

And then, in the most dire hour, everything turns around. There, in the backyard of the guesthouse we notice something. Out in the open…an Atlantic puffin surrounded by a golden aura! Okay, he’s mounted on a rock and doesn’t move anymore, but how the hell can you win a fight against a taxidermist?

Puffin in Iceland

Nonetheless, we proudly award ourselves with a triumphical procession in Reykjavik. We are being cheered by Viking women and metrosexual urbanites who give us all kinds of treats, from organic moustache wax to kale-infused beauty products and pickled whale penises. Great minds think alike. Ah, it’s good to be back in Western civilization.

Iceland, you have been jaw-dropping awesome. Mos def.

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