Bolungarvik, Labrador on the front seat, arctic foxes, lost in Súðavík
Sunday, its almost 12 o’clock, its morning. Morning time after second night of Aldrei festival. Toasts, mixed eggs with onion and ham as proper breakfast. Quickly packing and leaving our guesthouse after 1 o’clock. Time to go home and switch-on optimistic hitch-hiking mindset for following 400km back to Bifröst.
Slow down. Not yet. We decided that we will not leave the Westfjords yet. Why not make a short trip opposite direction? Direction closer to the end of the Ísafjarðardjúp fjord. Just 15km far away, where town of Bolungarvík is located. Place where roads more or less ends. At least in winter. For both of us symbolic place. The most western and also most far away place from our home countries which we visited so far.
Bolungarvík is connected to Ísafjörður with 5,4km long new tunnel. Built in 2010 to prevent accidents which happened on the road around fjord. This road called also highway to hell. Road which is just 3km longer than tunnel but its very risky. Avalanches are common and already few people died there. Road has many nice views so in summer definitely avoid tunnel at least one way when visiting Bolungarvík.
Town is located under magnificent fjord with many avalanche barriers. I was surprised that Bolungarvík is actually quite big. There is large harbor, big swimming pool.
During our visit town felt very quiet, lonely. When we have been walking around it felt like nobody is in the town. No people on the street and almost no cars driving around.
We have been worried about our way back. Luckily third car stopped. It was a guy responsible for road between Bolungarvík and Ísafjörður. Guy who told us all the details about tunnel and highway to hell. He dropped us in centre where the main quest started: Hitch-hiking back to Bifröst. Already 14:15 and we are standing behind roundabout with fingers pointing up. Traffic is high, our hopes also. While waiting the band who played together with Ulfur Ulfur was passing by. I guess there is just one drummer in Iceland with afro hairstyle. Easy to notice him.
We didn’t wait too long to get a car from Ísafjörður. Unfortunately driver just offered us a lift to the nearby crossroad where we should catch majority of cars going out of Ísafjörður, direction Reykjavik.
New mode of hitch-hiking we used. It was not one car but actually two cars, two friends driving same direction after picking-up car in Ísafjarður after night of drinking at festival. First car had just one seat left so we split with Janis and drive each in separate cars like kings. In 5 minutes we have been standing on the new spot both of us.
Behind the crossroad on exit from Ísafjörður. We had a good view on town between fjords, I was always waiting for moment when clouds go away and sun can shine on the boat in foreground so I can run for a promising picture of Ísafjörður in between fjords.
I took many pictures, no wonder, we have been standing there two hours. Cars driving just to ski-resort and back or to nearby homes. We assumed that almost everybody will stay in town for Easter Monday and our chances are low. Also it became quite late for somebody to drive all the way to Reykjavik around 16:30.
We changed our strategy. For a while we hid our sign Borgarnes. It didn’t change much either. So sign back in business! No improvement. We almost change the sign Borgarnes for just simple keyword in that moment: Cold. Another idea was to hitch-hike just to nearby Súðavík where we knew a gas station.
This was probably a good bet! Driver with van and dog on front-seat stopped! Yeah. He drove just to Súðavík. Never mind. We have been so glad that we are sitting in warm car. In addition with super friendly Labrador in cuddling mood.
Our driver was very kind. We stopped nearby a Arnardalshamar tunnel. The 30m long tunnel what makes it a shortest tunnel in Iceland. Labrador had small swimming session and we walked around.
Guy told is his life story. He used to be a fisherman but big companies took over and he couldn’t stay competitive with the giants. Nowadays he works as plumber.
We noticed that there will be many people in Iceland who have been hit hard either by financial crisis in 2008 or globalization had crushing effects on people. Our driver was one more example after the story of John’s family on way to Ísafjörður.
When approaching Súðavík we learnt that former village was in different place. Under the mountain. One day avalanche hit the village and smash almost all houses. Decision was made and people moved few hundreds meters to a safer area where today’s Súðavík is located.
Driver took us to visit the Arctic Fox Center before dropping off. I definitely recommend to stop by in Súðavík and visit this place. There have been two friendly playful foxes.
What does the fox say? Maybe you now. But what does the arctic foxes say when they meet Labrador?
Sightseeing was over and waiting for a ride started again. There was one car at gas station going to Reykjavik. Driver offered us one seat. We politely rejected the offer and kept hitch-hiking. It was quite a while from time we had a breakfast. Time for quick snack. Icelandic Skyr was great refreshment.
Another two hours, three snow storms and you can guess, four cars passing by. Definitely not more than we could count on our frozen fingers for both directions. Gas station where we have been hitch-hiking next to the road was closed. Now it was really cold. With last sense of humor we create new sign: Super Cold.
Traffic was zero and I guess whole village noticed that there are two strangers in their village walking in the middle of the road. We have been already thinking about plan B. Probably we will have to stay overnight in Súðavík. Maybe we could find a van with our kind driver and Labrador? Or shall we just for start knock on one of the houses and ask for hot water? Later on family who lived in the house next to gas station arrived and we got cup of hot coffee.
We met one more local. It was a maintenance guy of the church. He mentioned that his English is not good. But after few sentences we noticed that his level improved very quickly! I would rate his English as upper-intermediate. He invited us in the church. Church which was built in Norway and transported in one peace on boat and dropped here in Súðavík. Guy recommend us a one person who is running a guesthouse in summer.
Before we decided to contact owner of guesthouse we went to explore surroundings with hope to find our driver. We found his car and also a guesthouse. Rumors about us in village spread probably very quickly. In few minutes owner of guesthouse met us and offered us a accommodation for a good price. We accepted the offer as first guest in 2016. They opened for us in advance and also brought one fresh milk for us. In addition, one of their relatives was driving next day back to Reykjavík alone. The ride for return was suddenly solved. Perfect.
There was not TV nor internet set-up yet in guesthouse. After warm dinner just before it got dark we went out to explore the area around guesthouse.
Following morning we wrote to guestbook that we are opening the 2016 tourism season in guesthouse and went outside, waiting for our car. These are few more shots before departure.
Crew consisted of driver, an aspiring writer. Zuzana the Czech girl and aupair of major of Reykjavik. Plus us. On the way back fjords became more obvious, we got used to them. Still breathtaking but not with wow effect. Driver just told us name of fjords. We had more time to focus on abandoned houses in middle of nowhere. Thinking how could possily anybody leave there? Second question: How can you even get there? Boat or big 4 x 4 car?
We learnt that there are also sheeps in Westfjords. Strange. How can they live in land with so much hills and no vegetation? We haven’t seen them but looking closer we noticed the footprints. Driver told us that they eat seaweed on coast and have great slightly salty meet.
Weather was perfect, so was the visibility. We had amazing views of fjords and also learnt more about Westfjords. Now we know that electricity is more expensive there. There is no geothermal water sources but lot of water flowing from the fjords. Arguably the best water in Iceland. So we stop to confirm the statement and I refilled my bottle with fresh water. It was great.
Way back was long again. When we noticed the Baula mountain we knew that we are almost back home in Bifröst. Just that moment I realized how Westfjords are unique and countryside untouched. It was like different world when we entered the ring road. High magnificent fjords have been exchanged with kinda flat land. Also land without snow. Land were I could feel that spring is coming soon.
I can recommend Westfjords to everyone. If you have day or two spare while visiting Iceland, go there! Have a look! Maybe there are not so many attraction but it feels really special. Just absorb the atmosphere.
I would like to return in some warmer months when all roads will be open and vibrant bird life with puffins will be possible to observe.