Category Archives: Land

Slow Travel: The Black Beaches of East Iceland Coming to Life

Iceland is a country best explored slowly, and on foot.

Krosshöfði

When it is called “a beautiful country,” it means that every step is beautiful. Easy does it.

It comes to life as you walk through it, changes you, and remains within you.

A Skua Attack on the Jökulsá

The nasty piece of work called the skua comes to the Eiðars skirting the rip rap on the Jökulsá.

At first, they get out of the way.

 

Fast.

The Skua keeps at it. When I witnessed this scene two weeks ago, I’d already been harassed by a skua myself, on the selfljót. It wanted my grey hat. Or me. I don’t know which. Yikes.

It’s the ducklings it really wants, though.

The eiðar defense entails a lot of splashing.

And then the eiðars attack the skua.

And jump on the murderous intruder’s wings.

And try to drown that sucker.

But  the  skua  gets  out of the pile.

It kicks across the water…

…and is off..

… with a duckling (flapping its little wings) for a catch.

And that’s why eiðars have so many ducklings.

Ptarmigan is Watching You

On the Lower Stapavik Trail, the ptarmigan like to hang out right on the trail edge, right on the edge of the river, among the logs, where the sun gets warm and life is good.

And  then they burst up in front of you, from like 20 cm away, and are gone. The trick to disappearing is to remain absolutely still. It didn’t quite work for the one above, which tried to sneak between the cover of two rocks and wound up freezing on the shore grass beside the trail. The one below got it right, though. Safe among the lava lumps.

It’s the joyful hoped-for unexpectedness of the encounters that is so alluring. Like most things in Iceland, “you just never know.”

The Puffins of Rauðarnes

The puffins of Rauðarnes are a fun bunch. The walk is stupendous. It’s 7 km, return, but you could easily spend days sauntering along.

You can brave the rough, steep road to Borgisfjörður Eystr and see the puffins up close and personal, and they are really, really great, but this is better, because they aren’t so crowded, which gives a different dynamic, and more goofiness. These are, like, country puffins.

Plus, the gulls are sneaky. See her below?

And unlike the puffins in Borgisfjörður Eystril, they aren’t controlled by hidden netting to preserve their habitat and green it, so these are puffins in the raw, so to speak, which means erosion, yes, but also (see below) a penthouse!

Very cool!

Turn off the road to Vellir Farm just north of Svalbard, just north of Þorshöfn. You will soon be there, puffing on your 3.5 km walk to the puffins, delighted by the sculpted sea stacks and caves on the way. Get there soon, though. The puffins have an ocean to get back to. Oh, by the way, if you’re lucky, you can get pretty close. How about 3 metres?

Such beautiful birds!