the realm of elves & puffins

Alfaborg RocksmAlfaborg Rock in Borgarfjordur Eystri

What looks like a short drive on the map from Seydisfjordur to the Blabjorg Guesthouse turns into a long, slow zigzag on dirt roads off the Ring Road down to the harbor town of Borgasfjordur Eystri. A fine mist of snow obscures parts of the road with ruts brimming with ice and water that further slow our progress as we wind down the spectacular rhyolite heights of the Dyrfjoll mountains. Signature clusters of ewes with twin lambs huddle along the roadside, a few in the colder altitudes, many more in the lower region as we approach the sea. Our hostess kindly meets us after 11pm to give us the keys to our room in the converted fish factory that overlooks the harbor.

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We sit in the lovely kitchen-lounge paging through bird field guides identifying  whooper swans and knots spotted in previous days as we gorge on homemade spiced cake, a brown bread made from oatmeal, wheat and cocoa (perfect with honey). Binoculars on the windowsill proffer sharp views of bobbing eider ducks and scaups in the surf below against a backdrop of colorful houses nestled above cresting waves. Deep sleep flows into the signature Icelandic breakfast of skyr, homemade breads, fruit, sliced meats, and boiled eggs. Clouds gather to obscure the mountains on another summer day of travel.

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First stop is Alfaborg Rock, home to a large population of elves. Its name translates to “Palace of the Elves” where the legendary Elf Queen Borghildur resides. Coffee stop in the Alfa Café is more like a museum visit with local lore, portraits, natural history collections of rocks, wildlife, vintage tools, woodworking collections, even a children’s play area with vintage wooden toys. I purchase a bag of local rocks to respect the sign at Alfaborg Rock for tourists, “Please no rock collecting.” Elf respect. Across the street is a charming private grass house museum, Lindarbakki, with a information board in front.

Puffin ViewingPuffin Viewing Platform @ Hafnarholmi Islet

Our next stop is a rare site in Iceland – a puffin colony in the cliffs along Hafnarholmi Islet. Usually the colonies are farther out to sea on seas stacks. The scenic harbor has a magnificent staircase up the cliff and boardwalk out to a panoramic viewing deck. We sit inside for over an hour watching puffins come and go in a soft rain. They traverse from feeding jaunts at sea, their wingbeats comical with butts drooping low from the frantic efforts of stubby wings keeping them aloft, defying the laws of aerodynamics. It is decidedly a birdwatchers paradise of accessible habitat as puffins and kittywakes jostle for cliff edges and tufts of grass all around us. We sit motionless and let them entertain by their mere presence in the backdrop of breathtakingly beautiful Nature.

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up and over to the sea

1_SeydisfyodurFromAboveVista Point Above Seydisfyodur

As we head further north on the eastern shore, we’re grateful for the land of midnight sun. Snow darkens the sky in midday as we gain altitude. Paved roads are intermittent with hard packed dirt roads, rutted and jarring, bordered by sheep, always ewes with twin kids, impossibly comfortable huddled in the windbreak of overhangs in the biting winds. Coming over the mountain pass and driving down the winding road to Seydisfjodur, we are greeted by waterfalls like giant icicles dripping from the peaks. The fjord below is a shimmering steel-gray dotted with the compact and colorful buildings of Seydisfjodur. Green slathers the frozen hillsides like frosting as gray clouds gather and white drizzle of snow decorates the peaks. We pull in beside the roaring of a creek cresting over rocks at the highpoint of a Gufufoss waterfall.

1_HighFallsSeydisfyodurGufufoss from Above and Below

There is a vista bridge that spans the river above the falls and Greg crosses to explore up and along the far slope. I stand and breath in cold spray blustering back from the edge of the falls and simply listen to the dichotomy of the roar of water below and stunning quiet of snow above.

1_SeydisfyodurSetColor, Murals, and Landmarks of Seydisfjodur

After dinner at the Aldan Hotel we stroll through town among colored buildings and mosaic stone walkways. I can imagine the delight of walking amid arctic windswept winter winds in darkness softened merely by moonlight, past the undulating black & white graphics of the Gullabuid house, or the barren white in the 24-hours of darkness punctuated by the blazing red of Markadur’s Favorite Things Boutique. Color in your dreams along the streets of Seydisfjodur.