Finally, after spending a morning in Reykjavik, we received our Jimmy and sprinted off, quickly driving out of town towards the real deal, the wild Icelandic nature.
We got immediately struck by the stark contrast between the black gravel and the bright green moss and soon we started stopping too often to take photos or just stare at places. At one point we ended up driving through a thick white cloud when, all of a sudden, few sun rays cut through to reveal a dark blue lake deep down a valley.
Hakarl: The Rotten Shark
We finally emerged from the haze of clouds and awe to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It was quite early, apparently distances are shorter than what we expected, so we followed a sign towards a shark museum. We had plenty of time so why not?
The Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum is a farm located few miles off the route 54, in a peaceful piece of land with a view on the coast and no trace of human life in sight. The gentle man running it collected a lifetime of sea and fishing paraphernalia in a big room, offering a picture of how life might have been, and still be, in that part of the world. They also have a video and photos showing the process behind the production of rotten shark, of which they are the main producer in the region. The whole story was very interesting, and so was the drying hut at the back, where we could see dozens of chunks of shark out to dry, but what we liked most was the warm smile of the owner who – even if he spoke only Icelandic – managed somehow to communicate, involving us with feeding his ducks and chickens. The visit is 1000ISK and includes a taste of their hakarl. For the record I didn’t find it disgusting as described in many guides, it doesn’t taste of ammonia, but more like an old weird cheese.
West Fjords: A Change of Plan
Arriving in Grundarfjordur it was easy to spot our guest house: it was one of the 20 or so houses spread along the only street in town. Here we were greeted by Magnùs, the friendly owner who was immediately questioned about our plans for the next day. We wanted to go to the West Fjords, even if our prudent original plan didn’t include that, as we thought it would be a real shame to miss out what is arguably the best part of Iceland. Our plan was really time-tight but accurate: we take the ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjánslækur in the morning, drive to the south-westernmost tip of the region visiting the famous cliff and beaches, drive back on time to catch the evening ferry.
Magnus calmly explained to us how crazy this plan is: with the ferry taking 3 hours in good weather conditions and the roads being tortuous, we were going to face a very hasty visit and, in the likely case we missed the ferry, 270km drive along the rugged coast.
“Instead” he said pointing at the Snaefellsnes peninsula on the map on the counter “you shouldn’t miss this beautiful part of Iceland. I never get tired of it, after 53 years here I still keep finding new things”. We were sold.
We received a detailed plan for the next day and we happily set off to admire the photogenic Kirkjufellsfoss.