This is the fourth story in our series on the Magic of Iceland.
THE WESTFJORDS have been called the last untamed frontier in Europe, and Nora and I were in full agreement with the description as we drove through the mountains near the multiple southern inlets of Arnarfjordur.
It was 12:30 AM. It had been almost 3 hours since we left Latrabjarg, although that included an extended stop in the fishing village of Patreksfjordur. We were officially driving under the midnight sun and there wasn’t another car or person anywhere in sight.
Inside our black 2007 Ford Escape, it felt like we were driving into a portrait; a tiny speck moving into a long-shadowed landscape with a pinkish hue coloring the sky, clouds and mountains.
It was as if we had the entire Westfjords to ourselves, and in a way we did. Approximately 7,000 people live in the region (or less than 1 person per square kilometer), so there are large pockets of uninhabited territory and we seemed to be driving through each one. I wanted to enjoy every second.
It was breathtaking!
The buzzkill, as we made a descent in the mountains, was driving on a dirt road carved into the side of a cliff. There were no guard rails, only a low hanging rope hanging from short metal posts stuck into the ground. Beyond the edge of the road was a drop of several hundred feet. Nora was nervous, and I understood that, but I had more important things to worry about, like focusing on the road and making sure we stayed alive.
The thought of getting to Isafjordur seemed like a dream, and it wasn’t getting any earlier.
When I did my Iceland research I read it was important to try not to do it all when planning a trip. There simply was not enough time. Now here we were in the middle of the Westfjords and I was starting to understand what the advice meant.
Everything was taking longer than anticipated. Traveling. Exploring. Exquisite settings being a distraction. The urge to get out of our truck and take the perfect picture was a nonstop lure, as if we were a couple of recovering photog-aholics.
In Iceland, roads that require a 4X4 vehicle to pass are marked with an “F”, such as F208. The miscalculation I made in my research was when I looked at the map of the Westfjords and saw none of the roads marked with an F, I expected the travel to be relatively routine. But it wasn’t. The mountain roads were slow, even though all types of cars were allowed on them.
We needed a break, and got one. As we reached an inlet of what we later realized was still Arnarfjordur, we saw a sign for Dynjandi. Yes, it was a waterfall we had near the top of our list of destinations to see! Navigating the mountains had totally distracted me. It was late and we were tired. But we had to stop for at least a few minutes and soak in the beautiful scenery!
Our epic journey, which began at 11 AM the previous morning in Reykjavik, had moved into its 15th hour as we drove through yet another mountain pass in the range between Arnarfjordur and Dyrafjordur. There was no discussion of whether to pick a safe spot to pull over and get some rest. We had a hotel room waiting for us in Isafjordur and we were not going to be denied!
The scenic stop at Dynjandi and another at nearby Mjolka River, home for a power plant located by the bay at Borgarfjordur, had energized us. The beauty of driving under the midnight sun was giving us fuel for the soul as well.
As we approached Pingeyri, a small fishing village located on Dyrafjordur, we heard something I never realized would provide me with such happiness: the sound of pavement under the tires of our truck! After driving so many miles and inclines and descents on dirt roads, this was music to my ears.
Our last obstacle was driving through Vestfjardagong, the longest tunnel in Iceland at more than 9 kilometers in length. It is a one-lane, 3-pronged tunnel with pockets for cars to pull into to allow cars going in the opposite direction the opportunity to pass without causing a logjam. At our late hour, the drive was unencumbered.
We arrived in Isafjordur at approximately 2:30 AM, tired but unbowed, as well as being awestruck and amazed by the day we had just experienced. The midnight sun lighting up the sky over Isafjordur made us feel like it was waiting up for us too.
Check out the entire Magic of Iceland series right here (Click on each link):
Part 1-Overview, Part 2-The Golden Circle, Part 3-Latrabjarg, Part 4-Midnight Sun Drive, Part 5-Westfjords and Isafjordur, Part 6-Fire and the Mountains, Part 7-Date Night at Hverfell, Part 8-Surreal Saturday, Part 9-Beyond Fire and Ice, Part 10–Taking the 939, Part 11-Lost in Skaftafell, Part 12-F208 Dilemma, Part 13-Volcanic Highlands, Part 14-Homestretch to Remember