From mighty death blow to a slap in the face
The landscape between Selfoss and Vík is fairly uniform, verdant farmland with an occasional glimpse of ocean. This is the setting for the majority of Njáls Saga, probably the best known of the Icelandic sagas. To pass the time, I suggest reading a few of the more action packed passages about banahögg (mighty death blow) and kinnhestur (saucy slap across the face) to put you in the mood for the region. The Saga Center in Hvolsvöllur is fairly good at satisfying those who are curious about life in the Viking age, but I think one’s time is better spent at one of the outdoor sights. Beyond Hvolsvöllur, the landscape becomes far more interesting, driving between black sands and tall cliffs with countless waterfalls trickling over the edges. Keep your eyes peeled for caves and turf houses set into the rock. Skógafoss is a brilliant waterfall just off the road. If your lungs and nerves are up to it, climb the precarious iron stairs up to the top of the falls. Just before Vík is a turnoff for Dyrhólaey, a nature reserve comprised of massive cliffs, natural rock arch, some rock columns, and about a trillion puffins and arctic terns. It’s truly stunning and worth a gander, even if only for fifteen minutes.
Having a drink and dancing on graves
The approach to Vík is lovely, driving through tall, green valleys, dotted with sheep. The town itself is nestled where the valley meets the sea, straight out of a salad dressing commercial. On the weekends, the town cemetery situated high above the town on a hill becomes a popular drinking spot/dance party/make-out point for the younger and rowdier folks in Vík, who are quite friendly once they’ve got a little alcohol in them and a few graves to dance on. It’s no wonder the people of Vík share such intimacy with their dead; living in Vík is flirting with disaster – the town is situated at the foot of a glacier with a volcano underneath it. Norður-Vík is a nice but very small hostel that fills up unless you book well in advance. If you can’t find accommodation here, the next hostel, Hvoll, is rather large and just past Kirkjubæjarklaustur. But before leaving Kirjubæjarklaustur, fill up with gas if you need it. This is the last town before entering Skeiðarársandur, Iceland’s mini-badlands. Hvoll is set on a farm and run by a very nice lady, but the real charmer is the farm dog, who has the body of a normal dog and the legs of dachshund. With Napoleonic fierceness for something so little, he terrifies the waterfowl and puts on a real show for all the guests. Get a good night’s sleep. Day two is even more spectacular than day one…
…( to be continued)