Norðausterland

It will be almost a week since we could finally leave Þorthöfn and start our journey along the Langanes peninsula. These past few days could be called the Five lighthouses challenge. The first one we had to negotiate was Fontur, situated at the tip of Langanes, some forty kilometres away. With not many places to land until the Skalar on the other side, we were facing a sixty five kilometres paddle. Most of it went as uneventful as it could be. The west side of the peninsula is one long shingle wall with occasional bouldery beach, which attracts big swell. The land did not look very inspiring to us, yet it used to be quite well populated with farms. We decided to deal with it as best as we could and crossed most of the bays until we reached Storkarl.
Here, the cliffs start and this place is one of the most significant nesting places for gannets in Iceland. We were very lucky to be able to visit this place some days earlier on our lang hitch hike sightseeing trip. I was ready to have photos taken by tourist on the viewing platform. Sadly there were none and us instead of posing we had to engage in bullet dodging. Gannets take no mercy. 

Fontur lighthouse is known to oversee a race called Langanesröst (overfalls). Yet again, we did not have much information apart from advice of taking it closer to the shore.

We approached the tip quite fast helped by tide and soon we could see a line of breaking waves on the outside and big wonderful green and white breaking waves on the inside at the foot of the cliff. Her we go, we thought, what will be going on, now. We approached with caution and tried to spot the best line through. Luckily there was no wind and so we could stay between the two places. The swell going over the race with clappoties generated by the cliffs made the sea to elevate us up rock us from side to side, drop us a little bit only to raise us higher and make us to descent right at the foot of the next hill. The light and foam created interesting patterns, but sadly, this was no place to faff with cameras. 

It took about twenty minutes to get through into the calmer waters round the corner. I could stop holding my breath, and try to prevent my muscles to turn into jelly, the tide was slightly against us now, and the last thing we wanted was to do it again.

We arrived to Skalar, a former fishing village, at midnight, exactly twelve hours after departure. The orange space ship like shaped emergency hut was a welcomed sight standing among the many ruins of this once very busy place. 

The next day, at six in the afternoon we left Skalar to pass on the next lighthouse, the Svartnes, on the east side of Bakkafloi and to continue towards Gullborg on the east of Vopnafjordur. As the evening approached everything went quiet, and soon we could hear something breathing and thumping, yet, we could not see anything. Sun hiding behind the wall of clouds over the peninsula behind us was heightening our senses more and more. Then, finally in among the waves we could see them, the dolphins a big pot of them. Soon they were everywhere around us, circling, changing directions, disappearing into distance, coming back again. Later they decided to show off some more, and started to jump up high for us to see them even better. The only hiccup was, they never stayed out of water long enough to get the best shot of them. Never mind. 

As we reached the beginning of Vopnafjordur my back made it clear to me that rather than crossing for another five hours, it’s time to land. Unfortunately the long wall of cliffs meant that could paddle almost the same distance looking for safe place to land as across, with only a chance to find something earlier. The pain won this time, and we decided that even if we land an hour earlier than if having crossed, it was worth the try. The first bay we found was opened to swell, and what looked like possibility of landing, quickly turned into fast paddle out to sea beyond the big breakers. However, here exactly in the moment of high alert and emotions, a whale appeared. It’s amazing that a situation, which until then, has been on a borderline of disaster with high effects on our well being, was suddenly turned. We have seen a whale!

We also found a place to land in a small break in the lower cliffs, sheltered from swell, and went to sleep at four in the morning.

The following afternoon we launched to reach the Gullborg lighthouse on Bjarnarey island between Vopnafjordur and Heradsfloi. We arrived at nine in the evening, the sun just lit the orange walls of the lighthouse for us. The sky was full of birds, the sea full of jumping fish. Then, we spotted it again, the whale. Gently sashaying through the water. We spent two hours in the sound watching the birds and the whale. It did not disappoint us and jumped higher twice to show of its huge white mouth. 

Then we had Herads’ bay to cross, six hours with fog on the land. It could get as inspiring as it sounds. The only distraction was provided by different waves patterns and water colour as we crossed over individual river flows from the giant glacier river Jokulsa á Brú. The next camp we found was just beyond the next lighthouse, Brimnes. 

This time we changed our routine and habit, instead of leaving at six in the afternoon having slept and a bit of rest, we left at four. Right after getting up and eating. We’re planning for a shorter leg with finish in six hours and maybe even sleeping during the night rather than in the morning. The headwind, that wasn’t meant to be that day, was there, ten minutes into paddling, and happily kept us company for the next six hours. We pushed until Glettingsnes lighthouse, which was still some ten kilometres before our intended destination. We decided to stop, to have a little rest in its shelter. The wind was buzzing in the tower as we ate, cold and tired, some snack among the dead flies on the floor. Then just as we contemplated whether we have enough energy and willpower to push or whether we will pitch a tent, the noise stopped. 

There was no wind as we emerged out of the building, the wind must have lost us. And so we decided to continue. At least to the next bay, which has an emergency shelter.

The fog descended as we rounded the lighthouse. What now? Well, it wasn’t windy, so we decided to practice some none visibility paddling. We knew that there are two places to land within the next ten kilometres, so were ok to take the risk. It was fine. We passed the first bay with the now non visible shelter, we approached the second bay, our original destination. We could now see the cliff, but not inside the bay, so we decided to carry on a little bit. Now we were out of the map, still in fog. 

The responsibility took over us, and we landed at the first possible place on the next headland. Beautiful place. We got the new map out of the hatch. Yes, we had a discussion in the morning whether to keep it handy and ready or not. We decided not to as we really only wanted to paddle to the previous bay of Húsavik, we wanted to finish by ten in the evening and have a night sleep.

The sea was calm, there was no wind, we had a map, the forecast for the next day was headwind. The fog was getting thinner, we could see outline of the next headland across Seyðisfjordur bay, it was only fourteen kilometres away. The decision of doing it now, in the calm or next day in the forecasted headwind was an easy one to make. With our speed we should be there by four in the morning. 

Fortunately east coast seems to have more significant tides than the north and so in two hours, we added another lighthouse, the Dalatangi, to our Five Lighthouse challenge, making it the sixth one. But when we came closer, there were two of them, a smaller white old one and a huge newer orange one. We, of course, have photos of none.

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