East Region Story - Part 2
We soon found ourselves at the end of the next fiord and driving on a gravel road in the rolling hills of the valley at the end of the fiord. Deep green tall mountains surrounded us with the occasional thin steam of waterfalls here and there. The tops were covered by fog, but the rain had ceased. It was a beautiful drive with the occasional sheep herd to avoid on the road. When driving up the switchbacks to reach the top of the mountain, I realized the road would be near one of those waterfall streams. Just before reaching the top, one of switchbacks was close to the stream. We had not seen a car the whole time we were driving the 40 KM in the valley. I pulled over to the side and we shot some quick nudes on the steep mountain side with the water fall cascading from above and the valley stretching out before us. We completed getting over the mountain pass. On the other side we found a beautiful scene with a waterfall and foggy mountain in the background with a herd of cows near the road. Anastasia wanted a picture with the cows. She donned her green dress we have used so much and slowly approached her new friends. The cows had other ideas and ran off leaving her behind. We laughed at their rejection of her. We said good bye and completed our drive to our new base for 3 nights in Egilsstadir.
The next day the first priority was buying new boots for Anastasia and upgrading my rain gear. Our plan for the day was to visit Studagil Canyon and it was likely it would be raining. It took us all day to shop and drive to the canyon, hike and explore it. It was a beautiful, but foggy drive. The basalt portion of the canyon is in a very narrow gorge. You can park at the first parking lot and hike 4 KM to get there, or continue on driving over a very rutted and rocky "road" (not really a road, more of a wide dirt path) to a second parking lot and hike 2 KM. We opted for the bone jarring car ride and shorter hike. It was still spitting rain, so the upgraded rain gear would come in handy. The magnificent Studafoss waterfall is near the second parking lot. It it entirely formed by walls of basalt rock columns with greenery growing towards its bottom. The hike from there to the canyon was over an improved gravel path and fairly easy with just rolling hills. We had hoped to shoot there, but even with the rain, it was too crowded. So we opted for lots of landscape photos capturing the varied shapes of the basalt columns of rock with the blue glacial stream flowing through it. Of course my daring partner hiked to the tops of several cliffs where I could capture her in this truly one of a kind landscape. It is the largest collection of basalt rock formed in one place in Iceland. I was amazed to discover how may native Icelanders had never visited it! It rained about half of the hike and I appreciated my new waterproof rain gear, feeling dry for the first time under those types of conditions. Of course, that was the last rainy day and didn't need it the rest of the trip!
I really enjoyed the town of Eggisstadir. We found many nice as well as hole in the wall places to dine and loved our cozy cabin in the woods. I felt there was more nice dining places and shopping opportunities than Vik....and we know there was nothing in-between the two towns! It is a shame most people never visit this part of Iceland, or just pass thru driving on the National ring road without stopping to explore. With more time, I would go back there and explore more of the eastern fiords that extend to the north coast of Iceland. With some exploring, I think there would be many fabulous places to shoot without the crowds found in the south and other Instagram famous locations. Regardless of where you are in Iceland, once you are away from the towns, it is important to always travel with enough water and snacks to last for a day or two. When running around in the wild, there is no place to stop and eat, unless you plan includes a drive through another town as part of your exploring, and you should always be prepared in case you have car trouble and are stuck. In many places in eastern Iceland, we may have seen just few cars the whole day...and some places we never saw anybody else. Luckily I had phone service the whole time, so you could call for help if you needed to.
For our last day in Egilsstadir, we planned to drive to the town of Seydisjordur and the fiord with the same name. This turned out to be one of the scariest adventures of the trip and some of the best images as well. To reach Seydisjordur, you have to drive up a mountain through Fjardarheidi Pass, then down a steep winding road, passing two waterfalls before getting into town. When we reached the mountain top, we could see snow covered mountains higher than our current position covered in fog, with the fog coming down to our level in the distance. We found this large lake with that view as a background and stopped to shoot. It was amazing. Anastasia found this flat rock just off the shore just big enough to pose on....like it was placed there waiting for us. She did a lovely job of getting very small on the rock and then doing more dramatic poses. We then went across the road to shoot from a different point of view with the foggy mountains in the distance. We then started down the steep drive to town. We ran into some thick fog, but not too bad. We pulled over to shoot at Mulafoss Falls just outside of town. There are a series of waterfalls leading to the one we were shooting at. Anastasia found perch overlooking the main pool of blue tinted glacial water and we captured several with the whole scene and then some focused on the main pool where we were located. We then drove into town for a nice lunch by the waterfront and then did some shopping. It is a very artsy town with lots of arts / crafts and clothes made by locals. I purchased some art souvenirs that I really enjoy - a carving knife with a reindeer horn handle tinted green from being buried among the lava moss for a long time. We had planned on driving to the end of the fiord to Skalanes which is a bird sanctuary and thought may have some cool, wild places to shoot by the ocean. Unfortunately, we hit a water crossing that I thought was a little too deep for our SUV, so we turned around...but benefited from a very pretty drive. Then came the scary part!. The most scared I have ever been in my life. The fog we had encountered on the way in had drifted further down the mountain and, as we discovered, was heavier. It was so thick that I could not see the front of the car. Any car passing us in the other lane, I could not see until they were beside us. I slowed to 10 to 20 KM speed as we drove through this for about 30 minutes. It was such a white void that I was starting to have optical illusions not sure what I was seeing. I had Anastasia watching the right line to make sure I didn't get too close and I was watching the center line. There is a series of switchbacks and no bumper guards between you and the white void.. You could not see when you needed to make a 180 degree turn on a switchback until you were right on top of needing to turn. There was no place to pull over to wait it out. We started asking our Fairy guides for help...soon we realized that we had reached the top as the road started to level out and the fog started to disperse. We both shouted with joy and relief, giving each other high fives for having survived the ordeal. Such an experience!
The next morning we had an early flight back to Reykjavik. I highly recommend this approach rather than driving 9 hours back to Reykjavik. The flight is only an hour duration and less than $100 one way. We did have a funny experience at the small airport. We arrived at 8 am for our 10 am flight. The whole airport was locked with nobody around. Finally a guy arrived on a bicycle at 9 am and unlocked the doors to let us in ..then suddenly all these people were there checking in....so guess we didn't get the memo :)