The Journey continues..

I described in my post before last, the drive from Hvammstangi to Blönduós in the north of Iceland.  In this post I continue the journey on to Akureyri.

I’d been watching the road conditions on the Hringvegur (Route 1) between Blönduós and Akureyri for some weeks.  The reason being that I’d driven the road across the mountains to Akureyri on my previous visit to Iceland.  I remembered the road as being challenging, and with snow and ice on the road along with the threat of blizzards, I was a little nervous to say the least.  It was along this road that we encountered a truck surrounded by debris, clearly from a collision, and a pick-up truck off the road down a steep ravine.  The man’s screams are still with me.  Thankfully there were many people on hand and as we picked our way through the broken glass, a bumper and a few other bits and pieces, I could see blue flashing lights in my rearview mirror indicating a dose of morphine was on its way to hopefully relieve the man of his pain. We’d driven on in silence for many miles..

Talking to the owner of the cabins we were staying in at Hvammstangi, she suggested we take the road around the fjord and through the tunnels rather than across the mountains.  I was quite happy to take her advice besides, I’d wanted to revisit Siglufjordur which would now be on route. This was where we saw the northern lights on our previous visit to Iceland.

Blönduós Statue40mm f/11 1/60 sec. ISO-50

As we set off from Blönduós it was getting on for lunchtime and we were both in need of a break so we took a detour.  One of the beauties of going your own way is that well, you can go your own way.  We saw a sign for a place called Hólar, the mountains in that direction looked inviting and with a hint of sunshine here and there, we took the turn.

Finding ourselves in the small village of Hólar we were surprised to see such a large church and even more surprised to find the village had a university.  Hólar University College specialises in aquaculture and fish biology, equine studies and rural tourism..  Figuring any university worth it’s salt would have a refectory offering reasonably priced wholesome fayre, we wandered in.

Holar Church38mm f/11 1/100 sec. ISO-50

There was absolutely nobody to be seen, it was the university equivalent of the Marie Celeste.  There was plenty of evidence of people being there at some point but they’d simply vanished.  We could smell food however so we pressed on down the highly polished corridors, following our noses, literally, we soon found the refectory.  We were greeted by a chef in whites, clearly enjoying a break and a cup of coffee at one of the empty tables.  She explained in broken English that we could help ourselves to the buffet lunch for 1000 kr.  This is about a fiver or 7 bucks which by Icelandic standards, makes for a cheap lunch.  She didn’t explain the empty dining room..

The Horse Museum24mm f/11 1/200 sec. ISO-50

There were various salads and a big cauldron full of a meatball type casserole/stew with chunks of potato and various vegetables.  It was indeed wholesome fair and despite the fact that we seemed to be the only ones in the entire university, bar the chef, with this lovely buffet laid on for, well, us I assume given there wasn’t anyone else about, it was a memorable lunch, with an even more memorable view from the windows of the refectory.

Setting off once more, bellies full and happy, the sun deserted us and all I could see ahead of us on the road was a wall of white that was all too familiar from our drive to Hvammstangi.. there were blizzards ahead.  It was going to be an interesting afternoon.  The road as it turned out was as challenging as the one I remember going the other way only more so with the icy surface and snow.

The snow showers were sweeping in from the sea and as we wound our way around the fjord, the showers were coming thicker and faster all the time.  It wasn’t long before all photography became impossible.  All that could be seen was few metres of road ahead.  We were in our own little snow cocoon.  We had no option but to press on, we checked in with 122, the Icelandic emergency services who would log our position each time we pressed a button on my mobile phone.  Our five most recent positions would be logged giving a direction of travel.  It was so reassuring to know that if something should happen, we would be located easily.  I knew I wasn’t going to be seeing Siglufjordur or anything much else again for the rest of the day.

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75 responses

  1. Love the first two images – and the wonderfully white snow – though I don’t envy you driving in it.

    March 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    • Thank you Jude. The snow was just like the snow I remember from childhood, not the wet, soggy stuff we get here now. Deep and crisp and even describes it perfectly. Getting out of the car at Hólar and stepping into 18″ of lovely fresh snow, was great. This was our first experience of the snow in a village setting rather than on the road and it was just lovely. :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 6:15 pm

  2. Looks like a very cold journey

    March 16, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    • Thankfully it was blissfully warm in the Jeep, I only had to be outside for a few minutes each time we stopped for me to take photographs!

      March 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm

  3. More stunning images Adrian… the stormy, snow-laden clouds……you can feel the cold

    March 16, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    • Thank you Mark! Thankfully I only had to feel the cold when I got out of the Jeep to take a picture. I always had to put on my fleece and coat with gloves and hat, absolutely essential in -12°C with a gale blowing. It was all a bit of a pain but worth it for the pictures. I didn’t hang about though. That said, I’ve been colder since I got home in +4°C. Must be something to do with humidity and damp. :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      • I’m assuming you didn’t bother with the tripod as much as usual then?

        March 16, 2015 at 8:49 pm

  4. Such beautiful photographs!

    March 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    • Thank you Carolina! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 7:26 pm

  5. Much better . . . no crowds. I can handle a single chef as food is a necessity.

    Very nice photos, as usual.

    March 16, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    • Thanks Emilio. I thought you’d fit right in a Hólar University, just you and a chef plus lots of text books for your self-directed study! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      • I’m packing as we speak.

        March 16, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      • :-D

        March 16, 2015 at 7:41 pm

  6. Oh Adrian, what a beautiful post. The first photo is out f this world, it gives me goose-pimples. Thank you for this! It looks award winning.
    Klausbernd said, OMG, das ist wunderschön, wie ein Gemälde von Caspar David Friedrich. It can’t get much better than this. Congratulation, my dear.

    March 16, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    • Thank you so much Dina. It’s so rewarding to hear that pictures I have taken get such a reaction and thank Klausbernd, such a wonderful compliment! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm

  7. Incredible images.

    March 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    • Thank you very much! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 7:49 pm

  8. How terrible it must be to have an accident in such extreme conditions! I hope the person down the ravine is okay now. It sounds like the emergency services are really on the ball there. Your ‘winter wonderland’ photos are really stunning, but rather you then me, driving in those conditions. I loved your story of the deserted refectory. It must have felt really strange to be the only ones there, but at least you got first dibs at everything on offer. :)

    March 16, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    • Thank you Sylvia! I hope the man was OK too. It was a very sobering experience to witness such an accident but the fact that the emergency services were there so quickly is very reassuring.
      It was an interesting lunch for sure Sylvia to be sat there alone with all that food. :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 8:50 pm

  9. Especially LOVE your 4th image. The minimalism and storm make for a powerful combination and the fence is the extra something special. The whole collection is wonderful.

    March 16, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    • Thank you very much Denise! I really appreciate that. :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      • I had the camera attached to the tripod lying across the back seat Mark. I just had to haul it out of the back and extend the third section. The light was quite low with all the cloud around and shooting at ISO 50, the shutter speeds were on the slow side so hand holding was out of the question. I could have upped the ISO and dispensed with the tripod but this arrangement worked quite well. A few times the camera was unclipped from the tripod and balanced on my half open window but not that often. :-)

        March 16, 2015 at 8:54 pm

  10. Fantastic.I will visit Iceland but not in winter.Very beautiful photos.

    March 16, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    • Thank you so much Lou! I will look forward to your photos from when you visit very much! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:17 pm

  11. What an amazing trip, I just find it so hard to get my head around weather like that. As soon as you said blizzard I’m think find shelter well before it hit. How do you drive when you can’t see?

    March 16, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    • Ahh, you drive from yellow marker to yellow marker Leanne. You can pretty much guarantee you’re not going to meet any traffic so that helps. You just proceed with caution and keep pressing the check in button on the 122 Iceland app to let the authorities know where you are. Before setting out we made sure we had hot tea and soup if flasks, sandwhiches, cake, lots of Snickers bars and plenty of warm clothes so if we did get stuck, we’d be OK while we waited for someone to come. However, getting stuck was unlikely as the snow ploughs are up and down the main roads constantly. :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      • That’s good to know. I was thinking about your trip and thinking I couldn’t do it. I have no comprehension of what real is. I wouldn’t know what to pack, what clothes to take, nothing. I would probably be very unprepared and be cold the whole time. Now I know what to do in heat, but not cold. I love the images even more, I think, because they are something I’ve never seen and maybe never well.

        March 16, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      • Travelling around Iceland in winter is no different to taking a trip into the outback. Heat, extreme cold, it’s all about taking advice and being prepared if things go wrong. All you’d need Leanne is some good thermal undies (Merino wool is great) a few thin layers over those, tea shirt shirt, sweatshirt or sweater (both maybe) a good fleece and a windproof anorak. Couple that with a pair of windproof over-trousers and some snow boots and you’d be set. A good pair of gloves and a hat are pretty important too. I really didn’t feel the cold in the way I feared I might but then I had the right clothes. When I’m taking pictures I tend not to feel anything to be honest, I’m so involved in what I’m doing and a few times my fingers (I was wearing fingerless gloves) got a bit too cold and it was quite painful once I was back in the warmth of the jeep. I think you’d have an amazing time Leanne and hope you get to experience it one day! :-)

        March 16, 2015 at 10:41 pm

  12. What an adventure !!!!

    March 16, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    • It was indeed Therese! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm

  13. poppytump

    That really was some incredible weather you encountered those first few days ChillB … hey .. but no stopping a photographer on a mission :-)
    I just love those ominous skies !! Gorgeous .

    March 16, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    • It was Poppy but I was strangely invigorated by it rather than fearful of it. It was all so raw and wild a vital. It made me feel alive in a way I just can’t describe. Driving up a road with that white wall of falling snow just a few hundred yards ahead was journey into the unknown. I’ve never done or felt anything like that before! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      • poppytump

        Yes ChillB that feeling takes some beating x Wonder what Autumn will be like ;-)

        March 18, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      • Hmm, I wonder.. :-)

        March 19, 2015 at 8:03 am

  14. Oh, Adrian, you are living an adventure, indoors and outdoors. Thanks for sharing words and pictures, they are marvellous!

    March 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    • Thank you so much Bente. It was such a marvellous trip. Now I’m home in Cornwall with mild temperatures, spring well on the way and daffodils in the garden, it’s quite hard to believe just a few days ago I was in Iceland experiencing that arctic type weather. I can’t wait to go back!! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm

  15. Such dramatic landscape. And even when the light and conditions aren’t perfect are you able to bring back some captivating and strong images. The more I follow your trip, the more I realize I need to follow your footsteps one day.

    March 16, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    • That’s quite a compliment Otto, thank you. Iceland in winter is not the obvious choice and certainly isn’t for everybody but photography aside, it was such an adventure and along the way, I was able to take pictures and try to capture what I was seeing and experiencing. Let me know when you plan to make the trip Otto, I might just want to join you! :-)

      March 16, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      • Nothing concrete yet. But I promise to let you know. :-)

        March 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      • Thank you! :-)

        March 16, 2015 at 10:45 pm

  16. Very nice photos!! Congratulation.

    March 16, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    • Thank you very much Isabel!

      March 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

  17. I have just seen this so will retrospectively cover the journey – I like the minimalism of the Snow Storm shot

    March 16, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    • It was a very minimalist landscape at times Scott! It appealed to me too!

      March 17, 2015 at 7:45 am

  18. Beautiful – I’ve really enjoyed seeing the country through your lens.

    March 16, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    • Thank you Mary! I’m glad you’re enjoying the journey!

      March 17, 2015 at 7:45 am

  19. I’m enjoying very much your tales and images of adventurous travel

    March 16, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    • I’m so glad Kevin! Thank you!

      March 17, 2015 at 7:44 am

  20. Love the adventure and awesome photos. Sitting here on the couch, I can see myself checking out a quick fly in to see myself sitting in a rental car exploring Icelandic wonders, camera at the ready! Thanks for the taste! M:-)

    March 17, 2015 at 1:31 am

    • Thanks M! I’m glad I’ve given you a taste of the adventure. Have you booked those flights yet?

      March 17, 2015 at 7:44 am

      • I did browse travel options, and placed it in the advanced “Dream On” folder! 😊

        March 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm

  21. Wow… what an incredible series here…

    It’s hard to pick one over the others, but the first two images are really classic stuff :)

    Thank you so much for sharing :)

    March 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting Sreejith, much appreciated!

      March 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

  22. I enjoyed your little travelogue as it absolutely sums up the joy of independent travel; sometimes only small, seemingly inconsequential events, become the highlights of the adventure!
    Your fourth image is wonderful – I love the vast empty space with but a trace of man and the cloud bank rolling imperiously in …

    March 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    • Thanks Noeline. You’re so right about independent travel. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. As we pass the tour buses doing the Golden Circle taking in the Blue Lagoon, Gulfoss and if they’re lucky Jokulsarlon I think how frustrated I would be not to be able to tell the bus driver to hang a left as I’ve seen an interesting photo op. :-)

      March 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm

  23. These are so starkly beautiful – I can feel the cold and power of the weather through these amazing photos. What a great system they have set up for tracking you on those lonely roads – have never heard of it before.

    March 17, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    • The 112 Iceland system is brilliant and certainly a considerable reassurance when driving in Iceland. I so glad you’re enjoying the photographs! :-)

      March 17, 2015 at 10:52 pm

  24. leecleland

    Beautiful minimalist images Adrian, who could not be stirred by the beauty of the fenceline with the blizzard approaching. Snow does something special to the countryside and the light which we Australians do not see.

    March 17, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    • Thank you Lee. I remember cold snowy winters from my childhood. We don’t have these winters anymore. It’s so much milder now in the UK generally so experiencing real snow again was such a pleasure. You’re right, it does do something special to the landscape. I wouldn’t mind experiencing the Australian landscape though. Some warmth after the last couple of weeks wouldn’t go amiss.. :-)

      March 18, 2015 at 9:31 am

  25. Reblogged this on nwadiah.

    March 18, 2015 at 3:32 am

    • Thank you for the reblog..! :-)

      March 18, 2015 at 9:32 am

  26. A beautiful serie!

    March 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    • Thank you Hans!

      March 19, 2015 at 8:04 am

  27. Stunning and serene photos, Adrian XO

    March 19, 2015 at 3:58 am

    • Thank you very much Marina!

      March 19, 2015 at 8:04 am

  28. You wouldn’t think you could get so many shades of white, would you? Menacing, shot at no 4!

    March 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    • I’ve been very surprised at all the shades and tones in the winter landscape Sonja. Have you ever painted or drawn anything wintry like these pictures?

      March 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      • No, I haven’t, Adrian, other than the odd silly Christmas card, but that doesn’t really count. It’s a thought, you can get some beautiful effects on the snow, especially in the morning or evening sun. From the painting point of view foreboding is probably better as there is so much more going on in terms of texture, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy painting it lol. I would have to wear my hat and scarf!

        March 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      • I can just imagine that! :-D

        March 20, 2015 at 6:45 pm

  29. The color and lack of it is so very striking. Marvelous!

    March 23, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    • It is at time a very monochromatic landscape Elena. Thank you! :-)

      March 24, 2015 at 7:52 am

  30. Intrepid travelers doesn’t quite seem to cover it! Challenging t say the least. The first two of the final four images looks like the snow equivalent of a Saharan dust storm. You see it coming and wonder what it will be like when it arrives.

    March 26, 2015 at 9:23 am

    • Thank you Andy. Driving into the unknown was interesting to say the least.. :-)

      March 26, 2015 at 10:22 am

  31. You have become a storm chaser, Adrian! : ) As challenging as the weather was you sure found some magic with these.

    March 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    • Thanks Karen. I have to say I rather enjoyed the challenging weather and I was rewared for taking on the challenge many times over.. :-)

      March 29, 2015 at 9:07 pm