A trip to Iceland, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a place that has really captured my heart, Höfn. As we were driving down the east coast from Akureyri to Höfn, I found myself asking ‘what time will we be home’. I have made such good friends here and for a photographer, Höfn and the surrounding area, really takes some beating.
As we approached ‘home’ after a day photographing back along the east coast, the sun was low and preparing to set. The light was magical. I knew immediately that just after the tunnel, I would have to turn left and take the gravel road to Stokksnes. The last time I visited I was with my good friend Ronnie and being with a local, I was spared the 600 kr per person entry fee that Omar, the land owner has imposed on tourists. I must point out that this is extremely un-Icelandic behaviour and something that local people are horrified by but Omar is known for his love of the Krona so there it is, you pay to continue along the gravel road to this amazing beauty spot.
I paid my 600 kr and continued on my way but quickly became aware of someone in a pick-up truck persuing us. I pulled over and the truck pulled up. A man leaned out of the window claimed I hadn’t paid. This must be Omar I thought. He’d certainly checked that honesty box smartish. I did pay I explained, I put the money in your honesty box’. There’s a box outside the small cafe for you to pay should the cafe be closed. However what I hadn’t realised was Omar was now charging 600 kr per person and there were two of us in the car.
I handed over the money and asked ‘last time I was here with Ronnie from the village’, someone Omar knows well, ‘he took us to an old fishing boat’. ‘You want to take more pictures’ Omar asked. ‘I do’ I replied. ‘Follow me he said..’ He drove round the gate to the left that had a handmade sign strung across it. A read circle with a white band across it, ‘No Entry’ had been added at the bottom just in case someone might not have got the message.
We followed Omar around the gate and through a puddle that came half-way up Omars wheels so I was guessing a little higher on my rented Kia Sorento. Both myself and my passenger looked down to see if we were about to get wet feet. Not this time thankfully. On down the track Omar pulled up at the edge of the very shiny black sand. It was high tide. Something I only realised when we got to the edge. I could see the surf crashing not too far out.
‘I’ll leave you here’ Omar said. ‘Keep within 50 metres of the green and you’ll be OK’, the green being the marsh grasses to our left, ‘but don’t stop mind’ at this, Omar made gestures that left us in no doubt that we’d sink if we did. He reversed, smiling and waving. Did I detect a certain mischievousness to that smile? Surely not.
Behind us the sky was an amazing pink, ablaze as the sun was sinking lower. I took a deep breath, I’m a photographer, I need to get my picture, and drove onto the wet sand. The 4×4 was managing well, traction was good but the car felt the same way I’ve felt when walking across a very deep pile carpet, it was decidedly spongy. As I made my way from one raised bit of dry sand to another, I was beginning to think that maybe this time I’d gone too far.. I should have waited for Ronnie except Ronnie was in Paris. I was beginning to worry a little. We were driving through porridge. The spongy, squidginess of the going beneath us seemed to be increasing. I checked my distance from the ‘green’. I was about 25m away so apparently safe, nonetheless, I pressed the gass. Did Omar send us out here only to charge us an exorbitant fee for rescue? I banished the thought.
Thankfully, off in the distance I could see the track emerging from the sand and I knew we’d soon be on terra firma once more. I drove on to the small cove where I knew the boat lay. We made it! The light was beautiful but we were very aware of the crashing surf. It really looked as though the tide was still coming in.. Extra porridgey, spongy, squidginess to come.. Hmm. I didn’t relish the thought.
Below is one of the pictures I took that white knuckle late afternoon. I didn’t hang about. I was keen to get back across the sands. I began to worry that I’d never find that exit track in the gloom and we’d be left searching in the dark for a way off the sand. I was comforted, sort of, that Omar would still be watching. He wouldn’t wish us any harm I was sure. We set off back across the sand, hopping from one small island of higher drier sand to the next. Searching the horizon for the ‘exit’ I began to enjoy myself, weaving this way and that.
Passing the Viking Village on the right (A film set waiting for a film apparently) I knew it couldn’t be too much further when out of the gloom, I could see what looked like a track. Sure enough, in no time at all I was off the sand and on our way ‘home’. It was a big relief. At no time were we in physical danger I’m sure. Just in danger of getting stuck on the sand. Not a welcome thought as it was a lot further than I could manage to walk.
As we passed the cafe there was no sign of Omar’s truck. We hadn’t seen headlights departing as we approached dry land and we hadn’t passed it as we passed what I think was his house so at what point he’d left we just don’t know. I must add again, Omar is very much an exception. The Icelandic people are warm, friendly and extremely eager to help their ‘guests’ get the very most from their stays in Iceland.
14mm f/8 1/15 ISO-100.