Sunday, August 13, 2017 – Melanes, Iceland
We eased into the cool morning with a camp breakfast of rye bread from the bakery in town, peanut butter, and coffee. After, we packed and were on our way, leaving the charming seaside town of Isafjordur (the capital of the Westfjords) behind and driving south, along the coast on dirt and gravel roads that likely voided the insurance contract on our rental.
Around each bend the views were beyond spectacular. Vistas of mountains and sea more breathtaking than I have ever seen. The Westfjords are unmatched in their ability to inspire awe. The drive at times was downright scary. Hairpin turns at 12 degree slopes on gravel roads make for some white-knuckle moments. A 4×4 would have been more appropriate, but the van carried us through the day.
We stopped for a soak in one of the many thermal baths of this region at a town called Talknafjordor. The bath was the least awe-inspiring thing about our day. Man-made, unkempt and lined with algae to the point that walking was a hazard. But the water was hot and felt great after a strenuous hike yesterday and the large lunch we’d just enjoyed at a bistro in town. We left feeling refreshed and recharged.
We meandered along the mountain roads another 26k, eventually descending to our campsite for the night at Melanes Campground, which included several handsome low-slung wooden buildings. There was a camp store with a few essentials, a laundry, and showers. Beyond the modest facilities, which were admirably clean and well-maintained, the camp was breath-taking. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the privilege to pitch a tent. Backpacker Magazine-cover-photo-type beautiful.
There was a wide beach stretching out beyond our camp, which was situated in a hayfield. Ringing the coast east and north of us were dramatic mountains sweeping up from the coast to rocky outcroppings high above. The sun cast an otherworldly light on the ridges with brilliant shades of purple, deepening by degree as the evening wore on.
The campground was large – perhaps ten football fields across, and there was no one within a hundred yards of us. There was a waterfall high up on the peak behind us, the crashing water muted by distance. The sound of breaking North Atlantic waves on the distant shore provided our soundtrack for the night. Cut hay lay in fragrant serpentine rows , golden ropes against the green grass of late summer. The skies were brilliant blue. Puffs of cloud tinted pink rose above the water and ridges.
We cooked a proper dinner of sausage and rice and vegetables over a camp stove and sipped good Scotch. We added a layer against the gathering cold and dimming light. We were in the Westfjords, far away from the busloads of tourists in the south and the relative bustle of Reykjavik. A week in Iceland lay before us like a blank page.