Posted by: jeanne | July 30, 2014

another day trip, this time to saurdarkrokur

took my final in-residency day trip on monday.  we went to saudarkrokur to buy fish skin leather, and stopped to see the oldest church in iceland, a famous turf house, the cod drying racks, a swim at a pool perched on the edge of a cliff, and a really cool valley leading back to olafsfjordur.


but first, it was sunrise in olafsfjordur, at around 4 am.  it was a new moon and i’d had a bunch of really vivid dreams, and one of the other residents was awoken by an elf who said goodnight, right at sunrise.  so after looking thru the house for this woman, we decided to go down to the harbor and watch the sun come up.  then we, at least i, went back to bed until it was time to get up.


siggy and alice picked us up at 9 in the morning, and we went thru the tunnel that opened in 2010 to hedinsfjordur, an abandoned fjord between us and siglufjordur.  why was something this beautiful abandoned?  because avalanches wiped out the last farm not too long ago.


then thru the next tunnel, and we were in siglufjordur, fjallabyggd’s other city (town).  it’s bigger than olafsfjordur, and still an active fishing port, and full of tourists.  it’s also very touristy.  unfortunately i can’t upload the cheesy tourist photo that best illustrates this.


this photo is just to show you the scale of these mountains.  in the lower part are several farm buildings, on the left as well as the right.  they are nestled, if you can call it that, between old lava humps that are partially grown over with vegetation.  and above loom the tall tall mountains with their sheer sheer cliffs and crumbly crumbly outcrops.  and there are snowfields above them that don’t melt most summers.


here is the oldest church in iceland.  it’s called grafarkirkja.  a place called grof, just south of hofsos.  it’s cute, and tiny, and sits in the middle of a large field with a glacier in the background, deep into the mountain.  since distances are so very deceiving in iceland, it could be 30 miles away.  let me look on a map.  okay, 8 miles.


anyway, it’s really cute.  it’s in a round graveyard built of turf, with grass growing all over pretty much everything.


speaking of turf houses, this one was the home of a well-to-do pastor and his flock, i mean family and servants, however they worked those things back in the 1800s.  glaumbaer, it’s called, adn the property was settled right in teh beginning of iceland’s history.


it’s made of turf, which nobody burns now except for smoking salmon and lamb.  but they cut it thick and stacked it, and kept it watered so it wouldn’t crack, and let grass grow in it.




they cut out windows so you could see inside, and there were bunches of rooms, all with different purposes.  it wasn’t heated, but the sheep were kept under the bedroom floor, which was the only wooden floor, the rest being packed dirt.  the insides were made of turf, too, and walking thru the place, it would reverberate when you thump the walls.  pretty interesting, actually.


and these were some of the things they used back then.  the house was full of things they used back then.  so was the tea room, and the gift shop.  and outside, geologists were doing testing on the grounds, which was kind of surreal, because the folks inside the gift shop, tea room and at the ticket booth inside the house were all wearing dreary old fashioned clothes.  sorry, but it all looked so uncomfortable, but warm, i’ll give it that.



then it was on to saudarkrokur and the fish skin factory.  they don’t just do fish skins; they started tanning sheepskins and cow hides, etc.  but they figured out how to tan salmon and perch and something from victoria lake in africa, i forget the name (wolffish?).  and the result is a leather that is stronger for its thickness than any other kind of leather.  and they had a bargain bin in the back, so i got loads of leather to take home and distribute to various leatherworking friends.


we took teh factory tour, and while they showed us all the machines and told us about the process, i didn’t actually learn anything new.  i guess i could try the same leather tanning techniques used for mammals on the next side of salmon i get…


these interesting colors are put on as foil or plastic, or as shiny dye, and heat treated to put the shiny finish on it, and stiffen it up.


and they also use holographic foil and other cool but not very natural substances to make the finishes even cooler.  trippy, huh?


you’ll never guess what this is, so i’ll tell you.  they tanned some sharkskin just to see how it would turn out.  this was in their experimental lab, where they had bird pelts tanned, as well as somebody’s cat because some guy just couldn’t let fluffy go, cow udders, foxes, horses, seals, and other things that my vegetarian friends find distasteful.


then siggy took us over to the cod racks.  olafsfjordur  has these same racks, but they aren’t used now, except for art.  but here they still hold cods.  heads in this case, and further over, sides.  they sit out in the open air and dry until they’re dry, and then they’re mostly shipped to someplace else for use as stock food, for feeding stock animals.  they rattled in the wind, and i took a short film clip of them.  coming up to them we disturbed a dozen or so ravens, who flew away even tho i called out to them in their language (probably cursed, come to think of it).  so i walked around and picked up all the raven feathers i could find.  not sure why, but i’ve got a lot of them now.


then, on the way back to hofsos, we had to stop and let a whole herd of icelandic horses go along the road in front of us.  it was great.  we got out of the car with cameras in the air, and then got back in and chased them right down the road until we were kind of forced to pass them and get back on our trip.  but way cool, eh?


and then there was the pool at hofsos.  you can see it’s set right at the edge of a cliff, and being a sunny day, it was chock full of people.  the pool was cold compared to olafsfjordur, and the hot pot was absolutely filthy compared to our home pool, and full of not just adults but kids too.  the view was great.


and this was at the foot of the cliff.  columnar basalt, formed when lava cools rapidly, making hexagonal columns that are very strong.


then to home.  again, look at the scale of these mountains, adn the lava flows in front of them.  see the tiny little house?  it’s a nice big farmhouse in reality.


the old main road between olafsfjordur and siglufjordur was this road, called lagheidi.  it goes thru a pass, actually, it is a pass thru the mountains, and it’s magnificent.  it only opened up a few weeks ago, and is definitely closed all winter.  before they built the tunnels, both towns were cut off from the rest of iceland except for boat.


this is not the deepest part of it, but i had to catch this shot of the upper valley and the classic u shape, with the boggy bottom and the show fields.

after that we came down the valley of olafsfjordur and got home around 8 pm, which was another 11 hour day trip.  and right after that i fell off my bike and mashed up several parts of myself, such an unwise thing to do, especially right after a new moon.

next post will be while i’m on the road to reykjavik, which will take 4 days, during which i’m going to go around the eastfjords and along the south coast.  stay tuned.



  1. Love the photos especially the green roof church!. Who would have ever thought of using fish skins-so interesting.


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