When I headed north to the topmost part of the Atlantic Ocean, for the promise of clearer weather and fewer people, I prepared for deserted areas, bleak weather and perhaps also, small, unfriendly villages, if any! This pretty much sums up life outside the few urban Icelandic cities.

As we headed south for the second time, and drove on the ring road for the first four hours, we could not help but be stunned by every bend on our route, unveiling a scene more dramatic than the next. Arriving at the next main city, Vik, we settled down at the central campsite and met some adventurous travellers, with whom we discussed our way towards the southernmost rocky cliffs of Dyrhólaey.

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The weather was calm when we set off from our camp the next day, but it wasn’t long before the highland arctic conditions kicked in. Walking by the shore was prohibited due to the high waves, which break against the shore with a particularly ferocious force. Contrary to popular belief that geothermal activity and volcanic eruptions make Iceland perilous, Iceland’s most dangerous sites, in reality, are its beaches. The cold water, strong currents, and unpredictable wave patterns, have caused various fatalities in the past. An unfortunate event was not on our itinerary for the day, so we decided to proceed by hiking up the hills.

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The higher we climbed, the grander the coast started to appear. A large flat expanse of charcoal grey sand with white waves crushing along its dramatic coast, against a backdrop of rugged cliffs that rose up to 400 feet. The hike to Dyrhólaey from the campsite is an arduous one, but we managed to reach the peak in no time!

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The waves looked less dramatic from the top, and from this viewpoint they seemed to be slow-moving, as if caressing sadly these dark sandy shores. Overlooking this scenery is a lighthouse, perched on the most dominant cliff. This white, squarish, little building crowned with a gigantic lamp offered the most unexpected interior. One would assume you would find typical belongings of a lighthouse keeper inside, or nothing more than equipment related to lighthouse operation. Surprisingly, it opens up into a minimalist yet luxurious residence.

Grey parquet flooring leading up to a narrow, winding staircase, reaching the only three bedrooms of this exclusive lodging. I felt like walking into one of the movie scenes of Half Light featuring Demi Moore’s romance with the imaginary lighthouse keeper.

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And just when I thought I had seen it all, a baby puffin appears at the very edge of this cliff – a penguin-like coloured bird, twisting its tiny neck to look right towards my direction. Drawn to its magnetic beauty, I approach closer to the edge. To my surprise it does not move, so I managed to snap some pictures.

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A fellow photographer, who had followed my steps to this cliff whispered behind me; “their beak fades to grey during winter but blooms back into a bright orangy colour in spring time.” I am no bird watcher, but there I was, standing with a professional photographer right behind me directing me on how to take the right shot and make the most of that moment.

The puffins looked like they enjoyed the attention. Maybe it’s because, when out at sea during autumn and winter, they lead a very solitary life while trying to protect their life from various potential predators. Their colours blend well with the dark Icelandic seas and this feature protects them from the dangerous birds flying above them as well as the larger of the fish under the sea. Being usually monogamous, they always return to the same burrows back in late spring.

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If Icelandic cliffs are not on your travel list as yet, these wonderful creatures can also be spotted in Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland (Canada), Maine (U.S.A) and the British Isles.

 

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia