Icy dip in the Westfjords

A Wild fjord, photo by Gemma Messih

The Wildfjords Trail is a new creative adventure trail in the West Fjords. It is over 200km long and passes through some of Iceland's most remote and spectacular landscapes. The West Fjords, as the name implies, are a series of mountainous fjords; fjords are oceanic lagoons, formed by a deep indentation of the land, resulting in a peninsula formation, as shown on the map below.

Icy dip in the Westfjords

Walking, or driving this landscape can be a tiresome business; you have to circumvent the full length of the fjord, only to find yourself within shouting distance of the opposing shore from where you set off! People haven't always suffered like this; before roads, boats and horses were used for transport, and where a fjord posed a obstacle for horses, people hopped aboard boats to take them across directly and quickly. Cue the limitations of cars.

Icy dip in the Westfjords

The smarter way to travel, photo by Pam Posey

In planning the route for the Wildfjords Trail, we decided to pick up this old logistic (interestingly, the origin of the word 'logistic is 'reason/rational') and cross some of the fjords by boat and kayak. The routes we paddled in kayaks provided a lot of excitement: our first crossing was from Flateyri – Ingaldssandur, where we glided below magnificent sea cliffs alive with nesting kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars.

Theirs was a city of height, spiralling delight and angled screeches contesting food, space and mate. As we rounded the last headland, a thousand Eider ducks burst form the ocean's surface, heralding our arrival to Betty, a remote sheep farmer, who generously provided hot showers and a delicious home-cooked lamb meal for us all.

Icy dip in the Westfjords

Icy dip in the Westfjords

Our host, Betty, and the heartening effect of her delicious meal! Photo by Tanja Geis and Pam Posey

Our second fjord crossing by kayak was no less adventurous, if a little more nerve racking! We were 12 people, making the crossing from near Thingeyri – Nupar. Just before boarding boats, a guest had found a piece of whale bone, white bleached and porous yet solid in weight. He decided to keep it, sensing it had resonance with his Canadian Arctic heritage.

Once water bound, we dispersed across the fjord like seeds floating on the wind; all floating, bar one, the man with whale bone, who toppled over into the icy waters, capsized by a wave of water and misplaced balance.

Icy dip in the Westfjords

Icy dip, photo by Pam Posey

Our kayak guide gathered us together, forming a raft from which we aided the ailing seaman, emptying his boat and providing a platform from which to keep him out of the water and back into his boat. It was a scene of calamity and calmness all mixed together; wind buffed cheeks became rosier through exertion, a slight blush of concern and eventually relief.

We made our way to shore, landed on a gently sloping sand beach and headed for Hotel Nupar, surreptitiously located to provide a hot shower after the excitement.

Icy dip in the Westfjords

Stories abounded from the ordeal. People speculated over the whale bones role in the event; had it wanted to return to the ocean's depths? Had the leviathan pulled the bone collector with it? Artists responded with paintings, poetry and story (see poem below). The whale bone survived and now rests within a collection of indigenous belongings in Canada. We certainly think he paid his dues to keep it, and applaud his serenity throughout the whole incident!

For more adventures from the Wildfjords trail, check out my previous Guide To Iceland blog posts and come join us for a 2015 trail. We've got the Icelandic bug, and would love to share our knowledge and commitment in providing authentic adventure.

From Above (Kate Angus 2014)

The kayaks look like little eyes;

each rower is a pupil.

To be a pupil means to learn;

we are students of this water.

 

In the fjord’s arctic dark,

whale bones shine whitely.

 

The bones of birds are hollow as flutes

so the wind can carry them.

 

Our boats cradle only us and air as we skim

across the water; our wings what you call paddles. 
Icy dip in the Westfjords

Whale bone, now in Canada alongside some rare Arctic treasures.

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