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Text and photosIan Smith

Gufu Foss (falls)

It’s a strange sight. For 3.5 kilometres, dotted along this lightly-trafficked road, humans dressed in all manner of clothing (except summer) are stretched out as far as the eye can see. Still they come, with the shuttle ferries at the wharf delivering them for hours on the promise of a 45 minute walk to a foss of some sort, the Icelandic word for waterfall.

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Some are striding with purpose, others dawdling, some quit en route, others will constantly wonder just how far it is. We fit comfortably into the latter group after emerging from the first shuttle ferry. Everywhere in Iceland is exposed to the wind and we’re moving steadily into a brisk one. It wouldn’t be cold without it. The clouds are few for the first time in a week and the blue sky is a treat for the eyes.

Our group of about thirty or so is strung out over about 1.5 kilometres. There’s an old lady in front struggling with a walking stick, which greatly impresses us. We haven’t caught up to her, which serves as an indicator as to just how fast we’re not going, but we’re definitely in the front half of the first dispatch.

There are virtually no trees in Iceland, so the views are unrestricted. Mountains rise from the valley floors, scoured out millennia ago by glaciers and now streaked with the melting snows of spring. The town we’ve just left has a population of around 270, but it’s a bank holiday, the third we’ve struck in four days!

Its name, written in English, is Seydisfjordor, but since there’s a couple of letters with funny things hanging around them when written in the local lingo, it’s nothing like that and we haven’t learned how to pronounce it, nor probably ever will. For the record, in Icelandic the spelling is Seyðisfjörður.

It wasn’t on our original destination plans, but the ship changed course between Norway and Iceland. We don't know if it had anything to do with the storm we sailed through overnight. However, we were given a list of highlights and the hike to the waterfall was rated. We’ve seen a couple of the other highlights and know we’ve been dudded. For instance, there’s a church that rates highly on their list; apart from its delightful soft green colour and general cleanliness, there’s no reason to visit whatsoever.

Gufu Foss

The road walk to the falls


The trek goes on. We pass a row of black cottonwood trees, incongruous in this windswept landscape because there are no native trees. The road starts to rise. The Chinese lady with the walking stick slows, allowing us to pass her. Lorraine is going much better than expected and continues with determination, though the breeze, now brisker than before, has her holding up some paper by her ear to prevent pain in that area.

I pull my hood up off my jacket to fend off the wind and take a few photos - surprise! There’s still no waterfall in sight after about 40 minutes but far ahead we can see small rivers cascading off the mountain and correctly suspect that where they meet will be our goal. Up and up until we reach a bend and here the fall becomes immediately apparent. Relief is palpable as we go through the small carpark and out to the viewing area.

It’s not the most scenic we’ve ever seen but you can’t deny that there’s a lot of water coming over. We’d been told that it’s possible to walk behind but it’s plain to see that that’s not going to happen. A couple of adventurous males have headed out there and reluctantly turned back. Because the waterfalls are young and the rock is fracturous, the spray doesn’t undercut.

It’s good to be out in the open and hiking though and, further downstream, some first arrivals have started to follow a worn path that seemingly leads to more drops. We head off after them. It traverses the spongy tundra, through wildflowers so tiny if they weren’t clustered together you’d never notice them.

The third fall is split into numerous arms and it’s a bit of a scramble down a rocky ledge to get the best shot, but it’s the most scenic. Several photographers have made it before us so it requires patience to get the best angle. On high in the background their source is ever present. The windblown snow-capped slopes are daunting by their presence.

Out on the road the trickle of walkers is endless. Of the total 6000 people on the ship, it seems a few hundred have chosen this journey. Since there’s no path, all traffic is confined to the road and cars have to zig-

zag to avoid “pedestrian splatter”. Unlike Norway where there were bends and foliage continually, it’s fortunate that there’s nothing blocking the landscape.

We stroll by the golf course, amazed that there’s enough enthusiasm to even make one here, let alone maintain it. The grass must be hardy to say the least.

The view is majestic back down to Seyðisfjörður and the ship anchored just offshore and at least the breeze is following now so one can enjoy the splendour. Still the passengers head up the other way and we stop to chat with more than one, passing on advice from our recent perspective.

Back at the Seyðisfjörður there’s a rainbow road that’s been painted to show support for the alternatives in our current lives. On one side there’s a building painted in imaginative black and white scenes. Out of curiosity I stick my head in. There’s a triple zig-zag queue waiting in line for beverages all the way back to the door. Moving on, we reach the church but spend little time there.

Apart from a seemingly abandoned fishing boat there’s another significant waterfall just on the outskirts but we’re both almost wasted by now. The queues to the shuttle ferries are long but they do keep moving and waiters are on hand with hot chocolate and the like. Back on board it feels wonderful just to relax and reflect on what an enjoyable experience our first footsteps on Iceland were.

Alpine Azaleas (Kalmia Procumbens)

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