After enjoying the situation at Jökulsarlón, we continued east on the ring road. The grand landscape of ocean on the right and descending glaciers on the left continued, although the closeness and prevalence of the glaciers started to recede and the prominence of the ocean started to grow. We were gradually transitioning into the region of the Eastfjords - a land of coastal mountains (non-glaciated) indented with deep fjords.
Before the Eastfjords proper, though, was the small fishing port of Höfn. It is the only community for some distance around, and it was here that we stopped for our second visit to a grocery store, for we were running low on supplies. Given that we only really had three solid days of trip left, this was intended to be our last such food stop.
We also chose Höfn as our lunch stop (a very late lunch, given that it was past 4pm), driving out to a windy point on the coast outside of town. Under the columns of a modern monument to seamen, we had our picnic. To the west we could see the land of the southern coast, with its icecaps and glaciers, and to the east we could see the beginnings of the steep, indented coastline of the Eastfjords. Höfn straddled the boundary between these two different regions.
Lunch at Seamen's monument
With late afternoon now upon us, and with our destination still several hundred kilometres away, we had to lower the number of scenic stops and increase the amount of time driving. We headed further east, beginning a drive along a very beautiful section of gracefully winding road underneath high coastal peaks.
After five days of travelling, our group - and the contents of the van - had achieved the typical sort of slightly-unstable equilibrium that one seems to get on any trip. We now all sat in the same spots; the big duffel bags in the back had their pseudo-assigned locations; certain bits of gear were stored under certain seats; and in the front, near the power outlets, was the biggest amount of barely-stable equilibrium: the tangle of components and wires that I'll generously term "the rat's nest".
Chris' seating spot in the van was the passenger-side front seat. And, while that meant he got the best views, it also meant that he had to deal with the rat's nest. The combination of loose connections, flakey converters, the sheer number of devices, and plain old bad design made this task a formidable one. By this point on the trip, though, Chris had managed to perfect a delicate balancing act, managing devices and power loads, inventory-ing battery levels, and jiggling wires just the right way. All of the rest of us appreciated receiving our charged-up batteries and devices just in time for the next picture stop.
I had chosen not to refill the Hiace's fuel tank at Höfn, hoping to nurse a bit more distance out of it before topping up. By the time we reached the tiny fishing port of Djúpivogur partway through the Eastfjords region, it was time for a fillup. The only place in town with gas was an automated fillup station, and to my annoyance, my Mastercard did not function in it - even though I was clearly entering the right authentication information. I had been using my card in Iceland for some days now, and I had informed the company in advance that I would be making purchases from Iceland for a week, so I was at a loss as to why it was not working. Fortunately, Jenn stepped up and offered her card, which worked. We weren't going anywhere without some diesel!
After more spectacular coastline driving, made even more scenic by the beautiful clear weather, we arrived at a short-cut highway that would allow us to bypass a long and circuitous section of the ring highway. In a less hurried mode we may have taken it (the ring road), for the drive so far along the coast had been excellent. But it was already nearing 7pm, and we had many miles left to drive. So, we turned onto regional highway 939 - an unpaved route - and headed up the valley at the head of the Berufjördur fjord.
The side highway was an interesting ride in itself. With many switchbacks, we rose steeply up to a wide, barren col, which then opened up into a new valley, feeling equally as barren. The sense of remote wilderness permeated all.
Hiace on Ring Road
The remote valley gradually became less remote as we descended it - we rejoined with the ring road (which was itself still gravelled here), then a bit of grassy vegetation returned, then we saw an occasional farm or two, and the road returned to being paved. We then entered the reasonably populated environs of Egilsstaðir, one of eastern Iceland's largest towns. We did a quick stop at an N1 gas station for a fuel fillup and bathroom break, and continued on our way along the ring road. We were heading north now, and even a little bit back east, as we slowly circled Iceland.
Southwest towards interior