Well caffeinated and rested after our stop, we continued north out of town. We soon approached the final tunnel along the peninsula - the Strákagöng Tunnel. this was another of those rough-hewn one-lane sort of deals. The tunnel was built in 1967, and was the first viable all-year-round road link into the town. Siglufjörður would have been really remote before the construction of this tunnel. In fact, it would have been cut off from the rest of the world for eight months of the year, except by boat or air!
Just before entering the tunnel, we stopped at a roadside pullout high above the ocean. We were at the very northern tip of the Tröllaskagi peninsula here, and in fact at the very northernmost point of our trip to Iceland. We gazed off into the blue ocean stretching away to the north - the waters of the Greenland Sea. The Arctic Circle was only 40 kilometres away from this point.
And with that stop, we crossed through the tunnel, then followed the highway as it bent south and began to follow the western side of the peninsula, heading back towards the ring road.
Now heading mostly south and west, we had just under 400 kilometres to go to reach Reykjavik. Along the way, I had one more detour planned - a visit to a historical site of some significance to both Iceland and Canada: the homestead of Eirik the Red, father to Leifur Eiriksson, the first European discoverer of Canada - and North America.
The site of the homestead, called Eiriksstaðir, is about twenty kilometres inland from Iceland's west coast. The ring road bypasses the west coast of Iceland, and so to reach the area we chose to detour over via a very direct but somewhat remote route - the F576 - a "Mountain Track" - that connected directly from the ring road to the homestead's location. It would be fun, too - a last bit of adventurous driving before returning to the easy surroundings of urban Reykjavik.
We turned off of the ring road just south of the Hrútafjörður fjord, onto route F576 (there was a bit of initial confusion as our highway map incorrectly placed the junction north of the head of the fjord, rather than south of it). We stopped to get a shot of the warning sign that marks the start of all F-series road: An outline of a 4wd truck and a crossed-out car, and text that says Illfær vegur - "Ill-Faring Road".
After climbing an initial upwards grade, we then jounced and bounced along the sometimes-rough gravel surface of F576, occasionally fording a minor brook or stream. The countryside through which we passed was, as is often the case in Iceland, empty, somewhat desolate, and beautiful.
Down valley towards Eiriksstaðir
After a long crossing of relatively flat land, we began our descent down the head of a deepening valley, crossing one slightly more major stream (maybe you could call it a small river) in the process. Nothing more than halfway up the wheels of the Hiace, in any case. After this crossing we began to see one or two old decrepid farm buildings, then a few more that looked more used, and then finally a bridge and a return to a regularly-graded, non F-road type surface. Soon after this, we arrived at Eiriksstaðir, which was situated on the right hand slopes of this fairly nondescript valley. It was a rather understated location - there wasn't much here to grab the eye, and if it were not for the sign, we would have cruised right by without giving it so much as a second glance.
Eiríksstaðir consists of a parking lot, a covered wall with interpretive signs, and a small building containing the ticket desk and a small area with books and knick-knacks for sale. And, of course, the main attraction: the actual site of Eirik the Red's homestead, and a nearby recreated model of his Viking longhouse.
Eiríksstaðir interpretive plaque
After paying the entrance fee to the site (this was one of the only places in Iceland for which we had to pay an entrance fee), we headed over to the interpretive plaques, then to the recreated longhouse itself. We were the only people visiting at that moment, and we were greeted by a lady in traditional garb. She introduced herself as Hetla, and began to give us an interpretive talk about the site.
To the original house-site
Hetla turned out to be an excellent and quite animated interpretive guide, and started giving us a very colorful description of the history or Eirik's time at this farm - his mannerisms, and his troubled relations with his farming neighbours. She then brought us up to look at the footings of what is believed to be the site of the actual homestead.
Original house footprint
We then returned to the recreated longhouse, and Hetla led us inside, and with a flip of a switch, turned on the natural-gas powered fireplace in the center of the main hall. The interior was lined with benches covered with furs and skins, and various viking-ish paraphernalia (wooden shields, carved posts, looms, and the like) were arranged about.
Explaining Eirók's History
With the light from the fire flickering against her face, Hetla continued with her riveting account of Eirik's life and the life of his son, Leifur. She discussed in very colorful terms the trials and tribulations Eirik had with his neighbours and with his wife, his exiles and journeys, and the activities of his apparently less-unhinged and more exploratory son, Leifur Eiriksson. It was a very interesting and rewarding visit. Highly recommended.
Rival farm, Eiríksstaðir
Visiting Eiríksstaðir was a nice book-end to last year's visit
of Leifur Eiricksson's temporary homestead at L'anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland (er, or should I say Vinland) in the year 1000 A.D.