Zodiac Circle near Þorlákshöfn, Iceland
Driving straight south on secondary roads brought us to the southern edge of the Reykjanes peninsula, not far from the town of Þorlákshöfn. Here along the side of the road we noticed a strange arrangement of stones and gravel, and upon closer inspection, it turned out to be some fairly sophisticated zodiac / mystical installation, complete with very intricately-carved boulders. Around this installation were no signs and no parking lot. Nothing. strange.
We followed a newly-laid highway west along the coast, looking for side-roads that might lead to a coastal cliff. We eventually found such a road, and followed it southwards to high bluff, where we got out and walked around for a bit to examine the cliffs. The screeching of many seabirds was quite loud.
Southern Reykjanes Coastline
We did find lots of seabirds, but no puffins. We had happened upon a colony of nesting Kittiwakes, a species of gull that is particular loud (no kidding) and which nests on cliffs (most gulls don't).
I found out after the trip that another side road a bit further west may have in fact led to a puffin colony. Unfortunate for us, if so.
Ewart, Reykjanes coastline
We returned back to the main road, and continued west. We were arriving at the point during the day where it was most prudent to proceed directly to the airport, so we abandonded our bird search (you can't say we didn't try) and made best time towards the town of Grindavík, where we turned north on the road that led past the infamous "Blue Lagoon" geothermal spa - Iceland's most famous. A few minutes later and we could see the distant runways of Keflavik.
Arriving at the airport, we followed the car rental return procedure outlined by the company: we drove the van into the "Lot 1" parking area, found a non-reserved spot, and parked. That was it - leave the keys in the van and go into the airport. Seemed a little loosey-goosey, and I would have preferred a more formal hand-off, but it was what it was. We carefully scoured every nook and cranny in the van for gear, paper, food, electronics and clothing, and stuffed everything as best (and as evenly, for weight purposes) into our duffel bags and packs. We then went into the departure area, and said good-bye to Iceland.
Interactive Trackmap - final day of trip - click expand
The flight back from Iceland to Canada felt remarkably fast (it was under four hours from Keflavik to Halifax). As we were leaving Iceland, we got a nice (if somewhat distant) view of one of Iceland's famous peaks, Snæfellsjökull, standing out clearly, simply calling for us to climb it. We had indeed considered climbing the volcano, which was made famous by Jules Verne's famous 1864 novel, but we simply did not have enough time. That, and many other un-visited destinations, meant that Iceland would definitely be in contention for a return visit at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
Icelandair and Snæfellsjökull
There was one major inefficiency in our return flight arrangements from Iceland back to Ottawa, and that was the fact that our Icelandair flight arrived thirty minutes after any regional flight to central canada left Halifax - any flight for the entire evening. The earliest flight that left to Ottawa (or connected through somewhere else to Ottawa) left at 7:30 am the next morning. That meant, somewhat unfortunately, a forced overnight stay at the Halifax airport.
Five of us decided to spring for the relative comfort of a nearby airport hotel room. One of us (I'll let you guess who) did not, and chose to rough it in the airport. This was the first night with a real mattress in nine days (one of the longest stretches camping on any of my trips), and I didn't mind it one bit.
Return to the Ottawa Airport
Early the next morning, we boarded our Air Canada Express CRJ for the one and a half hour flight back to Ottawa, where Jenn's sister-in-law's mother Trudy and my brother George were both waiting to pick us up and shuttle our selves and our stuff to our various homes. A big thank you to you both for getting up early and taking time out to taxi us around. It was much appreciated.
To the folks on the trip - well done! I think the trip was quite worthwhile, and we managed to pack a lot in to our nine-day visit. I think we were a bit.... let's use the word 'compressed' on our ability to see things on certain days; certainly I felt that just a day or two more would have allowed us to get in some more solid outdoor activity, but overall, it was great. Everybody handled Hvannadalshnjúkur with apparent ease, and I think we might be ready for a slightly more ambitious mountaineering challenge in the not-too-distant future.
It was a pleasure with voyaging with all of you, Jenn, Ewart, Roland, Caroline, Chris, and Brian, and I hope we get to do this again soon.
A good-night to you all! (I'm writing this last bit of text at 11:42pm)
As a final parting gift, here's a video montage that I think you'll enjoy. It is just over three minutes in length, and is backgrounded by the music of Ólafur Arnalds, an Icelandic musical artist.
Video Montage, Elemental Iceland. - Click on video above to start