Egilsstadir reminds me of Thompson, Manitoba,
up there at the far reach of road in Canada. It's the way both towns sprawl, I think, without a real downtown, with things plopped wherever they fell. Buildings go up wherever they can, where they may. However, the buildings in Egilsstadir seem more put together, more permanent, than those I remember in Thompson.
After we finished breakfast, we lit out for the Lake Myvatn region in the north of Iceland, where we'd be staying at the Sel-Hotel Myvatn, which is a three-star hotel on one side and a working farmstead on the other.
The landscape between between Egilsstadir and Lake Myvatn starts out looking like the exposed Canadian shield of Manitoba, becomes a lunatic moonscape, and ends up with a big lake dug into or out of lava country. When we'd talked with Erica in Reykjavik, she had cautioned us to make sure we had a full tank of gas before we left Egilsstadir, and food for a picnic meal. The drive between Egilsstardir and Lake Myvatn would be pretty desolate.
And it was desolate and lovely. Early on there was the valley through which runs the mighty Jokulsa a Bru, a glacial river carrying a hundred and twelve tons of clay and sand to the ocean each day. There were mountains, always mountains. Mary says you can't stand anywhere in Iceland and not see a mountain. There was the farm and church at Modrudalur, several miles of gravel road out of our way but worth the drive. Modrudalur is "situated at a higher altitude than any other farm in Iceland," our Guide says, and is
"also one of the most isolated. Modrudalur has extensive lands considered well suited for sheep-farming and has thus been a substantial farm for centuries."
In former times, the lands were so well-suited that "the layer of cream on top of the milk vats at Modrudalur was said to be thick enough to float a horseshoe."
From Modrudalur you can see Herdubreid, "one of the most beautiful mountains in Iceland," as well as the Dyrafjoll mountains which are part of the Vatnajokull glacier. So we've seen Vatnajokull at its south face, and now from the north.
How isolated is Modrudalur? Our Guide tells the story of a traveler who stayed at the farm overnight in 1814.
"According to him, the farmer had six grown-up children who had never been to another farm even though the oldest of them was married and the parent of three children."
There is a ghost at Modrudalur, Margret or Manga, the first wife of the last pastor there, Bjarni Jonsson. Prior to her death in childbirth, Manga had asked her husband never to marry, and when he did, the ghost persecuted the second wife
"and finally brought her to her death. Bjarni then married for the third time. He was advised to marry a woman Margret had never seen. He brought her from Vopnafjordur and she is said to have outlived her husband."
To be continued....