Fiords, Huts and Signs.

As you can see from the Iceland map we have been in the north west corner of Iceland having driven along the coastal road (60, 62, 63, 60, 61 and 68). The main reason for choosing the coastal road rather than the interior road is that there is no interior road.

Although fiords are very attractive, they do make for rather convoluted roads. It is not uncommon to see the road you were on an hour ago just across the water. The photograph above shows the beautiful Skötufjörður fiord (but to be honest it might be the one before or the one after).

The very north west tip of Iceland (Hornstrandir) is now uninhabited (everybody left in the 1950s). The map shows no roads or even tracks there.

In the very isolated parts of Iceland there are emergency refuge huts at the top of passes that hikers, cyclists and stranded motorists can shelter in. These vary from rotting wooden sheds to modern fibre-glass "life boats".

Although many of the ones we looked in did not seem very inviting (on a warm dry day) the comments written in the "visitor's books" suggested they were used and appreciated. Most of them had simple radio transceivers, presumably connecting you to the rescue services. Some had gas stoves and even containers with dried food (but no water!).

Many of the roads in Iceland are remote and have very little traffic and whilst most small towns do have GSM (Cell) phone reception, this is usually limited to within a few kilometres of the town centre.

However you occasionally come across GSM phone "hot spots" indicated by a road sign. These are usually across a fiord from a small town and the "hot spot" may be limited to within a kilometre of the sign. Presumable the town's cell phone mast has an additional directional antenna pointed at these remote "hot spots".

Another interesting Icelandic sign is the "picnic spot" sign.

This sign shows the traditional picnic table (although strangely without anywhere to sit) and a nearby tree. Most countries in the world adopt a similar sign but most select either a vertical tree or a leaning tree*. Iceland uses both signs.

The one thing that can almost be guaranteed at an Icelandic picnic spot is that there will be no tree (there are very few trees in Iceland).

* It is interesting to speculate if the original leaning tree sign (adopted by some countries) was deliberate or the result of an error by an inebriated sign writer? Are there any countries that have the tree leaning towards the table? Many countries show seats around the table, some show the seats occupied. A definitive study of the variety and origin of the "picnic spot" sign is clearly overdue.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2003-06-23.