The Guidebook says “Hellisheioi is the highest (656m) and steepest mountain pass in Iceland, only open in summer. Enjoy the colourful mountains as the road passes through the ruins of an ancient volcano. The view over Fljotsdalsherao and the coast is incomparable.”
We say “Hellisheioi is a nightmare drive. A single lane dirt road with inclines of 14% and switchback turns. Visibility of less than 15m in the dense cloud. Snow banks line the road even in high Summer; the temperature drops from 9 degrees on the coast to three degrees on the summit. The road is slippery and there are no safety barriers between you and the sheer drop (the only advantage of no visibility is you can’t see how far you would fall if you slip.”
Hellisheioi was one of those experiences it’s cool to look back on. Doing it was beyond nerve-wracking. But when we got back to sea-level the sun came out and the vistas were fantastic along the coast. Everywhere we looked there were rainbows.
This whole East coast is a mass of black volcanic rock and sand. Earlier we’d gone for a walk along a long beach made entirely of black sand; relieved only by the thousands of bird feathers scattered everywhere.
We’re staying in a really obscure spot called Husey. We’ve navigated over 100km of dirt road to end up on the far North East coast of Iceland. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there are reindeer here. They were imported from Norway in the early 1800s and, having no natural predators, have thrived. We even saw a herd of reindeer from the hostel.
After a rather spartan meal (the shop we were relying on had closed early) we walked the few kilometres to the nearby river which is a nesting ground of the Great Skua. I don’t really know much about these big birds except they seem remarkably unworried by us humans. The first one we saw we only avoided stepping on because we thought it was a cow-pat.