Thursday, June 30, 2011

In search of Puffins after a night in Hali

Last night I stayed in Hali, which is a seaside “town” framed by the fjords on the opposite side where three farms are joined together.  The owners of these farms are all related to each other and they have been farming this area for generations.  Each of the three farms has their specialty (cows, sheep, and trout) that is brought together in order to provide the meals at the restaurant. 

The museum/restaurant/check-in for the guest houses dedicated to the works of Thorbergur Thordarson
I met the trout farmer when I was looking at his tanks and he said the tanks are warmed by a geothermal well in order to keep his tanks a constant temperature (14 degrees C) year round.  It typically takes 17 months for the trout to go from egg to dinner plate.  After a buffet meal with trout, lamb, potatoes, vegetables and breads all made at the farm, I stayed at the guesthouse.  The town was also dedicated to the works of the writer Thorbergur Thordarson (English translated name since the “th” is a circle with a line through it in Icelandic and the “d” is not the exact same letter as ours).  The main building has a siding of a giant book case complete with Thordarson’s volumes of work. 

The trout farm is warmed by geothermal means.  The large tanks seen outside the building house the fish that are almost ready for the dinner plate.  The smaller fish are housed in tanks inside the building.
After a night’s stay in Hali at the local farm/guest house and a standard breakfast of toast and jam, I headed west along the coast towards my destination of Skaftafell for a glacier hike.  I knew there was a farmer who used his tractor and a wagon to bring tourists out across the black sands to a nesting site for puffins.  I also knew I was not going to make the 9AM trip based on my location to the site.  As luck would have it though, I was driving by the puffin tour driveway at 9:15 when 4 SUVs full of people were turning into the driveway. 
Such a stately looking bird - maybe they were trying
to ignore all of us with our cameras.

I figured that I would test my luck that these were booked patrons and that I may still be able to make the trip after all.  I was in luck, the group was waiting on these folks and I was able to climb aboard in the chaos and take the trip.  
Unfortunately, about an hour into the trip, I realized that I may be late for my glacier hike due to the speed of travel of the group around the grounds combined with our late departure.  After asking the guide about the trip to Skaftafell and knowing he was a guide of such hikes, he phoned the company and set me up for a later hike.  Phew…now I could just enjoy this trip without worry of being late to the next trip – and I got to see the puffins!   
The guide fending off a skua with his hand up high.  The skua swoop in to attack anyone getting too near to their nests.  He suggested this technique of a raised hand or stick since they will attack this highest point (instead of your head).

The puffins nest on this cliff out along the ocean along with gulls and skua (a large agressive bird).  The puffins tend to head to sea when the weather warms up and stay out there all day until it cools down.  Puffins are good at fishing and they can swim a ways underwater in search of a smallish fish they eat. 

Baby skua in its ground nest, which is why the parents were so angry with us - they thought we were looking for a snack.
Next stop is a glacier hike on one of the glacial tongues from Vatnajokull…


  1. So far this is my favorite post. So much happened in such a short amount of time. Amazing. I loved the side of the guest house/museum. Just awesome.

  2. If this was my trip, I think I'd be taking some serious naps! Whew -- you must be tired with all that stuff going on.

  3. And that was all done before the main event of a glacier hike...and another 200 km more of driving...hope to get that post out soon.

    I do need a nap - but I figured that I can nap when I get home. I'm only in Iceland for a few more days! (Although, I don't think I can nap when I get home...the little ones will prevent that from happening - and I'm sure I owe my wife way too much for holding down the fort - I better schedule one in...)
    Chris S