The Iceland Adventure summer 2016… Part 4

188                                    A quick photo before we leave the windy camp

We are rolling along the flat landscape, its grey the road is grey shale, the sky is blue and clear, a few splurges of green are on the near horizon and a few white dots mark the position of the sheep and always in groups of three! The morning was very much a quiet affair with not much happening as we made our way north, suddenly we started up the hill, as we crested the lip a breathtaking scene lay before us, a huge lake filled the land with distant hills smothered in a purple haze, you’d think by 11.00hrs it would have burnt off eh? This was to be a tea and sandwich stop as we crowded into the small off-road space by the information sign which was helpful but still not toilet which wasn’t helpful… This is supposed to, be according the the map a fantastic viewpoint! So against the governments wishes I soiled the ground around me feet with English pee.

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       The Brits at AFANGAFELL and parked up in the small off track lay-bye

 

190                                              Looking back from where we had come

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                                           The lakes and the view to our front

 

194                                                       Chris preps his toy for lift off

It was a beautiful sight, not a sound or sight of anyone. So Chris unpacked his drone to have a play, it wasnt in the air two minutes when he crashed at full speed into the information post, the only thing sticking up for a hundred miles! Oh well that’s that then…Back to peace and quiet…

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                                        Bystanders looking suitably interested..

Our way ahead was around the huge lake, we could see the grey track faintly in the distant, climbing back into the trucks we trundled off down the far side of the hill here at Afangafell, round the other side we went creating a rather large dust cloud

 

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We were expert at keeping just far enough away from the dusty truck ahead.

The dust was fine and plenty full  today and we kept a good distance from the truck ahead, letting the wind take the dust away to the side, sometimes we had no winds and had to chew on the dust for miles as it got kicked up and just sat in the listless air which thankfully wasn’t very often and we had no cause to clean the air filters on this trip.

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                                                           Follow that dust cloud!

With the lake far behind us we rose again taking a left fork over another small hill, the sun was out and clouds drifted off…erm… what’s that in front then? Looks like cloud to me!

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Slowly we drove towards the white cloud and realised it was sitting in the whole of the valley we where heading towards! Time for some massive concentration again as we plunged into the cold damp cotton, the visibility dropping to a couple of metres. Stronger lights required? A bread knife might have been better!

Down and in we went and stayed there for the next hour as we drove up and down the hills tracks, occasionally popping up through the cloud before diving again until eventually we came through the other side and found ourselves in lush green valleys blue skies and lovely sunshine!

 

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                                                      How green is that valley?

I guess it could have been Wales! The landscape caught me out all the time here on Iceland. The 4×4 in the top photo was on bricks and didn’t have a wheel to its name by the way! A small holding was just out of shot on the right.

 

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                             Pete and I watch the Carrick catching up.

Pete came this way the year before but the weather was rubbish so for him this was as beautiful to the eye as it was for us. He knew of a steep zig zag climb up the hill ahead and asked me to go ahead and hopefully get some shots, obviously I grabbed at the chance.

207                      Pete comes up the hill first…thats Carrick below him.

It would have been good to get everyone in one shot but there was a lot of space between the vehicles so that wasn’t going to happen today. So I took everyone as they came around the hairpin at my level instead.209

                                                  Nearly there Pete!

 

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                                                    The South Coast Boys..Ian & Chris.

 

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                                              Daz and Rosie come next!

 

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                                           Old Hugh and his younger Defender

 

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                                    Yeah living the dream! Chris and son Joe

 

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Carrick brings up the rear

 

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                                                             Lunch break!

218                                        Rosie with tea and phone/camera

 

221                                                                   Chris & Liz

 

219                                        Its a  lovely day to smile about

 

216                                  Looking down the valley at the tear in the ground

We had been on the tracks half a day so far in dull then clear then cloudy then sunny conditions. Driving on the usual grey black shale then the surprising Welsh green valley, up the side it the mountain and back onto the grey shale. On the grey stuff right now heading slowly higher and higher into the Nordurland Vestra. Getting closer now to our 7th camp. To speak it sounded like Lager field but to spell it looked like Laugafall, it sat on the crest of the next hill, we saw the red-roofed hut from a way off but at 20-30 mph along the twisty track it still took over thirty minutes reach it.

Bleak is a word Id use to describe the Laugafall camp site and windy to boot with some drizzle again! One large hut was the reception/office with one or two smaller ones nearby and of course the outdoor hot spring which everyone sampled, stripping off to swimwear and running to it on account of the cold wet winds! I didn’t join them I just couldn’t find the attraction in the idea at all so messed around securing the tent with double the guide ropes and sorting out the evening meal and taking a good look the bleakness with the camera.

223With the reception shed in the background and a smaller one for walkers to hire we can see ll the camp vehicles..ours  is out of shot on the left

 

225            Ian starts his evening fight with his fantastic one man tent. Note the camp-site actually has grass and heather as well as boulders. Because we had the truck and wanted it at the side of the tent with the cooker etc,we were not allowed on the “grass” so camped at the edge on grass-less ground (behind me)

For the evening we gathered in and around the awning of Chris and Liz and kept out of the cold breeze..nipping in and out for the toilet and another tinnie. Bed came around midnight and still it was light outside…it was still bizarre to experience! Morning came seven hrs later and it was still light and still breezy and still with the light rain. Id turned the truck into the weather so breakfast was had under cover and in the dry. Packing the beds away and stowing everything back in the truck was the first job leaving just the tent to drop and roll up. Stopping to have a second cup of coffee we had another hour before departing. Looking around the camp was coming alive as folk sorted themselves out, everyone else either slept on their truck in a roof tent or inside, Chris and Ian were made of stouter stuff and used their little silver one man jobbies. We were the only Oz tent so did things a little different, like always searching and grabbing the smoothest past of ground upon arriving be it gravel or…gravel! Moving the truck side on to completely shield the tent from the wind we made our move quickly removing the double tent pegs and lines then dropped the tent carefully rolling it tight, slipping the bag over, zipped it up before chucking it on the roof then climbed up after it and strapped it down. We managed this very quickly this morning, we didn’t erect the extra panels of front because  of the conditions and exposed position. One can easily cope with just the basic tent in poor conditions, backing the truck up against the wind/rain and throwing the fly sheet over the rear of the truck. Basically the added enclosed kitchen/diner extra room becomes an open veranda!

229                                  All packed away and a good job done!

226Ian cuts a lonely figure over there as he continues his morning battle with the tent!

 

228           Daz and Rosie are also sorted and stand and giggle watching Ian

 

230                                      Chris and Liz begin to fold away their roof tent

 

231                                          Chris and Liz nearly done

The morning map meeting was held by the side of a truck, Julie took note on our map. Hopefully we would take the F26 all the way north towards the 846 and a huge wide waterfall and out 8th camp. Today SHOULD be a shorter day.

 

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                             Pete gets our juices going with todays map meeting.

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Daz happily soaks up the drizzle

236                                                    Jo contemplates straight hair?

242                                                         Chris & Ian listen up.

239                Hugh dressed for the Arctic..actually we are NOT that far away!

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                             Liz shows it doesn’t feel that bad when we are all in it together!

Climbing in the truck out of the rain and actually keeping the window open was a rare thing! But we needed the heater on full blast to dry out the wet trousers and generally warm us up somewhat. Today was not going to be such a pretty day I thought, as we drove over the rise and drove along more dark grey shale, it looked quite bleak this morning I have to admit.

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Not an ideal place to arrange to meet anyone..Third rock on the left perhaps?

 

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                                One of the larger farms near Godafoss

I noted we had done just 40 miles in less than 4 hrs. he F26 wasn’t a fast road, indeed none of the F roads were! We came across half a dozen farmers in their tractors, were spreading fertilizer amongst the sparse growing moss, trying I suppose to encourage growth then they could get their sheep up here and start grazing and get the cycle of life going a bit quicker. We began to follow a wide river now as we dropped right down the valley, the track became longer wider and straighter, we even passed groups of farms along the river’s edge, more homes we began to see now. Before long we reached our destination, it was the huge ( as in wide) waterfall known as Godafoss and a popular tourist stopping point, we paused for a few minutes in the tiny car park before driving a couple of hundred metres to the field behind the restaurant, this was our camp-site for the night.

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                                                      Godafoss at around 16.00hrs

It had a shower and toilet block that’s all.  But to be honest, camping like we do a grass field and showers are a bonus and a toilet block is a luxury! The grass field was soggy and wholesome, what with the waterfall just a minute walk over the track, and poured out zillions of gallons of water an hour,the rushing stream by our side was busy too, yet in the toilet a polite notice warned that the water supply was in short supply and we should use it sparingly…

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                                                                  GREEN grass

 

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                         GODAFOSS. This was taken about 23.30 hrs

Everyone went to the restaurant for dinner this evening except us, we rarely did, after all we were camping! After which Julie settled down to read and I went for a walk with young Jo to get a proper and longer look at the waterfall, I took the camera as usual, it was about 23.00hrs and still bright as usual!

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                                     Im thinking a Curlew.

 

During the stroll to the falls along one of the many tracks the above little fella kept walking just in front us me and Jo as though getting us to follow him up another path rather than on the path we wanted. On our return back from the waterfall he appeared again and tried to lead us up the same path. Id read somewhere once of a bird that tried to decoy predators away from the nest by feigning injury, maybe this was another way of doing the same thing? Its not everyday one gets led up a garden path by a little bird..a woman maybe….

Back on the campsite I watched the birds hunting for scraps, I figured I saw Curlew Snipe Oyster Catcher a couple of thrush and a black-headed gull, I was about to turn in when the lads arrived from the restaurant and up for a drink so I got out the tinnies and we used the trucks flat wing tops as a bar for an hour, Ian even climbed onto my roof to get some more from my stash in the Alu box. It was a calm evening with no wind or drizzle..only dribble as we drank some and chatted some. A fosters nightcap before bed, nice!

Morning was grey but dry and we were ready having had the map briefing, just had to wait while a couple of us topped up with fuel, it’s always good to set off in the morning with a full tank.

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                                                         Tourist transporter

Today was going to be different as we were heading towards some very large lakes and huge sulpher beds..oh and a visit to the rim of a quiet volcano! Cant wait c’mon let roll!

We retraced our tracks back up the river a couple of miles before crossing the river by bridge. All along the river we saw green growth and trees even small clumps of fir and pine I think. we soon turned away and disappeared up and over a ridge. I saw two Gyrefalcon but they were flying away from us so no chance at all to get a photo. A few minutes later whilst following Pete I saw a bird rolling on the floor. I stopped the truck and picked the stunned bird up, it was a snipe and had just flew up from the ground and hit Pete’s truck I put the poor thing in the grass at the side of the road and carried on. This was the second one that Pete had hit. If they would only fly a few metres higher…

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                                      Driving north towards the tarmac.

 

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                                                     Im thinking…Snipe on a stick?

The busy tarmac road was just ahead , we joined it and made the long run down to Myvatin, its one huge lake surrounded by volcano’s with lots of smaller lakes around it. Also surrounding it are five camp-sites and several springs. We saw many folk here all outdoor types interested in the bird-life and geology and the sulphur dips.

(Myvatin is very popular for its health benefits there are high levels of sulphur in the water and so facilities have been built to accommodate people from overseas who want to take the experience as people in our group have done already on tour)

In the mini supermarket I heard quite a few nationalities with many American amongst them. Sat outside sipping coffee for a while watching some pretty damn huge vehicles fuel up was interesting. After the coffee and impromptu  food shop we drove up the hillside a few miles to a spot by the rough air strip with a commanding and quiet view of the lakes to have lunch, we had a bit  of low cloud ahead so the view was a but muted.

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                                                   Myvatin lakes

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                                                                              Brew time.

On towards the sulphur we went! Another lake came into view within the hour but it was smoking and more white smoke was coming out of a factory nearby WTF? Aha Pete enlightened us via the radio, it was a sulphur pond. Maybe this was a run off from the nearby plant was where they were doing what one does with sulphur to harness it? hey were harnessing it. I don’t know but I do know it bloody stinks, stinks of rotten eggs and so much so that Julie stayed in the truck for these few minutes.

 

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                                                        Phwoor! Whos farted?

 

261

                                                          Smelly sulpher pond

 

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“C’mon smile babes” Daz encourages daughter but her body language was quite firmly saying.. “No dad me no likey”!

The pond was a lovely shade of blue but stank of rotten eggs and white steam drifted from it, the liquid dribbled out of the 2 foot pipe from the nearby building, white crusty stuff stuck to the shoreline like dirty wood glue. After a while I did begin to get used to the stink, though I wouldn’t fancy dipping my toes all the same.We needed no encouragement to return to the trucks, fukc me it really did stink!!

Off we went towards clean air and smooth tarmac up the hill we went, cresting the rise to see another scene from another world. It’s a good job the road was very wide and had a gentle turn otherwise….

288

               Sulphur ponds as far as the eye and nose could go!

The view to our right from the downside of the hill was of a vast orange-ness pockmarked by mud puddles, piles of white boulders. and steam clouds drifting across the land. We were looking at a sulphur field and it was called Namafjall Hveranrind.

Parking up at the edge we set out to get a taste of it! The smell was of rotten eggs again and the ground was warm to the touch, it wasn’t sand yet it was orange and red and quite firm to walk on. A thin tape surrounded the deeper mud pools but you could walk anywhere you want,  no ticket office no council walla saying don’t do this don’t do that in fact nothing at all except the thin tape.We all had scrunched up faces to begin with as we savoured the rotten eggs pong which I have to say I soon got used to it.

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3.              Daz peers into the steam, yes his glasses steamed up!

 

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4. The ground was warm to the touch, a sandy surface covered the rock hard…rock! The heat and steam coming up through the cracks and holes was very hot and this was about as close as I was willing to stand. 

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5.                                                Planet Mars…

2696.                                        Not unlike our recent campsite…

2747.                                Wrapped up tourists..it really wasn’t that cold 

2768.                The closest I could get to a bubbling mud pool

2779.                                          Trucks covered in dust and sulphur

Over these past few days we had an electrical problem, the truck would suddenly fail to start, Pete found an earth fault at the new ECU which was sorted by driving with the hand brake up and on the first notch, it wasn’t binding at all and it worked!! At the camp site I was tasked with removing the unit and cleaning the three bolt holes with wire wool. The ECU was fitted below me under the driving seat. This simple but fiddly task seemed to cure that problem. Thanks for your guidance Pete! Later another “niggly” electrical fault showed a few times in one day and was thought to be in the ignition barrel, suspected to be a loose wire. It disappeared on our return to Europe and to full-time smooth tarmac roads and has never occurred again!

Near the end of the first Morocco trip both front doors refused to lock , occasionally the passenger door would pop open! This was just an inconvenience as I was travelling on my own and fit a bungee cord to both doors securing them shut. A week or so after my return to mainland Europe and smoother roads both doors closed properly in fact they now closed and lock more securely than before!

We got back in the trucks and made our way to a nearby volcano, Krafla I think its name was? its was a very muddy walk up to the lip from the trucks. Looking down over the lip we saw a rich green lagoon, the sides of the volcano were loose and steep, I did see one character at the other side making his way down to the edge of the lagoon, fool!

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                                                      The Blue Lagoon inside the volcano

 

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                                       Looking out with the volcano behind us

Time to leave the sulphur to itself now and we began the drive up to  the northern edges. Back over the lip towards the lakes at Myvatin then taking the northern road our parting views of the steaming sulphur was with a group on tour on Icelandic pony’s.

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                                        Not phased by the sulphur fields at all!

 

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                                                             Also on tour!

We took the coast road all the way upto Husavik, here we had a break and a look around the old fishing town, it was quite vibrant with activity of a different kind too these day…Whale Watchers! The harbour was full of fishing boats some had turned to a different trade and took day glo covered tourist out to see looking at whales..hopefully..

294

                           Icelandic fishing trawler now working as a tourist boat

296Whale watchers wrapped up in life preservation kits disembark from a modern RIB craft.

Julie didn’t fancy it at all and I wasn’t that bothered. so we gave it a miss, instead we would have a day off around camp, it was another 2 day stop. Whilst they searched for a good price at the many ticket office’s we had a wander around the harbour front.

299

      Julie spots her first whale even if it was made of wooden off-cuts!

300         Reaction from the team to Julies claim of spotting a whale already..

We left the town with tickets secured for their early morning trip to sea. It was about 40k to the camp-site, we hugged the coastline all the way up the northern edge before turning inland a few miles to land at our destination. We were at the Asberg Cliffs and would be here for a couple of days so plenty of time to do some house tidy and wash some clothes. The late afternoon was pleasant and warm it would be a nice change not to drop the tent and pack up in the morning. after tea we gathered again around the silver 110 to chat and drink the rest of the day away and remember the scenes from today journey.Im not sure we will ever see anything like it in our lives again It was just so incredible to see. We ended this fab day going to bed at midnight in daylight!?!

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            Atlas Overland team relaxing in the early evening sunshine

 

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                                                              The South Coast Boys

We awoke the next morning and folk had gone back to town to catch their whale boat, Pete and Jo had some time to themselves..a rare thing on these trips..  We chilled out did some little jobs and sat around enjoying the blue sky and nice sunshine. I drove to the fuel pump at reception and topped out tank up then called at the trekking centre to see more ponois who were busy grooming after their days work

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                                                      Right there… yes right there!

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Chillaxing Ponio

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The edge of the camp site was quite secure with 100 foot cliffs!

Later on in the day we took a drive down the end of the road to the cliffs which were actually horse shoe shaped, it was like driving into a canyon and had a micro-climate of its own, we left the truck on the car park and strolled through the little forest making our way down to another green and quiet lagoon, it was about 8 acres of another world, a world of green this time! There were walks that disappeared into the thick greenery under a canopy of small trees and shrubs, there wasn’t a sound it was just so tranquil

324                                                      Julie takes a photo 

 

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Pretty flowers and greenery less and here we were than 50 miles from the Arctic Circle. It all seemed a bit bizarre here from what Id imagined.

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352 I just stood and stared sometimes not knowing what to make of what I was looking at! This was at the side of the track and looked just so out-of-place.

Upon our return to camp Pete had been getting worried because we’d been gone for hours! We were so wrapped up in the green garden and thought we had only been gone an hour..it was more like three it seems! We had our last night here and got ready to move on the next day, it had been a rare two-day stop.

Next day we had a run north as time was in hand we would try to get as far north and as close to the Arctic Circle as we could

353

                   A typical fuel station, unmanned and obtained by credit card only

After taking on more fuel we hit the tarmac north heading to the Melrakkasletta Peninsula. We paused at the northern most lighthouse and it was square!

354                 The land was as flat as a fart as we head to the Arctic Cirle

Pete pulled us over, we saw the lighthouse about a mile away and hiked to it along the white and grey boulders, it was a fairly well trodden path, a shallow channel had been walked flat by the never-ending stream of visitors over the years, it seems we weren’t the only people to realise this was the closest point to the Arctic Circle!

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                                       A brisk pace kept the cool sea breeze at bay

 

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Made it!

At the very tip we stood under the working lighthouse with the mother of all names..Hraunhafnartangi! Here we stood less than a mine and a half from the official curved dotted line that read THE ARCTIC CIRCLE. Along practically the whole trek we were attacked by Arctic Tern as we passed close by their nests. We ducked and bobbed but still they attacked, I never actually got a hit but the lad Jo did.

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                                           Another happy moment to remember

 

372                                An Arctic Tern with a nipper in the background

 

369                                                        White wooden flotsam

The shoreline was thick with sea debris, coloured nylon rope,broken green nets and tons of white logs, looking like telegraph poles I walked past this huge pile all along the shoreline there were washed up tree trunks and thick branches too, I have no idea from where they came!

We pushed on around the coastline, stopping briefly in an ex-fishing village looking for a cafe. I think they guys found something belonging to The Bates Motel, I could have sworn it was shut, empty abandoned even! But no it was open. Too late we had broken open the trusty jet-boil and had made a sarni already so sat in the truck as they piled inside the building. This was Raufarhofn a small run down shit-hole of a place, the building were square grey and uninspiring, pretty much Eastern Bloc in appearance nothing seemed open and nobody seemed to live here except the wooly jumper wearing short-haired fat scruffy blonde who sat in the floor to ceiling bay window, an old bloke sat propped up in the bed and another cardigan wearing old girl sat the other side of him, we crawled past their front window twice and we all stared at them and they stared back at us..twice. The brightest thing in the town was our red truck! A couple of grubby work boats sat moored in the harbour but I can say hand on heart the place was fookin dead!

The weather joined the gloomy scene now and closed in on us as we left. We found ourselves on a single shale track that fell away on each side, the cloud or was it a sea fret? smothered us for the next  hour or two as we made our way. There was a gannet colony not far away which would have been great to go see but the visibility was terrible, slowly we drove and intense the driving was too, all the way back down the peninsula, finally it lifted but by now our plan had changed, we returned to the previous camp-site for an unexpected 3rd night. It wasn’t a problem we had a few days up our sleeves for days like this! I slept well this night I can tell you! Tomorrow we would make our way back into the centre of the island and hopefully better weather.