If you read about the places to visit in Iceland, you will hear about the bird cliffs at Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Europe (if you except some of the lesser-populated Azores Islands far to the south). Some nine miles in length, the cliffs average over 1,300 feet in height.
It was not easy to get to Látrabjarg using public transportation. Three times a week, a Sterna bus left Isafjördur at 9 a.m., returning twelve hours later. More than half the trip was over bumpy volcanic cinder roads between Þhingeyri and Brianslækur and between Patreksfjördur and Látrabjarg. Along the way, it stopped twice for the arriving Baldur ferry from Stykkisholmur and Flatey. I knew it would be a bear, but I took the bus a week ago today.
Some days in Iceland are beautiful and clear. Last Saturday was not. As the bus parked at the foot of the cliffs, we all learned we had a mile to hike to the top. A gale-force wind was blowing with light rain, from east to west. As I climbed the trail to the top, I felt the wind tugging me toward the edge.
Twice, I was blown down by strong gusts—each time distressingly close to a plunge to my death over the cliffs. (It happened once last year to a German backpacker.) To protect myself, I dropped down, being unable to make any forward motion in the wind.
Eventually, I made my way back to the bus. The Icelandic driver obligingly let me in an hour before the rendezvous time and informed me that it was like this about half the time. Other times, it was beautiful; and the cliffs abounded with puffins and razorbills. Today, the birds knew better than to try to fly into the teeth of the wind.
Do I regret the trip? Was it a wasted day? By no means: I saw parts of the West Fjords that—in an entirely different sense of the word—took my breath away. And I got to see the wedding-cake-like Dynjandi Falls twice. Just for the record, here is my best photograph of it:
In all, I saw the falls three times. It was worth it. Sure I got tired out. When we rolled back into Isafjördur around 9 p.m., I stumbled into the nearby N1 Gas Station and ordered a pylsur (that’s hot dog to you) and skyr. Then I somehow tottered over to the Gamla Hostel across the street and fell into a deep sleep.