Iceland Ring Road: craters and a modern church

After visiting the lighthouse in Akranes we continued on the Ring Road (R1) through farm land. At Bogarnes we had some views over the fjord.
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Icelandic horses and sheep were grazing in the fields which is most unusual in February. We also saw some Greylag and Pink-Footed Geese that had not migrated. Heading north, we left the farmland behind and drove into the northern hills and lava fields. The only native tree in Iceland is the Downy Birch (Betula pubescens). It has a maximum height of 2 metres and most of the trees we saw were considerably shorter. This has given rise to the saying that if you get lost in an Icelandic wood, stand up. Juniperus communis also grows on the lava fields with succulents. There are other trees in the country which have all been imported. 33 km beyond Bogarnes are the Grabok Craters. They are a National Monument and there is a stepped path up to the rim of one crater which you can walk around and also a path between them.
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Running alongside R1 are some remnants of the old road and its bridges. Some are painted (we passed a blue one) and our guide told us that an artist had asked the authorities if she could paint the bridges. They agreed, assuming that she intended to paint pictures of them. She actually painted the bridges blue, purple and yellow. We continued into a valley between mountain ranges which reminded me of driving north to Wyoming between the Rockies and the Medicine Bow Mountains last summer in upland prairies. This is a road with numerous landscape photography possibilities but very few places to safely stop a vehicle. Tourism has mushroomed in Iceland and some thoughtless tourists have irritated the locals by stopping anywhere, blocking roads and one-lane bridges.

In Blönduós, there is a modern church designed by Dr. Maggi Jónsson to resemble an erupting volcano which was consecrated in 1993. It is unusual as most churches in Iceland are older or built in a traditional style.
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Continuing along the road we found ourselves in Öxnaladur, a 540m hanging valley where the snow was melting. Again, this is unusual in February. There used to be farms here but the communities were moved to the coastal towns. Our guide pointed out the almost invisible remains of farms, homes and a tavern which being made of turf, have decayed. Some of their descendants have summer houses in the valley.
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We were also told about the pressure and tensions as schools in towns place on people in rural communities who prefer to attend their local schools even if they are only just outside the town. All too soon we arrived at our hotel in Akureyi.

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