Axlar-Björn is Iceland’s infamous serial killer who would kill and rob the guests that stayed on his farm. The number of people he killed and buried on his land is still unknown. Tonight, I was staying on a sheep farm in the remote area of Borgarfjörður Eystri. There would be no cell signal and the home’s wifi didn’t reach the guest rooms. The nearest village was around a mountain via an unlit dirt road. When I checked in, I learned I am the only guest. Did I just set myself up for horror film infamy?
After awaking in Husavik, I headed straight to the remote Borgarfjörður Eystri on Iceland’s Northeast coast. The drive was mostly on gravel roads and it became clearer how remote my destination was the further I pressed on.
Along my route, I saw a really cool stream and pulled over to photograph it. When I turn to return to the car I see a huge waterfall behind me! I had missed it looking out the right of the car.
But wait, there’s more! Just feet further up the highway was the Yst Í Rjúkandi waterfall.
The scenery changed dramatically from what I had seen in other parts of Iceland as I drove further from the main highway. Homes and buildings were sparser, and villages decreased in size as I continued east.
One thing did remain, beautiful waterfalls on private property.
Suddenly, I stumble across Geirsstadakirkja, a rebuilt church from the Viking era of 930-1262.
Just up the road was this monument. There were no formal signs for it and the engraving was not in English. Even after scouring the internet and Googlemaps for clues or images, I have not been able to identify it. Poor unidentified person with awesome hair and moustache.
Most churches I have seen in Iceland are of a white or beige color, so when I came across a dark colored one I could easily photograph I was sure to snap a pic. This is Kirjubaerkirkja.
I ascended into the fjord mountains and was rewarded with some beautiful scenery.
I passed a lonely cross, Njardvikurkridur. The cross dated back to 1306 and had been renewed over the years, but no one is sure why or by whom. Folklore believes it to be a marking to remember the man who killed Naddi, the half man- half beast creature that made the area impassable.
I can tell you, even without a beast, the road is still not easy to drive being loose dirt on the edge of a dark and deep cliff, but I made it through alive! Here’s a look at the current road conditions. Not fun.
I made it to my sheep farm, Guesthouse Borg-Njardvík, and learned I am the only guest for the evening. I head to my farmhouse, settle in, and head to the secluded beach.
At first, the idea of being the single guest in a private fjord was exciting. Private beach. An entire house to myself. Silence. Awesome!
Video notes: The first building is the barn. The blue roof house with the silver car is my guesthouse. The red roof building to the right is antiquated and vacant.
After exploring the property, I rounded the mountain back to the village for dinner. I found some questionable looking characters that gave me that weird, “hell no, creeper” vibe as I tried to find the restaurant. After enough weird-vibe moments I decided to go to a hotel that had the word “Spa” on their sign, Blabjorg Guesthouse. It looked expensive, but they sounded like my kind of people.
Upon entering the hotel café, a Swiss couple recognized me from a rest stop earlier in the day and invited me to join them for dinner.The gentleman worked for a New Jersey-based company, and spoke excellent English. We talked about documentaries, our itineraries, and world economics. It was nice to have some sophisticated conversation over good warm food.
The sun started to set, and I got some amazing photos on the way back to the fjord.
That creeper vibe from the village was still lingering. Isolation is all fun and relaxing till the darkness and silence leave you with one thing to do: overthink.
Now that it was dark out, the serial killer story I learned on Day 2 reenters my head. Axlar-Björn, an Icelandic farmer, killed all those guests staying on his land. I am the only guest on this remote farm right now. I’m alone and defenseless. There is no cell service. Wifi keeps going in and out in the main room and it doesn’t reach my sleeping room. Um, not cool.
(Wind starts to pick up outside the windows)
Where’s the nearest human? The farmer’s house is up the gravel road, past the barn, and down the center road of the fjord. If I get attacked, running the fjord to the farmer’s house would require some skill in pitch black darkness. “That’s ok,” I tell myself, “I’ll be on adrenaline. I’ll make it” That is, assuming the farmer isn’t the one to kill me. Crap! The farmer has the keys. They can easily sneak in and attack me in the middle of the night! No one knows I’m here except Alan, who is a million miles away, and the farmer… My heart beats faster and faster… OMG. Now the light switch suddenly stops working! AAGHHHHH!
Escape plans. I need escape plans! My options: Running only works if the farmer isn’t involved. Otherwise, I’ll have to drive out of the fjord to get help. If I drive away, I’ll have to navigate that dirt road around the mountain back to the village. The village with weird creepy people. Ugh! There isn’t anyone for at least another hour back out the other way! I pray I’m won’t have to drive with a severe injury. No idea where the nearest hospital is. What’s that noise near the back door??
I hear the noise again…
There are two doors into the farmhouse. One in the front of the main area, and one in the back near the kitchen. If I sleep in my room, I’ll be trapped at the end of the hallway with no way out. The windows don’t open far enough to jump from the second floor. OMG. I’m the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre!!!
I try to talk logic to myself. The odds. The economic consequences for the farmer. The good reviews this place got.
Truth was, the farmhouse was gorgeous and spacious and had great reviews in the guestbook and online. A full kitchen, laundry, excellent living spaces and you can hear the ocean out the windows. It had all been remodeled and updated, but they kept the charming furniture. This place would be amazing if I had someone with me or the time to settle in, I just didn’t.
I took a warm bath trying to resolve my inner conflict. Alan stayed up talking to me via facetime audio till I was ready to fall asleep. I struggled to relax until I couldn’t keep my eye open any longer. It took hours… I finally fall asleep.
Then a noise wakes me up… twice.
Back to sleep. Again.
I awake.. alive. Sunlight? I’M ALIVE!!
The farmhouse during the daytime:
The rising sun woke me and I shuffled out to the kitchen to find the housekeeper, making me breakfast. Once my feast was set up, she pulled out her guitar and began singing.
Here is Freyja singing an Icelandic poem to an American melody:
Freyja singing an Icelandic poem to an Icelandic melody.
The Icelandic people are naturally gifted when it comes to the arts, particularly singing and poetry. I had a tour guide on my previous trip sing to us in the historic Skáholt. Now, I was lucky to have a housekeeper share her gift.
My 2016 tour guide singing an Icelandic lullaby at Skáholt:
In between songs, Freyja told me about the poems and their meaning. She enjoyed poems about nature and had selected one about a brother and sister enjoying the magic of an Icelandic spring, and another about experiencing the midnight sun.
Speaking with Freyja was like speaking to my best friend. We just clicked and learned a lot from one another. She shared the life of sheep farming with me, and the challenge that the village children were often not around anymore to assist with the sheep due to seeking out higher education in the cities. The village population, including the nearby farms, was declining down to about 80 people. Only 5 children were currently in the schoolhouse. The annual sheep gathering would be happening in the following weeks. It was a shame I couldn’t be around to experience it. She made it all sound interesting and a testament to true community.
After covering a variety of topics, Freyja walked me through the Icelandic characters and helped me with my pronunciations. She also pointed out where the largest forest in the country was so I could add it to my itinerary. I could have spent the entire day learning from her, but alas, I had to hit the road.
I gathered my things, loaded up the car and drove back through the mountains. Here’s a video I captured looking back into the fjord and farm from the mountains.
What had started as a remote and scary destination ultimately was a beautiful and charming experience. I felt lighthearted and peaceful as I repeated one of Freyja’s songs in my head for the journey on south… I was also ecstatic to be alive. Onward!