Friday, August 1, 2014

I'll be back!


Next trip to Iceland:

Christmas 2014 at the latest
Meanwhile, my blog is currently being updated from my summer trip. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

LOKAÐ


The weather is fairly dismal and grey, about 8°C and I’m not feeling well with a fever and some kind of stomach bug, but I decide to go through with the planned first outdoor adventure today. The plan is to hike across the old road to Flateyri to visit my friend Angela who lives 6 km before Flateyri. It would be a very long hike of at least 25 km, but all on the old road so I don’t expect any real problems. I drove up the old road a few kilometers on my bike last summer before getting a flat tire. It seemed harmless enough at the time.

I have to force myself to eat some breakfast, then head out to hitchhike the first 4 km to Bónus to shave some distance off the hike. Despite my beautifully hand-crafted “Bónus” sign, my big, friendly smile and dancing roadside antics, it takes quite a while for someone to pick me up. Lo and behold, it’s an acquaintance of mine, Eggert, with a big van and plenty of room for my pack. The first few kilometers are fairly easy, although the steady uphill climb slowly takes its toll. The weather turns from dismal to miserable. It’s a steady, relentless rain, and the clouds are so thick that I can barely see the road in front of me. The temperature drops with each step up closer to the clouds, and the roadside is packed with snow. I need to take breaks but it’s too cold and wet to sit for any length of time. Soon my back is in excruciating pain where I slipped the disc a couple years ago. My fever is burning and I have no appetite, and it’s too cold to drink mountain stream water.

Soon a large rock appears in the road with the word “lokað” painted on it. The road is closed. Wow, this thought never crossed my mind. This old road to Flateyri isn’t on the maps anymore, and certainly not on the Icelandic road association map of open/closed roads. The winter was long and harsh this year, with heavy snow just beginning to melt. With good visibility, it wouldn’t be a problem hiking over the snow fields, but this is unfamiliar territory and I have to desire to hike blindly by GPS. Add to that my back pain and fever, and I’ve now got a good excuse to abort the hike and head back home.

I turn back and thoughts of a warm couch and hot shower give me new motivation. As I reach lower elevations, the weather improves and I take a few long breaks, having to really motivate myself to get up again and not just sleep for hours in the grass. After a total of about 15 km, I finally reach civilization again, stick out my hitchhiking thumb and am soon picked up by Haukur, another acquaintance. Ísafjörður is such a small town and it’s hard to be out and about without seeing someone I know.

Back home, I crash on the couch with a cup of hot tea and pretty much stay there for the next 48 hours, dozing in and out of consciousness. I only move to take an extremely long, hot shower and eventually go to bed. I now have evil stomach pains and diarrhea, but after two days the fever breaks and I rapidly improve. The back pain stays on, and I know already that I am finished with heavy backpacking forever.





Friday, June 27, 2014

Lupine Súpuman


After arriving back in town yesterday with a smooth flight, I take a nice walk today into Tungudalur. The lupines are in full bloom and very pretty.
The bushes and grass are full of birds, happy yet aggressively protecting their eggs and chicks. The trees are mostly heavily damaged, probably from the harsh winter. I noticed this in May and wasn’t sure if they would recover, and they never did. 

Large sections of each tree are brown, certainly not due to a lack of rain. Many are bent and broken at odd angles, surely a result of the heavy snow weighing down on them.


By the way, I’ve always wanted to photograph the graffiti of Súpuman with his killer hot soup and wire whisk, so here it is!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Biking and clamming


Last Sunday I took a long bike ride although it was only 2°C (35°C). I underestimate the wind chill and don’t have proper gloves on, so the ride is quite cold. I ride into Engidalur, past the cemetery and well into the valley to the power plant. I park at the power plant and settle in the hay for some hot tea from my thermos. Around me there is still plenty of snow, but the grassy spot I’ve picked is warm and dry, but the sound of rushing water from the nearby river put chills through my bones.

Another day I see a boy on the beach in my backyard at low tide digging with a shovel. I wonder if he is digging for clams, and if he’s finding any. Later I read up on catching clams and learn that an ultra-low full moon or a new moon tide is best for clam digging. I watch videos on how to spot clams and dig for them. I am most certainly going to try this out one day!



Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring fever


The daily routine has set in and I quite like it. In the early afternoon I go out for a 2-hour walk everyday with Angela. The snow is melting fast revealing lots of damaged trees. I wonder if they will recover completely. Some are just brown on the tips while others are bent and broken from the heavy snow masses pushing on them. Trees are scarce in Iceland anyway. It would be a shame if these were permanently damaged. 


Occasionally we see a ptarmigan – or hear it. They make a loud belching noise. They’re still white, clinging to the memories of the fast-melting snow. Other birds abound and wander around in pairs, looking for good nesting spots. The rivers run thick and fast with meltwater and landscapes are swampy. Spring thaw is here and the new life of spring is winning the battle, pushing its way to the surface. One can literally see the grass grow. It all happens so fast, as spring and summer are so short in this Arctic region.

Later in the evening I enjoy a walk on the beach or ride my bike through town, or get some chores done in the house, painting and caulking windows, getting them ready for the next winter that’s just around the corner. Daylight hours are long and when the sky is cloudless, it never really gets dark. Everyone is outside making the most of the short summer. The locals are cheery and talkative and the first tourists arrive. After a long winter, I once again hear foreign languages spoken and see people out and about with cameras. Soon the first cruise ship will arrive.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

Orange sunrise brings rain


There’s such a beautiful sunrise at 4:30 am. It’s like my body knows when to wake up to see these things. I don’t even have to get out of bed – I just open one eye, and can see the sunrise over the ocean right from my bed. (I do get up to take a picture though)

Despite the pretty colors this morning, clouds roll in fairly quickly and it rains all morning until early afternoon. I take the opportunity for more house chores – painting and caulking windows. There’s always something to fix inside an old house but I enjoy doing it.

The rain clears by 2pm and after a late lunch, I head out to partly sunny skies for a walk to the next village of Hnífsdalur (9km round trip). I examine the cemetery and a few other landmarks before heading back.  


Saturday, May 3, 2014

More of the same and not bored yet



Another beautiful sunny day. Took a morning bike ride with a friend, rode along the old road to Bolungarvík (Óshlíð) again until just before the first tunnels, where there is a nice spot of a lunch break in the sun.

Later in the day I went out again, heading for the old road to Flateyri, where I got a flat tire last summer. Stopped at the parking area overlooking town, and since the picnic bench was in the sun, I stayed there for a long time soaking up the rays. Once off onto the old road, I found a secluded dry spot, in the sun of course, and stashed my bike. But not before sitting in the sun for a long time first! Then I hiked up the road a bit and off into the hills beside it. The ground is still quite soggy, with snow in places. It’s too early in the year for any off-course hiking. Back at my bike, I took out a book and the thermos of tea and stayed until I began to get cold.

There’s a beautiful sunset this evening at 11pm. There are 8 people (and a dog) in my backyard taking pictures of it. I am so grateful for having this view out my window, and not having to go outside for beautiful pictures. Just as I settle into bed with a book, I hear fireworks and run to the window. I later read that the fireworks were to celebrate some kind of youth handball tournament here this weekend.