Fog



We've been away traveling quite a bit, and just got back into 101 from Seyðisfjörður, an absolute gem of a town with stunning waterfalls and craggy, intrepid mountains everywhere you look. We tented again and this time enjoyed warm, sunny and windless skies, which was welcomed after the dreary stuff we've had to accept in the capital region this summer (to be fair, of course, we are in the North Atlantic, just under the Arctic Circle, and this place is called Iceland...why do the locals always complain about the weather?)

On the day I took this shot, though, a thick fog settled into the valley and dropped rain, which meant a good opportunity to don our rain boots and go adventuring along the north side of the fjörður (fjord.) It's an especially quiet and eerie place, populated only by animals (as far as we could see) who seemed to literally own the land. The horses that came up to greet us seemed to be scrutinizing us for the whole herd, eventually giving us a green light to move along. Sheep were especially lazy about getting off of the road, and there was even a bit of trouble with a gaggle of calico-styled geese determined not to let us pass.

This house in particular was home to a peculiar pair of geese, chocolate brown in color with white throats (you can see one on the right-hand side of the photo.) I saw them from the road and couldn't figure out what kind of bird they were...too dark to be geese, but too big to be ducks. I fancied that maybe I'd discovered long-lost living members of the extinct Dodo bird, or Great Auk, family, and that Iceland could now be redeemed for having killed off the last of that grand, harmless species. I got out of the car, and once again got the feeling that I should have called ahead to announce my intended visit: the birds seemed non-plussed with me, and even a bit irritated at my trespass on to their property. But up close I saw that they were definitely geese, and that they seemed to guard over a family of the classic-grey variety. I asked to take a few photos, then politely said my goodbyes and moved along...










Vík



We camped at Vík í Mýrdal last week, my son and I. I always have a tent and blankets and basic supplies in the trunk of my car so we can skip out of town with a moment's notice if the weather looks good, and last week, though it rained and rained in Reykjavik, the sun shown down on the south coast.

I had intended to put down stakes in Skógafoss but an evening's chilly wind had come up and the camping ground there is pretty unprotected. Plus it smelled like someone had just fertilized the whole region. So we jumped back into the car and zipped over to Vík, where we were lucky enough to find this excellent spot right next to a pyramid-shaped rock, which conveniently had a large metal loop driven into it that I used to anchor our tent (if you look closely you can see the line between them.)  Yes, we escaped the smell, but here it was even windier, and the chill had turned to nighttime cold. It hardly bothered us, though, because we were out in nature, on an adventure, just the two of us!

Near midnight Óðinn climbed our rock and I snapped this shot. Soon we snuggled into our little blue home and got cozy, ready for rest. With nesting gulls on the little cliff above us, a gurgling nearby child-sized waterfall, and the crunched-plastic sound the wind made with our tent, it was hard, though, to finally get to sleep. It sounded like elves or spooks were trying to get into our tent the way the wind was whipping it around, and I realized that I was a bit scared! When I thought back to all the nights I've spent in tents out in the total wilds of the Sierra Nevada, where it's pitch-black outside and bears roam (and you'd better be damned sure you don't even have a bite of food in your tent or they'll come in and get it!) I laughed at my fear. The worst thing that could happen to us here was to maybe have a midge trapped inside our tent with us, or to have to listen to some late-night drunken singing from some other campers. I smiled at that, the sense of safety I feel here in Iceland, and soon fell fast asleep : )



 

Sky



I just love this photo! I snapped it today out at Nauthólsvík, the white-sand beach here in Reykjavík  (btw, read the post in that last link for a good journey down memory lane - I wrote it in 2007 about how amazing Iceland's economic growth was, and how much we deserved it! Haha!) which sits just below Perlan and the Öskjuhlíð forest (here's a good article from the Grapevine about this area.).  A group of pre-schoolers were on a field trip to the beach, and this little dude was spreading his towel out at the top of the hillock above where we sat.

It ended up getting a bit chilly when the high, grey clouds from the east floated in front of the sun, but until then the 14°C temp kept me, at least, pretty happy. As always, I recommend visiting this outdoor marvel, especially if traveling here with kids (hint: there's a constructed hot pool on site for parents to relax and warm in ; )

June Sun



11:30pm last Thursday night, looking down Skólavörðurstígur. Lovely!

Jökulsárlón



I think this pic is so charming and silly somehow. The carboat was filled up with people and just waiting there on dry land. It reminds me of a photo I took years ago at Hljómskálagarður, the park by the town lake (interesting historical info at that link, btw.) All prepped up in their safety vests, the mighty seafarers of the glacial lagoon get set for their adventure...

Like I mentioned on the Facebook page, the lagoon was very filled up with small bergs when we went there the weekend before last. The woman in the shop said that they usually have a safety boat that cruises out into the lagoon with these bigger ones to rescue any unlucky visitors who go overboard, but that there just wasn't room for two boats at once, as was. I didn't ask, and couldn't find anything in a cursory search, so I don't know if the size and quantity of the bergs are because it's early in the warmer season, or due to retreating glaciation. I'll try to dig up more on that, but in the meantime, you can read the Wikipedia entry (which someone should edit...) for this natural wonder The lagoon is getting bigger with glacial retreat, and deeper as well.

Regardless, it's still pretty easy to get a good photo, even with a goofy pink compact camera like mine, and without the towering chunks of glacier that sometimes command over the lagoon. And if you're lucky you'll find a large chunk of millennia-old ice floating by the shore that you and your son can pretend is an inter-dimensional crystal from a watery planet far far away...




Stockfish



On our drive south to Krýsuvík and Grindavík last week we passed by a forest of fish-drying stocks, and decided to stop for a closer look. Planted there in the middle of a lava field, the sight of all those low-tech A-frames hung with thousands of cod carcasses is somehow primitive and reminiscent of a simpler time.

I’ve seen these racks before, so I initially stopped to show eight year-old Óðinn but ended up mesmerized by the bright green grass and the thin layer of chartreuse moss covering the wooden poles, and how the sunlight danced over the whole scene. Out of curiosity I googled ‘dried fish heads iceland’ and discovered that we export most of the stuff to Nigeria as one of their major sources of protein. We're not the only country to do so, as you can read about in this interesting interview with a Scottish exporter, but we seem to be at the top of the field.

While I was researching, I ran across a heartwarming story of an Icelandic exporter, Salka - Norfish Ltd, that donates money to an eye center in Nigeria to fund cataract surgery for locals. But then I also discovered a more sinister angle to the business, as detailed in a harch 2011 article in the Nigerian Ships & Ports media outlet about foul dealings on the part of Icelandic exporters, including: "Mixing of orders or types of stockfish unilaterally without refund...Non-performance of agreed contract terms...Non-delivery of consignment after payment/shipment (evidenced by bill of lading) ...Fraud... Use of unseaworthy containers, allowing rain and sea water to soak consignments...Average 50-kilogramme, fish head bag less 26 30 kilogrammes sent on many occasions..." and more.

My first thought on reading this was, of course. My second thought was, maybe it's fair karma for all the Nigerian phone and email scams we've been inundated with here in Iceland. If you've been reading my blog for a while, though, you'll know that I'm under no delusion that my countrymen and women are above a common swindle or two. As a matter of fact, I believe that duplicitousness is part of our opportunistic national character, nurtured by the need to survive in historically harsh conditions. You do what you have to do to make it through the winter, right? And especially on an arctic island that seems to be one big very active volcano.

A little more research gave me this article on a British man who was arrested by Interpol for having defrauded tons of money from Nigerian importers of Icelandic stockfish. In the end greed truly is an international state of mind...
 

Krýsuvík



We took a drive out to Krýsuvík today, only about 25 kilometers from the western end of Hafnarfjörður. The day was gorgeous, and aside from a few tourists poking around, we had the place to ourselves. Follow the links to read more about this dramatic patch of Iceland, so close to the capital.

 This hotspot is just south of Kleifarvatn, a lake which is not only mysteriously disappearing, but is said to be the home of a huge serpent-like creature that surfaces regularly. So far, though, none of the available dive excursions have reported running into the beast, but from what I can see in the video on this site, it looks like a pretty awesome underwater adventure anyway.

(I just want to add that when signs ask us to stay on the walking paths, we really should. There are ugly footprints tramped into the sulfur muds at Krýsuvík - as I posted on the Fb page - and who knows if they'll just wash away with the next rains. I suspect, though, that it's locals who've dissed the  request to respect, only because I've seen it often with my own eyes...)
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