Here we are in the West Fjords. Isafjordur is the largest city with a population of 2475. It is also larger than all the other towns in the West Fjords combined. We got here last night and will stay through until tomorrow, when we will head back down towards Reykjavik, stopping near Tingvellir National Park for Friday’s snorkeling session.
Ironic really, I am a Taurus and also born in the Chinese year of the ox so really double earth bull, right? But I have such an affection for water. Iceland is known for it’s really lovely geothermal pools and springs. Which I have been enjoying and Friday I will be snorkeling in a dry suit at Silfra where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Well, today, I had the chance to sample another kind of water experience on this island. Eliza made the choice of calm water sea kayaking so at 930 we made our way down to the tour guide’s office. Other people had cancelled so the guide hadn’t expected to go out. However, after checking the weather and suggesting we come back in 45 minutes, he would be happy to take us out.
In the basement, we put on several layers of gear and I hesitated over whether or not to bring my camera. I decided not to. Carrying our paddles, we walked out to the harbor. I’m chatting up a storm with our guide, probably because I was a little nervous about this experience. I have been kayaking before but that was off Alki in West Seattle. After getting down the kayaks and make repeated references about how we were not going to get wet today, we were off into the cold waters of Isafjordur Harbour. Wouldn’t you know it? I made it out to the corner of the dock and splash. Yep, I capsized. Recalling the safety drill, I pulled myself up onto my kayak and waited for the guide. Eliza was already off around the corner. Taking quick stock of the fact that I was completely soaked and how cold the water was, I decided that it would be best for me to skip the rest of the adventure. If you have never been rescued by a kayak, here’s how it goes. You move to the front of your rescue kayak and grab on to the nose. Then you pull your legs up out of the water and clutch around the bow and put your head back while you get paddled in. Conversation is optional. Eventually, the water gets shallow enough and you let go. And then you wait while the guide goes back out to corral your kayak, paddle and one neoprene boot.
You put your gear up and you walk from the harbor back through town squishing all the way. In theory, I should have walked all the way back to our lodging and not taken off my wet gear until there. But there was no way I was walking all the way uphill in all the layers. I stopped at the tour office and wrestled myself out of my not so waterproof gear and braced myself for the windy walk up the hill, leaving puddles of water in my wake. I am sure that I provided entertainment for the residents I passed. But politely, no one laughed out loud!
After hanging my wet clothing out to freeze dry, I got under a hot shower and drank a big mug of tea. I congratulated myself on not carrying anything on my person other than the Fitbit – which did just fine with the dunking. Two things I realized today – shit happens and hey, I gave it a try.
Once I was back to my normal temperature, I went back down into town to take pictures and meet them as they came back. Apparently, they saw seals and had a good paddle until the wind began to kick up. We had a good lunch in their little café and got to ask more questions about Iceland.
I have decided that the types of water experiences I prefer are the ones that you are supposed to be immersed in, instead of just trying to keep your balance so you don’t get immersed. 😉
Yesterday, before the ferry over here, we drove around the peninsula and I got to drive out over the lava fields and test the 4WD capabilities as we headed to the gold sands beach, the volcano crater and the bright orange lighthouse that seems to be at the end of the world. We also drove around the massive glacier that inspired Jules Verne. There are only 300K people in Iceland and 200K of them live in Reykjavik. You really feel that as you drive around.
Iceland is meticulous about documenting its history. At one particularly beautiful overlook, where I took photos galore, it was the site of the farm of Iceland’s first known serial killer. He apparently couldn’t resist the temp
tation to do away with travelers that came to his farm seeking shelter. He only admitted to 9 killings but 18 are suspected. He was executed in 1555. I find this amazing for a couple of reasons. In a land with so few people, it would seem that the documentation of history becomes even more important. For example, they have records of his trial and his victims. In case you are wondering, he was caught because one of his intended victims escaped. The second thing that makes it so interesting is that there is still a farm on the site today. Here in Iceland, it seems that once a farm is sited somewhere, it stays there. It may change building and type of farm over the centuries but it remains a farm. And this guy’s farm is still there, being farmed by someone more hospitable to travelers!
I saw this also in the Saga Settlement House. It covers the history of Iceland from 800 forward. This is something they have documentation over, which is fascinating. I am curious too now to read the sagas. Of course, I will not be reading them in Icelandic which is language that seems to use all the letters of the alphabet and a few extra.
When we came off the ferry yesterday, we took one of the mountain roads which was 120 kilometers through some amazing fjords, waterfalls and high peaks. It is gravel all the way and one lane. Oh, and there are no guard rails anywhere. Earlier on the peninsula I had seen one of these roads and congratulated myself on the fact that we were far too sensible to ever take one of those roads, even with a 4WD. HAH. Not 5 hours later, we were on one. I got some amazing pictures of the sun setting over the fjords. And we stopped to check the water temperature of the little ponds and lakes. Let’s say, I thought that was the coldest water I was going to experience in Iceland 😉
This has been fun even if not super relaxing! I am sort of in hybrid American travel mode because there really is so much to see. However, with my goal to soak twice more in two different hot springs, I feel that I am doing a good job trying to relax!