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Iceland Through and Through PART SEVEN

The long road back to Reykjavik

The long road back to Reykjavik

Back to again to whence we came...

Saying Goodbye to Iceland is always a challenge. This time I had I lost My Everything skirt, a physical symbol of my past traveling adventures that I was able to drape over me, protecting me anytime at my most naked, and vulnerable moments of real and imaginary shiveries; now it was time for me to lose my footing on this place too. I always find a real connection here. This time I was with my longtime friends and together we'd experienced water droplets transforming into powerful landmarks, and towns that acknowledge sea monsters and believers in fairies. Even though I had amusedly pointed to an Interesting dot on a map which had kick-started our journey, being here was familiar, like being embraced by a soft, crinkly granny; somehow with every touch, every blink, I felt unspoken wisdom, recognition and safety. Here we felt free and protected by the many unseeing eyes that exist within the cliffs. All this confusion and happisadness still makes my mouth croak a laugh. I had fantasized about this place, yet in all its ancient apethetic-ness, Bildudalur, THE WESTFJORDS!!! and The Most Powerful Waterfall were all very real, very tangible. Somehow my imagination had woven me into the fabric of this land, and my feet on the ground made it real, made it just so. So if I never saw this place or my silly wrap-around skirt again, I imagine everything would be okay...

We spent our final day in the eclectic city centre of Reykjavik.

Main street

Main street

Where bright colours surround you, people are dressed-up like walking thrift stores, and the buildings are crafted like modern art exhibits, this city is designed to inspire. We got our first horizontal sleep in an industrial loft-style hostel and I felt my body melt into the fluffy sheets; how could this not be my home?

Reykjavik sidewalk
Reykjavik sidewalk

Most things in life just don't make any sense, but the questions don't pour out of me until I'm a safe distance away. As soon as I'm on the road I am free to challenge the silliness of my daily routine, and the customs I just take for granted back home in the society that forged me. Maybe that's the reason I just can't settle down; I need to keep challenging the norms and not be afraid to find out that so much of life is random, mysterious, and complex. But if I can piece together the strings of randomness, like Maxine Ferryboat, The Most Powerful Waterfall, the disappearance of My Everything, and that Interesting Place, then no matter what I always have a story, like a string of light bulbs hanging over me.

Finding hanging lights
Finding hanging lights

I can't speak for my two companions, but here is a short list of all the things I have learned from Iceland:

  • Sea monsters and fairies exist
  • Driving standard (well, driving in general) is a good skill to have (so I should probably get my licence!)
  • Tropical tents are not practical here for the frigid nights
  • When sleeping in a car, always park diagonally on a small hill for extra neck and back support
  • Geothermal baths are the greatest gift on Earth
  • Skyr is better than ice cream and greek yogurt combined
  • Don't walk alone on a glacier because of the howling sled dogs!
  • Be prepared to have at least one spiritual epiphany
  • Keep your bathing suits and wrap-around skirts locked up between uses
  • Takk-Skyr (Thank you-Yogurt) is a better swimming pool game than Marco-Polo
  • Being naked is the best, most-stylish outfit so don't be afraid to show yours off
  • There are many towns called Reykholt so make sure your GPS is Icelandic, not named Karen and from Australian
  • People will point and laugh at you, no matter what
  • Doing Tarot readings at the local pubs will cause the Bartenders to take photos of you
  • Always go to the Interesting Places, even if you have no idea where exactly they are located
  • Visit the WESTFJORDS!!!
  • Feel free to transform at any moment; nothing is permanent so just let go!
Painted tree
Painted tree
Final skyr devouring!
Final skyr devouring!

Never have I been to such a friendly, open and peaceful society. We will be thinking of you and all our adventures for centuries to come.

Takk fyrir Iceland!

Icelandic Pride
Icelandic Pride

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Iceland Through and Through PART SIX

The Mystery of the Vanishing Bikini and Wrap-Around Skirt PART TWO

WANTED:

Cool California Bikini
Cool California Bikini

REWARD: 10 Ghana Cedis, 1 chicken and 3 soft mangoes (Marriages proposals of any kind are not accepted)

RECAP: Madison, Amy and Bibi, the three innocent tourists traveling, sometimes quite uncomfortably, through the Icelandic WESTFJORDS!!! awoke to find themselves thrust into the middle of an international kidnapping crime. So the three tourists turned freelance detectives, not knowing the Icelandic equivalent for 9-1-1, decided to investigate the mystery of their missing itemson their own. After having an Interesting day walking about and getting up-close-and-personal with hundreds of puffins, they were hot on the trail once again. We last left the three tourist-detectives at the ferry docks, waiting for the WC/loo/bathroom, when they came face-to-face with the accused: The Grumpy-Thieving-Adventure-Type-Tourists who were armed with a clever homemade clothes-line that conveniently set-up in the backseat of their SUV, perfect for off-roading in Iceland's rocky terrain! Will the three tourists-detectives help fight Iceland's war on the under 1% tourist theft rate and get their beach wear back? Unless you have an appointment with your Facebook newsfeed, keep reading to find out...

Map of THE WESTFJORDS!!!
Map of THE WESTFJORDS!!!

The Accused Couple was nowhere in sight now. They can run, we cackled, but on a tiny ferry no one can hide! Giddy with crime-chase adrenaline, we dispersed among the sheep to snap a few more final photos of the Beloved WESTFORDS!!! The cool breeze nipped my sides, already whispering goodbye to us.

IMG_3663
IMG_3663

I wiped the tear from my lip and dashed back to meet the others at our 1999 Toyota Avensis, now officially part of our broken-road family. Madison and Amy were ready to heist it on to the ferry, Italian-Job-style. But there was already a complicated queue of cars trying to figure out which of the three lanes they should be in, in order to correctly load onto the ferry without the confusing ferry people gesturing wildly in angry Icelandic sign language. One lane seemed to be for sheep trucks and potato carts, the other for non-potato carrying vehicles, but the last lane didn't seem to have a purpose. We were definitely non-sheep and non-potato, but the last unidentified lane was much less empty than the well-marked potato-free lane. Maybe the final lane was for emergency, police, and freelance-crime fighting vehicles, in which case we could qualify! We quickly scanned the chaos for glimpses of the burly Grumpy-Tourist SUV, but it was nowhere to be found; they had probably smuggled themselves aboard already. People were honking at us! We had to make a decision or we'd be in danger of Icelandic hand gesturing aimed directly at us. We swerved to the empty-unknown lane and inched up to the front. No gesturing, no more honking; we breathed a sigh of relief and decided to formulate our plan of attack. If only we could find their car...

Hey, there's another one of those Clever Clotheslines! exclaimed Madison suddenly. Maybe there's a shop we can actually buy them at! She was pointing at the burly green SUV right next to us. Nooooo! we all gasped collectively as we realized there wasn't a backseat-clothesline fad taking over the island, but that we were now wheel-to-worn-out-wheel with The Accused. From the casual conversation they appeared to be deeply engaged in, they seemed not to have noticed us yet, nor were paying close attention to the Icelandic road signals. Back in our Toyota, we crouched down low and stared straight ahead, not wanting to give away our advantaged position in the Emergency Vehicle Lane. Huddled in the backseat, I scanned their Clever Clothesline and back cargo-area for signs of our possessions. There definitely was evidence of a struggle; their packs looked hastily packed, as though they'd been unpacked and repacked several times in a very short period of time. And for two Adventure-Type-Tourists on the move that was definitely suspicious behaviour! I was stone frozen except for my eyes scanning for rainbow material that could be poking out of their mess. It still wasn't time to board, but at any moment we might be forced to hit the gas pedal!

At the same we moment, us three tourist-detectives, all glanced back to the front seat of the SUV. AHHHHH! we heaved in unison. The thieving-tourists were starring right at us! There easy demeanour melted away instantly. If there was any doubting their obvious guilt, their eyes, more frigid than the sea monstered-loch, cut us with razor-sharp enmity. With my echoing blood spurting in my ears, the Australian driver pushed her seat all the way back, blocking her from view. Icelandic hand gestures were distantly whirring and directing us again so with a slam to the gas pedal, the world jerked out of slow motion.

The lanes were all moving now, one by one. No longer neck and neck, we could digest that moment of shock. They obviously didn't want us to see them, Madison said, gripping the wheel. We are going to have to be careful from now on, Amy warned. They know, we know, that they know. I concluded, feeling just like Pheobe on FRIENDS. More confusing Icelandic gesturing and we were forced out of the car, to continue loading on the ferry on foot. We scrounged around the Toyota, scrambling all the important detective items we'd need to complete the Interrogation Mission. Laptop. Pens and Paper. MAD LIBS. Bread and peanut butter. Malian turbans. It was going to be a long, windy and dangerous ride...

Scene of the Interrogation
Scene of the Interrogation

Once on the ferry, feeling the engines hum under our feet, the next series of events could not have gone more smoothly for us recently turned tourist-detectives.

1) All tourists no matter how much they are running or how much they need to hide, are subject to Icelandic ferry code, meaning we all had to park in the same designated Icelandic ferry parking area. No one is allowed to enter or exit the designated area while the Icelandic ferry is in motion...or else! Both our 1999 Toyota Avensis and their burly SUV were, once again united.

2) All tourists no matter how guilty from thieving or distraught from having lost, can resist going up to the outdoor deck to snap photos as the THE WESTFJORDS!!! slowly melt away into the horizon. We were all united once again.

3) All tourists no matter how professional they are in their detective mission or how professional they are from a career of kidnapping, can resist having a top-deck open-air picnic, dining on volcanic bread and organic sheep skyr. We were all united once again. From the comfort of our bench on the top deck, we decided to corner our prey. As we spread our peanut butter and crunched our bread, we smiled giddily. Every few heart beats all of our eye would lock for a few long breaths. Our nerves straining to support our forced euphoria. Isn't this such a stunning ferry boat?!...Oh! I couldn't agree more!...Don't you just looooove this peanut butter?!...Yes, crunchy is sooooo much better than smooth! HAHAHAHAHA!

I could tell they were having the same struggle: trying to mask their grumpy guilt with equally-forced apathy. They didn't talk very much between their glances over at us. They chit-chatted quietly for a while. Finally, in between our hysterical giggles, I could make out I'm chilly, let's go back downstairs. And the next thing we knew, they had collected their (or maybe stolen) picnic items and were disappearing down the unsteady steps.

COME ON!!! Madison and I were on our feet after them!

Once back below deck, feeling the adrenaline hum in our bodies, the next series of events unfolded somewhat like this...

1) The small ferry actually had quite a lot of space to move around...and hide. We decided to grab a table to store our peanut butter and set-up a home base for the investigation. I mean imagine how silly we'd look running around the boat, wrapped-up in our Malian turbans, carrying left-over picnic food; what kind of detectives are we?! So we found a quiet set up benches, near the gift shop. The young, blonde cashier was fast asleep with his feet up on the counter; perfect.

2) Amy, not having had a horizontal night's sleep in ages, decided to lie on the bench and cover herself up with her turban. I took out my computer, hoping to professional type up the investigation notes and suspect list. Madison pondered, a serious expression on her face.

3) We didn't even have to do another lap of the ship, or pretend to be interested in the rotten shark on the menu at the cafeteria. As I looked up from my intense typing, Madison looked out of her intense thoughts, and Amy continued to doze on the bench, we saw The Accused enter the gift shop. They briskly passed our table and began browsing the expensive merchandise for sale. Very suspicious. 

4) Yes, we should have frantically awoken the sleeping cashier, and told him to STOP THE SHIP IMMEDIATELY, but instead Madison and I locked eyes and decided to keep our cool. We nodded silently at each other and then I quickly clicked opened Season 3 of "The L Word" as bait (you know, just in case The Accused were actually Grumpy-Lesbian-Adventure-Types and then catching even a glimpse of this lesbian drama would guarantee to send them in our direction, right into the interrogation). Instead they'd settled their attention on the giant map of Iceland pinned to the wall slightly opposite us. Very suspicious, we agreed. Why would you consult a giant wall map unless you were running from the law! 

5) They were no more than four feet away from us. They had walked into our perfectly and professional constructed interrogation plan. With Amy in well-rehearsed nap position, no doubt subconsciously aware of everything, it was time to make our move. Madison and I were communicating through our Detective Thought Vibes now.

Let the Interrogation Begin! (the following conversation is transcribed from actual events...this is NOT a joke!)

CAST OF CHARACTERS: SUSPECT 1: Asian Grumpy Tourist SUSPECT 2: Tall Australian Grumpy Tourist Detective Madison: As herself Detective BB: As herself

Detective Amy: As herself Excited Old Lady: Maxine Ferryboat

Suddenly Detective BB is overcome with fear and no words escape her mouth as she turns from her computer screen to confront SUSPECT 1 and SUSPECT 2. Detective Madison takes control of the situation.

Madison: Hey, you guys camped at that natural hot spring near Bildudalur a couple of nights ago, right? SUSPECT 1: 

(long pause) 

Excuse me? Madison:

(casually) 

You know, that hot spring right near Bildudalur. We are sure we saw you there. SUSPECT 2: (

long pauses, SUSPECTS look at each other) 

Oh yeaaaaah. I guessssss.....yeaaaaah...you know it was a while ago.... SUSPECT 1: Yeaaaaah, it was a while ago....I kinda forget....buuuut maaaaaybe....yeah....

SUSPECT 2: Yeah. Yeah I guessss. Yeah. Why? Were you there as well? BB:

(nervously) 

Yeah. Yeah we were there too. You know, that same night.

Madison:

(friendly and warm) 

We remember seeing you there! How are your travels going?

SUSPECT 1: Oh yeah we TOTALLY remember you, don't we?! SUSPECT 2:

(enthusiastically) 

Oh yeah, yeah. Small world! WOW! Crazy... SUSPECT 1: Everything's fine. Good. SUSPECT 2: Yeah, good. Reaally good. Yeah.

(Long Awkward pause)

BB: So...where are you from? SUSPECT 2: Australia. SUSPECT 1: Yeah, yeah you know. Australia. Madison: Oh wow. That's a long journey. SUSPECT: 2: Yeah, yeah. Long journey. SUSPECT 1: Yeah. Yeah... BB: So... SUSPECT 2: Where are you girls from? Are you all friends, you know, just traveling? Madison: 

(pointing to sleeping Detective Amy) 

Well, she's from America, but Beebs and I are from Canada. SUSPECT 1: Oh, okay. Cool. SUSPECT 2: Yeah, yeah. Cool, cool. Madison: So, we noticed that you have this really 

cool 

clothesline-

Excited Old Lady: 

(unnoticed, sitting at the table to the right, suddenly she interjects loudly) 

Where in Canada are you from? BB: 

(looking around to fine the owner of the voice and spots Excited Old Lady, excited eyes directly on them) 

Um....Toronto. Madison: 

(trying to redirect focus to SUSPECTS) 

So, we noticed- Excited Old Lady: Oh, what a coincidence! I am also from Canada! Toronto is a lovely city but I am from British Columbia. Not Vancouver, but in a town near Whistler, ski country. Canada's a vast place!

Madison: I love downhill skiing! I go every year with my family. Yeah, BC is amazing for snow sports. Excited Old Lady: Yes, Toronto wouldn't have very many opportunities for skiing. How do you find traveling in Iceland? Are you enjoying yourselves? Are you students? You look like you could be students. You look younger than my son. He's in his late twenties and has already finished school. But it's hard to tell with young people nowadays. So many different options. It's not like it used to be. Though I always chose to travel whenever I could. I went all around the world with my late husband and now I'm doing a whole tour of the arctic! Imagine!

Madison and BB sneak a glance over to the SUSPECTS but they have snuck away, gone again...

It might have occurred to you that the Excited Old Lady could have been an accomplice of Grumpy-Tourist-Kidnappers, and was creating an annoying diversion in order for SUSPECTS 1 and 2 to get away. However, what was more likely was that the Excited Old Lady was just an amazing free-spirit of an individual, coming into the lives of the lost and worn-out-detectives-turned-back-into-worn-out-tourists at exactly the right time. Madison and BB continued to answer the questions of their new Canadian friend, and in return she shared her name, Maxine, and interesting anecdotes about her life and the many ups and downs, losses and gains, that kept her going, all the way around the world and back, to the arctic and beyond. At over seventy years old, Maxine was hitchhiking around Iceland, staying in hostels, island hopping, and hoping to reach the tips of northern Nunavut, even farther than BB dared go...yet.

Maxine Ferryboat spent the rest of the ride back to the mainland with us. In those three short hours, we forgot about the silly investigation. Instead we thought about ourselves as little excited old ladies and vowed we'd have even half the energy and wisdom of lovely Maxine, sitting on this ferryboat below the arctic circle. It's never too late for anything, and seventy is definitely the new thirty, we decided.

Feeling freer and lighter than ever before, the wheels of our 1999 Avensis finally hit the mainland. It was late, but the arctic sun was still lighting our way. I looked up just in time to see that familiar big, burly vehicle whizzing by, and then pull to a stop at the frantic Icelandic hand-gesturing up ahead.

Stop the car!

I cried.

I have to try one last time.

 I jumped out of the car and rushed over to the SUV. I wasn't a detective anymore. I was just following my shaking legs once again...

I waved to the Australian girls through the window. They enthusiastically waved back. Then I looked back at Madison, fearfully. 

How badly do you want your Everything back? 

she winked. I did an Icelandic-window-roll-down gesture.

Okay bye, have a great rest of your trip! 

They called hurriedly through the open window. I rushed forward.

The-other-night-at-the-campsite-we-left-a-bikini-and-a-wrap-around-skirt-in-the-changing-room-did-you-see-it-by-any-chance? 

I choked out.

The engine revved, and window started to buzz upward. 

No, sorry! Goodbye.

They sped away, gone forever. 

Okay thanks. Goodbye! 

I stumbled back to our car, shaking my head and laughing. And that was that.

Goodbye.

Amy on the mainland
Amy on the mainland

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Iceland Through and Through PART FIVE

The Mystery of the Vanishing Bikini and Wrap-Around Skirt PART ONERECAP: By this point of our journey through the Icelandic Westfjords (or THE WESTFJORDS!!! as I lovingly refer to them) we've been sleeping upright/curled up in our chilly, lopsided Toyota Avensis each night, and driving through eye-shatteringly stunning scenery by day. We've avoided looking like ancient, homeless trolls because of the wealth of natural hot springs scattered all over, and somehow fended off running out of fuel with a broken gas meter. After an epiphany from a surprise encounter with a powerful waterfall, we finally rested our exhausted minds, unwound our car-cramped bodies in the caress of a hot bath hidden in a grassy hillside. Then we peacefully hung up our bathing suits and towels to dry and drifted off to sleep...

Sunlight between the fjords. I am not sure when this was taken as it is sunny all night long!

Sunlight between the fjords. I am not sure when this was taken as it is sunny all night long!

When we awoke the next morning, THE WESTFJORDS!!! were there as usual, just gazing down at the world, doing there stoically beautiful thing. There were three other cars and families of campers who had rested along side us; they had the proper gear and glossy-magazine-type-camping organization and were already packed up and ready to hit the next glossy-magazine highlight. We were disentangling ourselves from our sleepy state as the first car drove off; it belonged to a happy-looking family with two children. A blonde dread-locked-extreme adventure-type man and his girlfriend were packing up their winter-proof tent, and exchanging smiles with us, no doubt amused by out lack-of-tent and thermal gear. The remaining car belonged to two women, one of Asian background and the other a brunette grumpy-and-focused-extreme-adventure type with an Australian accent. We noticed their hastiness to pack up their gear, avert their eyes away from us, and a moment later drove off 'round the bend in road. We exchanged quizzical glances; we'd never seen anyone in Iceland who was neither friendly nor calmly enjoying life. Always the positive spirit, Madison commented on how she thought it was clever how they'd hung up a clothes-line in the backseat of their SUV. We pondered the idea of having our clothes neatly hung up wherever we drove for all to admire... then we looked at the overflowing backseat of our deteriorating car and shook our heads. On that note, we decided to collect our cold, drying clothes and move on to the next town's spa for our daily underwear change and teeth brushing session.

Here's where our adventure takes an ominous turn: while Madison's bikini was still neatly resting outside, inside the tiny wooden changing structure, Amy and my garments had fared much worse. While my old mouldy towel and bathing suit were still there, Amy's cool Californian tie-dyed bikini was not. What was worse, My Everything (aka a long, warm wrap-around skirt from Nepal that can be used as a blanket/towel/lovely dress/everything else and was given to me by a friend I'd met in Ghana, so therefore had irreplaceable sentimental value!) was no longer neatly draped over a plank of wood....no it, too, was gone! After checking here, there and everywhere (and in a little knoll at the base of an barren fjord I can safely say we checked everywhere) we determined that our items were gone...or (insert dramatic crime movie music) stolen! Although it was quite possible that it could have been little fairies, elves or angry trolls, we decided it was more probable that the kidnapping was committed by humans. What would Bildudalur fairies possibly want with a bathing suit and an Everything?! 

We'd seen plenty of detective dramas to know exactly what to do at this point. So like any well-read Nancy Drew-expert, we decided to: Step 1) Devise a suspect list. Our list looked something like this:

1. Happy Family with two children 2. Icelandic Dreadlocked-Adventure Couple 3. Grumpy Women with a clever clothes line 4. Bildudalur elves, fairies, and trolls

Step 2) Brainstorm possible motives/alibis/suspicions of the suspects in connection with the kidnapping of our innocent items Our new list looked something like this:

1. Happy Family with two children: Motive: Children like to have more stuff and haven't learned that kidnapping is wrong Suspicions: The family packed up first thing in the morning and was the first to leave the campsite. Alibi: Our items wouldn't fit the children, and children like new things. The family was already asleep by the time we arrived at the campsite so wouldn't know that we'd left sentimentally-valuable and California-cool items unlocked. 2. Icelandic Dreadlocked-Adventure Couple: Motive: Adventure-type people are attracted to fair-trade Nepalese and tie-tyed things. Suspicions: Low. They were friendly to us, and made a natural conversation (unless they were very, very good actors...hmmm). Alibi: They are Icelandic and the crime rate in iceland is less than 1% and the less than 1% of crime that occurs in Iceland is done by tourists, therefore by being Icelandic, statistically speaking, they should be removed immediately from this list). 3. Grumpy Women with a Clever Clothes Line: Motive: Adventure-type people are attracted to fair-trade Nepalese and tie-dyed things. They also needed more things to hang on their clothes line. Suspicions: Hastily left the campsite, avoided eye contact with us, appeared uncomfortable when Madison was admiring the Clever Clothes Line. Alibi: None. Tourists are, statistically, capable of crime. Since one was Asian and the other was speaking with an Australian accent we can safely say they are tourists and thus capable of theft! 4. Bildudalur elves, fairies and trolls No need to fill this out, just refer back to Suspect 3!!!

We knew the next courses of action would be tricky as we were dealing with two grown women who were capable of kidnapping, successfully navigating themselves around a strange country, and booking an enjoyable, yet somehow grumpy, vacation for themselves. They were definitely dangerous and now our items were somewhere in THE WESTFJORDS!!! that was all we knew. And by this time My Everything and Amy's hippie bikini would already be dry so there would be no need to hang them visibly on the Clever Clothes Line. We had a moment of silence for our kidnapped possessions and decided to continue our journey anyway. I lent Amy my Calvin Kline booty shorts so at least she'd be able to mourn her bathing suit from the comfort of the Icelandic baths. We bid farewell to the Icelandic Extreme-Adventure couple, not mentioning that they had momentarily been suspects in an international kidnapping case.

Even without our beloved belongings, the next few days in the Bildudalur fjords passed by amazingly well...as usual in the WESTFJORDS!!!!

Skrímsli  means sea monster!

Skrímsli means sea monster!

We learned quite a lot about the history of local Skrimsli (sea monsters) at the Bildudalur Sea Monster Museum and mulled over the possibility of a Shore Laddie or Giant Sea Horse having been involved in the kidnapping. We had a lovely long chat with the manager of the museum, clad in a tale coat and French moustache, about the availability of houses in the area because I was interested in staying there forever. He didn't laugh, flinch or think me odd when I told him I was descended from the Bidudalur Elves; in fact, he thought that was a perfectly acceptable answer as to why I wanted to acquire property and citizenship to a sea monster-filled neighbourhood. Museum Moustachio (we forgot to ask him his real name) politely told us that the best way would be to marry one of the local lads since apparently there is a vast shortage of women in THE WESTFJORDS!!! I said I was more interested in the Shore Laddies.

We went for a very long walk to an Interesting Place on a map, even though we had no idea what the Interesting Place would be, or when or where we would find it. We walked for a very long time, mulling over the word Interesting; it seemed everything was interesting, so opening our eyes wide enough to see what could be extra-extra Interesting, Map-Worthy-Interesting, was an interesting challenge. Finally, we decided that it's just interesting to go for a walk to an unknown Interesting Place and that the person making the map (probably a lonely old Icelandic lad, living in fear of Scrimsli and tourist-kidnappings of his possessions) probably was paid to put Interesting dots on the map and didn't have any intention of checking whether or not the dots represented places that were actually of Interest. We decided we should take more walks in the future, whether or not they end up in Map-Worthy-Dots.

The next day we found an unmarked Interesting boat and took some Interesting photos with it. It was a very Interesting Place to take Truno band shots!

Pause for a band photo!
Pause for a band photo!

The next series of photos were snapped at the Latrabjarg cliffs, the most Westerly point of Europe (just in case you are interested in Interesting Map Dots and Facts). They are also home to swarms of cuddly, squishy and cute puffins. We spent a good hour here trying to kidnap the puffins like the nasty, interest-seeking tourists we surely are.

Puffins on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, the most Westerly point in all of Europe!
Puffins on the cliffs of Latrabjarg, the most Westerly point in all of Europe!
IMG_3645
IMG_3645
IMG_3623
IMG_3623
Photo expert Madison loved the puffins
Photo expert Madison loved the puffins

After all the photo taking at the bird-filled cliffs, and being so repulsed by a mixture of poop and feather fluff that we decided to set free all the puffins we tourists had kidnapped into the 1999 Toyota Avensis, we only had a few hours to catch our ferry back to mainland Iceland. We were sad to leave the magic and the peace we'd found in THE WESTFJORDS!!! but also anxious that Karen, our Australian GPS wouldn't remember where the ferry was, and then we'd be forced into a marriage with a Shore Laddie in order to survive here forever. So away through the fog and clouds, down the windy unpaved roads we went, ears popping from the altitude for the last time.

My future house
My future house

We arrived early at the ferry docks and could already see the boat making its triumphant second and final daily trip across the sea. Many cars and trucks were lined up, and ready to go. Amy had to nip to the loo (go the bathroom) for the millionth time (sorry Amy, but you really do need to go...A LOT) so we piled into the tiny wooden coffee and supplies shop at the bottom of the hillside. There was a line for the bathroom so we patiently waited in the queue, sharing friendly smiles with the other passengers. One of the woman waiting had a grumpy expression, and as soon as I made eye contact with her, she averted her eyes and shuffled off to the back of the queue, looked around slowly, and then hurried out the door on to the porch; she stared out at the sea with her back to us. Hmmm, that was weird, I thought.

A moment later, the door to the loo creaked open revealing a young Asian woman clad in adventure-type gear. My throat went dry and my stomach collapsed at my feet. I could feel Madison's tummy hit the ground beside me. Amy dashed into the bathroom. We didn't have time to make a plan of action, so we gave our best, most angelic grins and enthusiastic nods of traveller-recognition, you know, the kind that fellow budget travellers who think they will never see one another other again do when they coincidentally buy tickets for the same ferry on a very small tip of Iceland in which only 3% of tourists visit, including the 0.02% who like to steal damp beachwear and the 0.01% who are innocent victims of such crimes. The Asian woman nodded stiffly, hesitated, and then walked right out the shop and stood beside the grumpy Australian, arms folded away from us. We could see them whispering, plotting, planning to hide the evidence...and possibly dump our bikinis, and now our bodies, over the side of the ferry at Flatey Island. Before Amy could flush, they were briskly walking down the porch and away...

Step 3) Investigate your suspects. Well, at this point they were no longer suspects, they were The Accused! Thanks to our list and detailed detecting, we could have called the police, but we didn't know the Icelandic number for 911, so we decided to stay hot on their tail and, really, how far could they get on a twelve vehicle ferry boat!

Finally Amy emerged from the bathroom and we filled her in on the situation, from the grumpy faces to the whispering, right down to the walking away from the porch. Amy was a little more reluctant to affirm their obvious guilt:

What if those aren't the same people? she pointed out. HOW MANY ASIAN PEOPLE ARE THERE IN THE WESTFJORDS!!! Madison and I snapped back, yes I'll admit, slightly paranoid. Okay, well...what if they didn't take our stuff? Amy pondered.You're honestly going to pin this on a happy family or vacationing Icelandic couple who were very friendly?! Amy be logical! We have to come up with a plan! Madison and were getting more hysterical. Amy still wasn't entirely convinced, being the thoughtful MA in School Psychology that she is.Madison took Amy's hands and, summoning up her most authentic Oprah spirit she said, Amy, I understand where you're coming from, but how does losing your bikini really make you feel? Amy thought for a moment... Okay, let's go after those grumpy thieving tourist- Bitches! I added, you know, just to be the bad Canadian cop for once...

Will the Three Tourist-Detectives bring the Grumpy-Thieving-Adventure-Tourists to justice? Or will the cool bikini, and BB's Everything disappear into the dark depth off the coast Vatnsfjörður forever? Or will Amy come to her senses and just look up the number for 9-1-1?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Iceland Through and Through PART FOUR

Discovering the Westfjords 

Discovering the Westfjords 

There is a town, sheltered by the endless, untamed cliffs, and shadowed by wandering clouds. We found it along the rock-strewn, unpaved roads that seemed to disappear from under us, and then threw us into the valleys below to Bildudalur. If dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, we’ll find them here between the vast expanses of turquoise, yet frigid ocean and the enigmatic sky. Dinosaurs maybe, but sea monsters, definitely, especially here in Bildudalur. We are in the heart of the Westfjords, and this place has already seized my heart. Yet it was a nearly empty gas tank, and a diversion to find a waterfall, and a transformation that shook my very core that this chapter of my journey is really about.

Of course Karen, our unknowledgeable Australian GPS, accidently took us on a 120km detour on the way to my ancestral town. Because my generation does not believe in maps, we naively followed her advice; instead of “RECALCULATING ROUTE” we continued onward. At first we were excited by the exhilaration of speeding up and down, we, a mere tiny dot on the reverberating fjords. But then we remembered that our gas gauge is permanently fixed at half-full and it had been a while since we’d filled up; according to Amy’s calculations we had only 75km until we’d be empty and stuck, soon to be gobbled up by the Jurassic landscape. The nearest “town” was around 35km away, and it was getting on midnight so we crossed our fingers that gas would still be available, otherwise we’d have to sleep in the car; oh wait, that is where we sleep every night… Though choosing to be homeless, and having homelessness thrust upon us, feels different somehow.

Our Toyota Avensis, 1999 resting at the bottom of the fjord.
Our Toyota Avensis, 1999 resting at the bottom of the fjord.

The questionable guide book said that somewhere along the winding road was “The Most Power Waterfall in Europe” and that, if we happened to be in the area, then we shouldn’t miss this site! We decided we shouldn’t. Or could we? Nothing in Iceland is clearly marked as though a lesson in “if you want it badly, you’ll find it …somehow. If you miss it, tough! But at least you know it exists, haha! What, that’s not good enough for you? Oh, sorry…NOT

We continued slowly down the roads of boulders, sometimes blinded by clouds, inching forwards, eyes and ears straining for signs of epic-ness, of The Power. After an hour of Sunday-granny driving, we grew anxious: what if we'd missed it? What if we had looked down instead of up? What if those clouds were selfishly shielding us from this treasure?! We stopped to pee behind a large boulder which ended up being the most impressive pee I have ever squatted for: I watched my yellow stream spill over the fjord, fall hundreds of feet through the fog, and thunder into the ocean below. Maybe not the most powerful, but definitely the most entertaining urine-fall.

With empty bladders, yet minds more filled with doubts about enjoying The Most Powerful Waterfall before our 1999 Toyota Avensis finally breaks down, we passed a wide, coursing river, heading to the edge of the fjord. I imagined my impressive pee stream, and knew that this must be it! I begged to stop the car, to follow the river and stand and experience the precise instant of water-plummeting. There’s something about that moment of witnessing the force of sudden drop, when the cliff just disappears from under, exposing the water to raw openness, causing it to transform: How a small river gains power by that loss of support from the Earth, allowing the air to shift its role as a gentle carrier, to a mighty, hurtling torrent…

But we kept driving. Maybe we will see it on the way back, or we can have a better look after we fill the tank.What if it's not the right place? I’m tired of wandering. We will definitely know it when we find it, my friends encouraged me onward even though I wanted to follow the river. We drove in silence, except for Karen’s mechanical suggestions. Down, down, down we dipped until we were level with the ocean once again, at the very base of the fjord.

The wilds outside our windows.
The wilds outside our windows.

And then, there she was. We knew it was the Most Powerful Waterfall the moment we saw her. And I knew she was that unassertive river we’d crossed just above. But, just look at her now!

Hunger and exhaustion were replaced, once again, by elation and delight. We sat at a picnic bench, no longer feeling the blustering wind, with our feast of peanut butter, raugbraud and skyr, basking in the mist of the Most Powerful Waterfall. The sides of the cliffs were patterned as though an expert carver had been working on it many centuries ago, so when the river billowed over the chiseled sides, she forcefully sprayed in all directions, branching off into more and more mini-powerful waterfalls. When the water had completed its falling, twisting, and surrendering to all the beautiful bumps along the way, she quietly trickled into the ocean pond behind us, rippling under the beating sun.

Madison and I gobbled up and our dinner, and scampered up the path for a quick picture. But with every step we climbed, we came upon another cavern, alive with swift currents. And then another, and another: All branches of the Most Powerful. Suddenly we found ourselves on a quest to reach the very center of the Most Powerful Waterfall and capture all her. The path sloped upwards and we followed a steep staircase of worn mossy rocks.

One of the many branches of the Most Powerful Waterfall.
One of the many branches of the Most Powerful Waterfall.

We were laughing and crying when we fianlly reached the top, hugging in the haze, watching the water roll over in slow motion. I will never forget that moment: being exposed to the sheer sway of water, of unbelievable transformation.  I didn’t know why it struck me so emotionally at the time, but now, having reflected from Ghana on that moment three weeks ago at the waterfall in the Westfjords, I am beginning to understand. I found a sense of calm and inspiration by watching that free fall of water; we can gain so much at allowing ourselves to just let go and observe the natural alteration of life, the fluidity of moments.

Madison, who a year ago had suffered the loss of her sister, Maija, was now sharing with me an unexpected moment of revelation: Of seeing something so passive and delicate as that stream by the road, suddenly take on a whole new form that erupted magically in front of us. Had we kept going, heeding to obligation and necessity, we would have missed it. Had we ate and got back in the car, we would only have marveled at the beautiful site and possibly forgotten it, with time. But being right up close to this Most Powerful Waterfall with my brave friend whose sister had passed away too soon, I saw Maija here with us, and understood the weight of our journey and the power of nature’s ability to transform us.

Truly the Most Powerful Waterfall.
Truly the Most Powerful Waterfall.

Iceland has always brought me a sense of belonging and trust in a world burdened with labels, especially labels surrounding personal identity. On this journey, however, I found Maija; I found healing. I believe allowed myself to transform right there too. Hugging Madison, witnessing that water, fall and fall, I found renewal. Like nature, we can transform our minds to see purpose, to change our experience, or the way our senses facilitate an experience. The purpose of my journey was to find Bildulalur, a place to stage my imagined history, a place that my spirit and soul could belong. Now that purpose joined with Madison’s; I needed to heal with my friend and discover that our spirits and the spirits of those of which we love can be found around us, transformed from deep inside of us, and brought to life in a new way. We had that moment for Maija. By recognizing the deep healing of transformation, I will forever view my world from the perspective of the Most Powerful Waterfall; of Maija Moments. And I need not travel quite so far anymore to find them.

The Most Powerful Waterfall, at a distance.
The Most Powerful Waterfall, at a distance.

After finally reaching the filling station, we trekked all the way back once more to Bildudalur. But before we arrived, we noticed that wonderful sight of rising steam, only possible in Iceland. There was a natural hot spring just around the bend from our destination parking place. We stripped down and waded into the earthy pool, pausing for a few moments to adjust; the scorching water grasped our toes and ankles while the harsh, winter wind played with our bare bellies. We took a deep breath, and submerged our bodies in the murky depths. It was 4am; the sky was completely light; it was freezing out; we were sweating now; we just laughed and laughed and laughed, making that moment really last, until it washed away, back into the depths of the hot pool, seeping into the heart of the earth.

TO BE CONTINUED...

One of many interesting places.
One of many interesting places.

Dedicated to Madison and Maija Boratto. You both continue to teach me strength of spirit and of healing, and have helped me to transform my personal journey. 

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Iceland Through and Through PART THREE

Becuz we homelesz...
Becuz we homelesz...

The plus side of sleeping in a 1999 Toyota Avensis with seats that remain only in the upright position (apart from not having to set-up/pack the tent everyday) was that we saved some money. Every morning when the camping attendant came around to collect campsite fees (1000Kr ($10)/person), he would peer through our window and see our contorted, overly-dressed zombie forms, give us a sad look and walk away. I guess he didn’t have the heart to charge us for our hours of utmost discomfort. We discovered that if we found a small hill with a steep incline and attempted to drive up it, then put on the emergency break, we could rest at a 45 degree angle; our sleeping improved significantly. Even if I did dream every night about falling off a cliff to my death, at least our necks were contorting painfully like a neglected newborn’s.

One of the better parking jobs for a better rest.
One of the better parking jobs for a better rest.
Onboard the ferry leaving mainland Iceland.
Onboard the ferry leaving mainland Iceland.

Eating in Iceland does not have to be expensive, despite what you might have heard. No, we didn’t feed off rotting sharks that had washed up on shore…though that is an option. There are “BONUS” stores (a discounted grocery shop chain whose logo is a drunk-looking pig) scattered around the country. They all open at 11am so when we arrived at 10:45am at the outlet in Reykjavik right after our red-eye flight, we weren’t the only giant-pack clad travelers waiting anxiously for the doors to open so we could all stock up on crackers and canned tuna. Surprisingly our budget allowed for way more than just The Student Dorm Food Groups. Traditional Icelandic bread, steamed by the geothermals, loaded with seeds and nuts, is hearty and less than 200Kr ($2) a loaf! Select veggies, like tomatoes and lettuce, are grown in local greenhouses. Icelanders love to talk about their tomatoes, and I was excited to learn that Iceland also has the largest banana plantation in Europe! See, I must be related to this culture; if I had limited greenhouse space I would definitely tally me some bananas.

The main source of energy that fueled us on our road trip, and also keeps me returning to this island year after year, is the skyr. Skyr is velvety smooth yogurt, and makes Greek yogurt seem like a chunky glob. Skyr is made from sheep’s milk and naturally contains 10g of protein for every handful. It’s also 0.1% fat, or something unbelievable like that. Skyr comes in what seems like every flavor of the rainbow, and is available at literally every gas station, corner store and campsite, like an addictive elixir. Body builders order it in bulk and we were eating 5-6 containers of it daily. Skyr + geothermal sundlaug spas = ancient Elfish secret to eternal youth and beauty; we definitely didn’t look nor feel like we were living in a breaking-down car. Maybe that’s the reason why Senior citizens from all over the world land in Iceland by the plane-full; it’s not the leisurely bus tours or the well-constructed boardwalks: it’s for the quest of Eternal Youth!

Once we were loaded up with skyr, raugbraud bread and bags of avocados, it was finally time to board the ferry that would whisk us away further north, to the wilds of the westfjords. Aboard the small car ferry we started to feel like the “3% of tourists” for the time; we had strayed from the Guide Book’s recommended “Ring Road Roundabout” of popular sights and postcard-famous pit stops. The other passengers spoke in loud, excited Icelandic and most were vacationing young people like us, though much more stylish, and were opting away from the tourists. We smiled and gestured animatedly along with them when they spoke to us in their language. We winked at each other in the bathroom, proud we were recognized as citizens not as visitors ; it must be all the skyr-loading.

The ferry ride to the Westfjords takes three hours, with one stop in between at the elfin island community of Flatey. “Welcome to Flatey: Population 12”. It’s made up of two families, living on a big grassy rocky cliff, waves crashing on all sides, surrounded by gulls zipping in and out of the fog. A few white houses with red roofs make up the town. Little girls in flowery dresses and knitted sweaters, blonde curls flying in the wind, run from out behind the rocks to greet the boat as it docks. Just watching the town congregate to meet the visitors and relatives returning makes me wonder if we have stepped back in time, or at least to another dimension where Anne of Green Gables is preserved. Young men (in suspenders!!!) unload cargo and large, hefty sacks of potatoes. Small boys entertain bouncy dogs. I wonder which house I would live in, though both look alike in dignity. Would I have to share a room with animated, loving children, telling tales of island ghosts and shipwrecks...

But there are no-cars-allowed on this dead-end isle; there simply isn’t room for us now. So with the piercing, discordant toot of the horn, we, our Avensis and Karen, our Australian GPS, are whisked away. Maybe another time, Flatey.

Welcome to Flatey
Welcome to Flatey
Flatey welcome party
Flatey welcome party

What will we find in the Westfjords?

TO BE CONTINUED....

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Iceland Through and Through PART TWO

My cronies, Madison and Amy
My cronies, Madison and Amy

It is very easy to be homeless in Iceland. An important word you should know if ever contemplate/find yourself in this situation is: sundlaug (swimming pool). Every town, even the smallest or most remote, has a sundlaug, naturally heated by volcanic energy and no matter how grey and drizzly the weather, freezing the fog, or after having spent a cold, cramped night vertically sleeping, wearing every single item of clothing you packed (including a Malian turban), in a 1999 Toyota Avensis, you will be more than happy to strip down and renew yourself in a rejuvenating sundlaug. Each sundlaug has a variety of hot tubs (hot, very hot, and ouch-that-freakin’-burns-but-will-hopefully-feel-really-good-later-after-soaking-in-extreme-pain!!!), a warm shallow pool in which to float and practice calm, deep breathing, and a big deep pool for playing “Marco-Polo” (we Icelandicized  the game to “Takk-Skyr” meaning “thanks-yogurt”, which are two of the only Icelandic words we had learned thus far).

Even before we saw the sundlaug sign, we felt the steam rising above the town like a halo. Unlike public changing rooms across Canada whose aroma’s waft like Port-O-Poddy, and are decorated in drain hair and filled with awkward, downward-pointing-eyed folks in their birthday suits, a sundlaug’s changing rooms will welcome you like a humid hug.

SUNDLAUG stylin'
SUNDLAUG stylin'

Icelandic Sundaug Changing Room Etiquette:

  • Get Naked
  • Wash your body thoroughly, naked
  • Greet the people around, naked
  • Have a friendly conversation, naked, with the naked folks around you
  • Smile, you’re naked!
  • Jump up and down, naked
  • Do a li’l dance, naked
  • Sing, naked
  • After completing the above steps you have permission to put on your bathing suit and enter the sundlaug area

Back at home, we worry about being naked. No, we are concerned about being seen too saggy, too wrinkly, pudgy in places that should be boney, with weird tan lines, or gasp no tan at all…!!! Being naked in front of others means surrendering our fragile, cotton wall of self-esteem and exposing the naked truth about what our bare bodies actually look like, and how we truly feel. The biggest faux-pas in sundlaug culture is to refuse to show, or even have the slightest embarrassment about letting it all hang out. Standing naked and proud will not get your stares here, but friendly, polite acknowledgment from equally naked passersby, just going about their sundlaug business.

"How gullible you are, what “fairy stories” your society believes in", laugh the Icelandic locals, "to that think that with clothes, accessories, and averting your eyes you can manipulate and avoid your bodies’ 'imperfections'". With their honest, even voices and looks of witty amusement, the locals in the changing room explain that bodies are bodies and covering up just takes extra time and difficult movements; we all look silly so once we embrace our silliness, than everyone is no longer silly; a naked Icelandic truth. My three friends and I, having shared everything else under the sun, now openly shared our butt-naked bodies with each other. Golly, what-d’ya-know, we all have the same parts! I wonder if I used to worry more about others seeing me naked, or others thinking that I didn’t mind being naked in front of them. Now I will bring back the silly souvenir of being naked and loving it.

After we had shriveled up like scrimsli (sea monsters) it was time to journey northwards, closer to Bildudalur in the untamed Westfjords. It was June 21, the longest day of the year, but in Iceland that just mean NO DARKNESS….LIKE, AT ALL! It’s wonderful to have no limit to the daylight; to know we can hike glaciers, drive through valleys of lava and struggle up mountains with the Earth keeping its light on, as though just for us, I laughed. From Husafell we explored Okjokell, the smallest of the three western glaciers, got howled at for trespassing by wolf-like sled dogs, hiked across frozen rivers, and down more rocky windy roads, etched into craters. The interior of this island is inhabited only sheep, elves and trolls. We weren’t supposed to be this close, not because our rental car agreement forbids us to, but I felt we should keep moving; Icelanders respect the unknown and preserve what cannot be conquered, leaving it to develop in its own mysterious way. My country would have set-up a Walmart here while citizens complained about it from the comforts of their homes, until eventually shopping there, buying discounted yoga wear with mild guilt.

Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.
Midnight, June 21st 2013. Northwest Iceland.

There are definitely more waterfalls than people here. Did I mention that already? Tumbling water became welcome wallpaper to my backseat window. We pulled up to our next “campsite” at midnight on the longest day of this year, sunny and glowing. Though a nasty wind was blowing, and glancing around at the giant camper vans, with their steamy windows, we decided to bundle up, silly in our turbans, and curl-up in the car for a sheltered night. At least we knew that we could strip down naked the next morning, and bathe like we belonged here.

Waterfall #2967
Waterfall #2967

Iceland Trivia:

Where is the most appropriate place to schedule a first date?

a) Movie Theatre b) Scaling a glacier c) Sundlaug d) Bar in downtown Reykjavik

Yup C), sundlaug. Most successful marriages, friendships and business partnerships begin at the public baths.

To be continued...

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Iceland Through and Through PART ONE

Southwest Iceland
Southwest Iceland

The Journey Begins.

This was going to be the first of many Icelandic road trips, I decided. So, we rented a Toyota Yaris online from a budget outlet called SadCars. Why not happy cars? Or excited and reliable cars? Or magical elf cars? Of course we pointed this out to all the young employees at the Sadcars outlet and they laughed at us and said we were hilarious. Actually, that’s pretty much how all the Icelanders we met reacted to us, even when we weren't doing anything in particular: they chucked with anticipation of our next move, like we were a strange new species of hilarity that could explode at any moment. They liked the way we tried to pronounce words like “Eyjafjallajokull” and would say “Takk takk takk takk!!!” instead of just “Takk” (thanks) like the other tourits; we felt the extra takks made us more legit. I gave one Sadcar girl a hairband with Canadian flags glued to the top and she was delighted; she stood in the bitter wind with the flags waving wildly, smiling in excitement.

We were almost on our way, packs loaded up, GPS Karen with the Australian accent telling us to drive to the highlighted route…until we felt a giant jerk and the car lurched forward. THUD! Uh-oh. None of us could drive Standard. I can’t drive at all, and we decided that rough Icelandic off-roading through volcanic craters would NOT be the best time to figure it out. We lied and said it had been at least ten years since we had driven Standard and were “upgraded” to a very sad looking 1999 Toyota Avensis.

Highlights of our Toyota Avensis:

  • Gas gage is stuck at half-empty (half-full depending on sad or happy car view)
  • Front seats don’t recline or move...at all
  • Headlights sometimes work (luckily it’s summer and the sun won’t set)
  • Definitely no four-wheel drive: PAVED ROADS ONLY!
  • GPS only knows 4 random places in Iceland, none of which we are going to
  • The “Check Engine” Button is always flashing
  • Monster speakers in the backseat, threatening to demolish that remainder of my ear drums

We were all set! We decided to just drive and figure out where were going later…

The demographic of the average tourist who vacations in Iceland is 65+. 65+ folks love tour buses and boardwalks and taking tour buses to boardwalks and then following the wooden paths to a safe and secured viewing area facing an easily visible landmark that is exciting, yet a safe distance away. 65+ people need to be surrounded by swarms of other tourists who can help them take photos, adjust their tilly-hats or direct them to the nearest restroom to put on expensive sweaters because they are chilly, and when it’s time to eat, they buy overpriced food that they can’t tell is overpriced because they didn’t bring their reading glasses (Harold must have left it in the other fanny-pack, Oh that Harold...).

We decided that although it would be nice to take pictures of 65+ sweater-clad and squinty-eyed folks, on a scenic and safe board walk, it was probably not the best place to reconnect with our Elf and Wizard ancestry, and mysteries of our past. So after a brief visit to the geysirs and a quick picture at Golfoss, one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls (according to the sign that I had to read to a 65+ because she didn’t bring her reading glasses, Oh that Harold!) we officially joined the unofficial 3% of tourists and started trekking away from all boardwalks... to the Westfjords!

Gollfoss Waterfall
Gollfoss Waterfall

Watch out for exploding geysirs!

IMG_3304
IMG_3304

What I didn’t realize is that Karen, our GPS with the Australian accent, has a very slim repertoire of Icelandic cities. Why couldn’t Helga, the Icelandic milkmaid narrate our adventure, then our first day would have been a bit more accurate and on-track! Our first stop was to a town called Reykholt in Iceland’s northwest, on the border of the Interior, a few kilometers from three of the biggest glaciers (jokells) in the region. What Karen didn’t know is that pretty much every region of Iceland has a beautiful little town called Reykholt, so of course she thought we were part of the 97%: the 65+ tourists that wanted to stay near the sweater-selling and expensive eateries at all time. Luckily a 65+ Icelandic woman, after laughing profusely at how hilarious we were doing ordinary things like asking where we could find the glaciers while in a grassy, flat area, and taking the advice of a mapping-machine with a charming accent, she directed us 150km in an another direction to the correct Reykholt, and gave us a big piece of glossy paper, with a detailed picture of Iceland on it, called a map. Finally, at midnight we made it to our first campsite, in the hamlet of Husafell.

Highlights of Husafell Campsite:

  • Hot hot hot showers
  • A giant, multi-coloured trampoline and play park
  • Geothermal pool with water slide and bath toys
  • Laundry machine and drier
  • Real toilets that flush!
  • Soft, soft grass
  • The office closes at 10pm so we saved 1000Kr ($10) each
  • Soft-serve ice cream dispenser
  • Espresso bar
First campsite: Madison all bundled-up and ready for bed at 1am
First campsite: Madison all bundled-up and ready for bed at 1am

The sun was high in the sky as we set-up the tent and spread out our sleeping bags and blankets. The weather report for the week promised sunny and mild conditions. After being in the arctic for the last four months, I figured I could easily handle a low of 7C; that looked like balmy, Hawaii-esque weather. Nope. I don’t know how we survived the night: I woke up in a state of near-hypothermia. Somehow in my sleep I had sensed the danger of our predicament and poor planning and attempted to put on everything I owned, and stuff all my sheets, towel, and Ghanaian fabric into my measly sleeping bag. All these extra layers and fabric still could not shield us from the extreme temperature. My weather App should come with a disclaimer: in Iceland 7C feels like -70C and sleeping outside should NOT be attempted by non-Standard-driving-directionally-challenged-backpackers-with-no-gear-other-than-Tarot-cards.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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