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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 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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