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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 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.

PROLOGUE. Home is where my heart Is. And since my heart is in my chest, my home will always be where I am, at present. And I am nomadic.

IMG_3429
IMG_3429

After moving up to Canada’s arctic during the dark of darkest winter, what a better way to welcome summer back into my life than by re-visiting all the places I call home. I believe I am an Elf, or in other words a wondering spirit, sandwiched between worlds and now different cities and cultures. I knew from my beginnings at Bathurst and College in Toronto that I was restless and would probably spend a lifetime searching for a place I could truly fit in, but knowing I had a challenge ahead of me, well, that brought me peace instead of fear. Through constant jetlag, extreme climate changes, parasites and all-night sun, I have discovered that there is no one place I have been searching for, but that bridging the gaps and going the distances is what I need to survive. Once feeling out-of-place and alone, I now have a mismatched family spanning the globe. Just as oceans eventually lead to streams that twist and turn and tumble out somewhere new, I have realized that we are all connected much more easily than we think. I hold myself accountable to understanding and standing up for the environments, cultures and different people I have met, who have laughed with me and acknowledged me along the way, no matter which way my path crossed, and uncrossed and crossed over again.

Northwestern region.
Northwestern region.

Not counting the many years I spent as a baby Elf living and splashing deep inside the geothermal pools under the volcanic glaciers, this is my fourth trek back to Iceland, my official and spiritual home. I don’t know if it’s the feeling I get as I am sucked into the clouds while trekking along the high fjords, or the way the glaciers see right through me when we once again are face-to-face, at a distance, yet close together. Something about this vast land has spoken to me for a long time, and I can feel the presence of some magic lurking behind the rocks and shadows left by the midnight sun. I could get lost here forever and ever and ever, and everything would work itself out. It just would.

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

This journey back to Iceland was even more special as I was traveling with two of my bestest friends, who are now fused into my life by either a mutual love of singing, or being forced to make fancy  coffee for a big corporation for years and years, as well as our common mission to be world explorers and Revolutionaries. Our first Revolutionary mission was to visit the Westfjords, the claw-like region on the very Northwest of the island, where only 7000 humans live (mostly farmers, fishermen, or moustache-clad directors of a Sea Monster or Wizardry museum…yes, the moustache is must-have), and only 3% of tourists visit. Being part of the 99% on previous Occupy missions, we were determined to be the 3% that ventured to the WESTFJORDS! While looking on a map in the rental car office about an hour after we got off our overnight flight from Toronto, I noticed there was a little town in west fjord of the West Fjords labeled Bildudalur. As a Bilodottir, I could feel my Elvish heart itching to set my feet there…

The quest for The Interesting Place
The quest for The Interesting Place

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Ode to Toronto (aka The Torontode)

imgres O Toronto, O Toronto

On your pavement and sidewalks I can quickly fly

Through smelly alleys, graffitied lanes,

Past buildings small and high.

O Toronto, O Toronto

Your traffic congestion, and spicy food digestion

Means I know what city I am in,

No question!

O Toronto, O Toronto

Despite the signal problems and mechanical difficulties

The pushing and shoving, zero thank yous and please

I can get where I need

(Even if it means going from A to X before B)

O Toronto, O Toronto

The never-ending construction and old-building combustion

Could be better handled I believe

Yet the SUV strollers and corporate-coffee holders,

Frantically rushing, as though blindfolded

Is entertaining and endearing to me.

O Toronto, O Toronto

Kimchi, daal, pesto pizza

A million types of spaghetti, matza

Roti, injera, mango salad, tempeh, no meats-ah

Whatever the time I can always find

So many new and different eats, Ah!

O Toronto, O Toronto

I admit you need more bike lanes

And better social housing, so can you explain

Why you are falling behind on community planning, eh?

Oh, the mayor's on crack?!

Well, that explains that!

O Toronto, O Toronto

With the lakeshore hustling and joggers bustling

And dragon boats and sailers in harmony

From your overly-safe playgrounds to

Yoga moms in downward dog

I am free to sit and watch with my bum on a log

O Toronto, O Toronto

Rainbow looks good on you

Dancing in the Gay-bourhood, slathering body paint

Means it's never to late to love and appreciate

Thy same-sex strangers or flamboyant neighbours

O Toronto, O Toronto

From indie art shows to unpaid internships

Garageband talents to underpaid immigrants

Your residents are working hard for you in abundance

So why not give back?

O Toronto, O Toronto

How I miss your... interesting...sounds

The dangerous clatter of the streetcars

The squirrels, rats and mice underground

Midnight on Nuit Blanche

Whatever's going on in China Town

O Toronto, O Toronto

You speak so many languages

You have so many religions

Emerging everyday are new dialects and pidgins

O Toronto, O Toronto

Even from afar, I remember you

I follow you, I believe in you

You are growing, evolving

No matter what issues need resolving

Different ages, classes and races you should be involving

I'm calling you to say

O Toronto, O Toronto

No matter where I am, you are

A part of me

I stand on guard for thee.

 

 

 

 

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