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      September 2011 > Andalucia to Iceland part 15: Iceland at last!
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Andalucia to Iceland part 15: Iceland at last!

Skogarfoss, IcelandAfter a few day's silence from David Lanfear, this message was found in an Icelandic beer bottle washed up on the beach at Whitby. "We roll off the ferry at dawn onto the edge of Iceland. We’ve sailed up a beautiful fjord to a simple harbour with equally simple colourful houses dotted around, mainly made of corrugated iron, but some of wood. It’s all very quiet and calm and empty.... and lovely.

There’s a cluster of camper-vans off the ferry around the petrol station already. Their drivers have jumped out, realised what the temperature is and jumped back in again to throw on woolly hats, coats, gloves and scarves. We’re now standing around the petrol pumps, flapping our arms like penguins and trying to understand the Icelandic instructions for buying with a credit card. An illuminated sign tells us it’s 3 degrees C.

I meet my first Icelander. As none of us travellers can get the pumps to work, we pile into the petrol station to talk to the attendant. The temperature inside would be suitable for cultivating tropical plants. The attendant is friendly, unhurried and unworried. I’m to meet plenty of these people over the next month, and begin to realise that they have a quiet, carefree air combined with an accepting, shoulder-shrugging sense of humour derived, probably, from living underneath a large active volcano.

Then I head for the supermarket. It’s not true that there’s nothing to eat but Puffin sandwiches. Linda was wrong, for once. But it’s not her fault – she came to Iceland just after the crash and only saw empty supermarket shelves. I come out clutching fennel, smoked fish, porridge and something that I think is milk, but, when poured into my tea, proves to be runny yoghourt. Linda doesn’t take milk in her tea, and so has a good laugh. It’s strange what some people find funny ....

Looking around, I can see that the ferry went badly off-course and we have landed in Scotland. High, steep tree-less hills slope up from the fjord, clothed in green velvet. Tall, thin waterfalls streak the velvet, and streams cascade down the lower slopes of mossy moorland. As we drive away, we stop every five minutes to gaze in awe at one waterfall, or foss, after another. We would drive many miles in Britain or Spain to see just one of these. We are both grinning.

Fishing Boats, icelandThe area we have landed in is known as the Eastern Fjords. We pass tiny harbours bobbing with brightly coloured fishing boats, and overlooked by equally bright simple churches, the size of a barn with red or blue painted slim wooden steeples. Otherwise, the only signs of habitation are occasional scattered farmsteads totally dwarfed by enormous green and black cliffs. It makes you feel that the people here are very small and vulnerable, under an overpowering place.

We wind around the long fingers of green mossy land pointing into the sea between the fjords and dotted with a few – surprisingly few – sheep. Later, we learn why so few and why they go around in threes.

We reach a frontier-style settlement, a few buildings bunched around another 2-pump petrol station. Linda has prepared me for the petrol stations – they are always combined with a very basic hamburger-diner and act as a meeting place and service point for communities where there is little else. They sell woolly hats and gloves for anyone who’s lost theirs, fast food with free fizzy drinks, and assorted tractor parts.

Alongside stands a Vínbúdin – this is a Prohibition style Off-licence, which is the only place you can buy any alcohol other than very weak beer. It opens for only two hours a day. I already have the van stocked with wine from every western European country we have visited, as I knew about Icelandic alcohol prices. However, I’m intrigued and have to visit the Vínbúdin. It’s nearly opening time and the mud-splattered pick-up trucks are beginning to park up outside. I follow the farmers and their wives in. The place has the clinical appearance of a health food store. You are handed your purchases in narrow brown paper bags, guaranteed to make you feel guilty as you walk down the street afterwards. The price also makes you feel guilty as it is the equivalent to what you would pay for hard drugs in any other country..."

Dryholaey, Iceland

Posted: 19/09/2011 09:32:38 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: gastronomy, Iceland, islands, journey, nature


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