The first of three wake-ups in Iceland

Who knew this country was so stunning? In a stark beauty sort of way. We pulled back the curtains to find ourselves docked at the 4th largest city, Akureyri, in this country of a third of a million people, which is situated in a wide fjord. Trees hugged the shore but soon faded to short underbrush which bled into brown mountaintops that appeared at a distance to have no vegetation at all. Many were snowcapped. Very pretty!

Our ship towered over the city that struck me as a lookalike for a very sophisticated movie set for a series about a lucrative mining town that has it together. You know, the lawful kind with a library, bowling alley, and an annual Midnight Open golf tournament. All of our stops have been at beyond-neat, tidy, and clean places and this was no exception. Some buildings were made of corrogated metal, others stucco or cement, and others wood. Metal roofs seemed the norm. The red stoplights, I kid you not, are heart shaped.

The wind we were spared in Lerwick decided to show us a thing or two about wind and met us here. With temps in the low 50s we felt the cold but had, thankfully, brought our winter coats. The wind was so ferocious that the cruise ship scheduled to dock the day before us had to sail right on by and could not dock at all, so we pulled our caps down over our ears feeling very lucky. Plus, for the first day of the trip, we had full sun which made things all the more beautiful and cheerful.

Our tour today took us out of town. We drove part of the ring road past farms, long haired sheep that looked from a distance like fluffy cotton candy, cows, small waterfalls, streams, brooks, Icelandic horses, and small lakes. First stop: Godafoss Waterfall. In the world of waterfalls this small one is not spectacular, but in this setting of volcanic rock, fine black sand, and rushing water, it’s beautiful. The wind almost seemed fitting.

We drove on…into the volcanic zone where the road is built on ancient lava fields. We passed a plant where fish heads are dried and prepared for export, primarily to Nigeria where they are used in soups and stews as a protein source. While we were on the subject of food, we learned about an island speciality: singed sheep’s head. Oh boy! Anyway, on both sides of the road there were fields that looked like small islands. Had they not been so deep and wide, what separated one field from the next would have resembled irrigation ditches, but they were as deep as small streams so the fields looked more like islands. Erosion seemed responsible for the ditches but I did not confirm that with the guide.

Second stop: The guide explained that each small, remote or not so remote community has a community center used all year around but especially in the winter when snow can isolate the villages. We stopped for tea at a community center in the ancient lava field. The locals were ready for us with tables set up and coffee, cakes, and ham sandwiches all prepared.

Third stop: Dimmuborgir … for a nature walk through 2,500 lava that has slowly allowed tenacious vegetation to take hold. Everythng from low, aspen looking trees to lichen. Some had begun to change color and looked striking against the black of the rock and sand.

Last stop: We thought we had landed on the moon. Mountains and hills of brown dirt leading up to and near the Namafjall Hverir. Don’t these Icelandic names just roll off the tongue? Anyway, this is a high-temperature geothermal area with fumaroles specializing in a rotten egg smell and mud pots which are small ponds brimming with boiling mud. Very cool.

We enjoyed the drive back to the ship, got in line to board, changed for dinner in 10 minutes flat, and headed for the dining room to hear about the adventures of our group since we  had all gone in different directions today. I went out on a limb and had ox tail pasta for dinner. A delicious first for me. A fun production number called Born to be Wild was the evening’s entertainment.

Galley trivia…

Five butchers, three assistants plus helpers slice and portion meat and poultry before sending it to the galley where 12 chefs do their magic. On average my shipmates and I consumed the following:

  • 1,400 pounds poultry
  • 1,700 pounds beef
  • 1,400 pounds pork/pork products
  • 300 pounds veal
  • 200 pounds lamb

2 thoughts on “The first of three wake-ups in Iceland

  1. It sounds so amazing—I wish I was there

    Matt Mongeon | Senior Business Analyst
    PMP, ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA
    Technology Team – Cox California
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | •


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