Posts Tagged ‘skyr’


11 Northern lights over Skaftafell

Determined to make it to Skaftafell, we were riding (our bikes) late at night across the sandar. The great expanse of grey sandar, a thousand square kilometers of volcanic ash and gravel coughed up by the eruption of Öræfi, is eerie and beautiful in the dark, silent and glittery with the numberless rivulets of water finding their way to the sea.  There is no option to camp in the sandar, so once we entered it, we knew we had to make it the whole way.   There was no traffic but the big trucks that haul after dark, and they were few and far between.   My brother was far ahead of us in his truck, and we were riding hypnotically side by side and talking, comfortable knowing we could see traffic in either direction ten miles away.  There are long wooden bridges with grated metal decks crossing the rivers.  Some seemed a half mile long.   The last one was mangled and tossed aside by the water in 1996 when Grímsvötn erupted, and there are some twisted steel beams like modern art on the side of the road there as memorial.

Just as we passed there, the indigo sky opened up in Northern lights, and we overtook my brother, who was parked taking pictures.  He said he could hear us coming by our excited whooping and shrieking at the sky.  Over and over the waves of lights flickered through the sky, brighter than moonlight, gorgeous.  We were cold from riding hot and stopping, but we couldn’t stop watching the lights, and we posed for some pictures with our bikes.  Late in the night, we rode the final miles to Skaftafell, looking forward to the flat camping and hot showers we knew to expect there, and the thunderous cracking of the glacier next to the park.



12 Invited upstairs for tea at the herring factory museum in Siglufjörður

The town of Siglufjörður was wet and cold when we got there, but when we were looking around the herring factory museum, a man came out, said it was closed for the day and he was tired, but he would open it up in the morning around 8.  Interested, we decided to bed down early and visit the museum in the morning.  It was a good choice.  We soaked at the pool, the hostel was wonderful and we had it to ourselves in the off season.  In the morning we went around to the museum again.  A young woman turned on all the lights for us and left us to our own devices.  An hour or so later, the man from the previous day came downstairs, talked with us and then invited us upstairs for tea.  There were a couple of other men there, directors, or sponsors?, and the young woman. They shared tea and cookies and talked about the administration of the museum,  the history of saving the property, and scrounging up the parts of other abandoned herring factories that were being scrapped to reassemble the museum as it is now, housed in multiple buildings with the multiple functions the factory had.  About three hours passed before we’d seen it all, and I left with a children’s book written and illustrated in exquisite watercolours by the same man who invited us for tea- the museum director and driving force of the whole project.  I wasn’t able to find him again to have my book signed, though.

13 Bowling in Akureyri

There’s a very prominent bowling alley on the strip of museums of all sorts that have sprung up on the road to the airport.  Since we were resting up in Akureyri and enjoying the sundlaug and buffet at Bautinn, we thought we’d try out some bowling.  Nothing prepared us for Friday night at the lanes.  It was crowded with young people, but not just young people.  There were ladies dressed to the nines and eyeballing the boys two lanes over, the booze was flying (literally- glasses of beer smashed on the hardwood), there were catastrophic drunks, we got invited to a party, a scuffle broke out, and there was some majestically abysmal bowling.  Clearly it wasn’t about the bowling skills at all, since it didn’t seem to matter if a ball even made it down the lane it was meant to or any lane at all.  It was pretty typical style for nearly everyone to hurl the ball out and release it at eye level, where it would smash down painfully onto the lane and possibly make it down to the pins.  More than once someone wiped out and hurtled themselves into the gutter.  It was a mesmerizing spectacle.  It was also the first time I’d bowled tenpin, so I thought that was pretty cool.  It was so totally fun we came back with my brother the next night, and that’s how we missed the significant earthquake that knocked plates off of shelves and shook the earth all around us in the north of Iceland.  Everything was shaking and rumbling already in the bowling alley, and we had no idea.  In retrospect though, there was one patch of time where half the lanes malfunctioned at the same time, resetting pins inappropriately or not resetting, and not counting the scores or returning balls.  That was probably the moment of the earthquake.

14 Jolaöl and Jolaskyr

Besides the off season perks of having special attention as the only tourists or else empty hostels to ourselves, the best thing about being in Iceland so late in the year was the Jolaöl, and the hilarity of trying to pronounce it.  Already knocking back the familiar Egil’s Malts like nobody’s business (tall cans of non-alcoholic orange flavoured stout-esque non-beer), one day in Mývatn there were these blue cans that we hadn’t seen before.  Wow!  Jolaöl was the tall blonde version of Egil’s Malt, perfectly sweet and bubbly and orangey-beery.  Technically a soda, although it tastes more like a beer, this blew away every soft drink I’ve ever had (except OOgave is pretty darn good too).  It’s a special holiday beverage, appearing just shortly before Christmas.  We promptly started buying it 12 at a time and freaking out when there were no cans left in the back seat.  Especially incredible had cold with a hot pool. Likewise for specialty Christmas products was Jolaskyr- skyr, which we were eating pounds of daily, packaged with Santa Claus on it, and flavoured with candied apples!

IMGP395415 Vík in the sunshine

Vík, or more specifically the famously recognizable rock formations at Reynisfjara and nearby Dyrhólaey, is notorious for being socked in, grey and overcast and rainy.  In 2010 we passed through a total of four times and had the same weather every time.


This time, the sun was out in full force, warm on the black rocks and black sand beach, and the stacks were bright and formidable in the sea, haloed with swirling birds.  My brother and I  climbed over the piles of huge black rocks, farther and farther from the main beach in the low tide, finding little coves of pebbled beaches strewn with bones and bird bodies, until I could see Vík and was sure I could get all the way around the point by the beach.  My better sense prevailed – my bike was at the parking lot, and by the time we got back out to it, the weather had changed, surprise, surprise.

IMGP137616 The amazing proprietor of a hotel in the Westfjords

who told me No he couldn’t rent me a room, they were all closed for the year, and the restaurant was closed too.  He called a restaurant in the next town to see if they were open and could feed us, and when they were not, then said Well maybe I could feed you some bread, and salad, and maybe there’s some soup.  He produced a wonderful meal, then told us we could sleep in the gymnasium if we wanted, and by the way there was a ping pong table.  Best night ever!

IMGP363617  Derek learning to drive a gas vehicle.

He’s only ever driven a diesel before, with the ultra-slow accelerator response, so his first time in a gasoline vehicle was like the Formula 500, and it was a pretty large truck.  The first two days were full of peeling away with a screech from green lights (Ooops, sorry.  I hardly pushed it!) and very abrupt halts (Ooops, sorry.  Wow, these brakes really brake).  It was pretty funny, especially when I was coaching him on the drive out of the parking lot from the people we just rented it from:  Okay, just barrrrely touch it.  Errrrk!  Whoa!!  I barely touched it!  Are all gas vehicles like this?  This is what people are driving in all the time?   Uh, yeah, it is!  Watch out for the sidewalk there-  Errrk!   Did they see that?  Ummm, yep.  They’re watching.  I wanted to email a week later- your truck’s still intact!  I just about died laughing.  But he got used to it and no one and nothing got hurt.   I wanted to email a week later- your truck’s still intact!

Also very special was:


Sleeping in caves.  There was one big enough to set up two tents in, right next to the road, dry and open, and another half full of snow that we threw down sleeping bags in the bottom of.

The solar powered drink dispenser in the middle of nowhere- wonderful!

Hotel Hellisandur and the fancy buffet of exotic foods and meats.
IMGP3545Walking on the beach by Hvítserker, where 24 seals bobbed in the water watching us and following us along the beach, popping under the water if you made eye contact.  Psst, we’re being watched.


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In the morning there was this persistent tapping sound, with a sort of crinkly tone.  It seeped into my dreams and got really annoying until I had to wake all the way up to address this sound.

DSCF6763It turned out to be a seagull a few feet from me.  It was pecking at a plastic shopping bag!  I hissed at it and it squawked back at me.  It left, and I fell back to sleep, then it returned.  Peck (crinkle).  Peck(crinkle).  Peck(crinkle).  I threw a shoe at it.

Awake now, I got up and packed, and I really did have some room in my suitcase.   I did some writing and internetting and then walked down to the 10.11 looking for some things to use that space for.  A half dozen skyr and a pile of chocolate.  It was a good place to shop for candy (right near the traveller’s  hostel – bet that’s no coincidence) and the guy there was very proud of Icelandic chocolate.

“All this-“, he said, pointing out the huge rack of Nizza and Pipp and Lakkris, “made in Iceland,”  then showing me the small selection of foreign candy – Bounty, Mars, Snickers.  I hadn’t known that so much was made in Iceland.  I wonder where the plant(s) is/are.  I just assumed it was made in Europe, the way North America imports so much processed food.  He said “Our [Icelandic] chocolate is so different, so good.  Very good chocolate.”  I’d have to agree.  “I think every day I eat some chocolate,” he says.  I admitted I was addicted, gesturing to my mound of about-to-be purchases.  “You are addicted to [gesturing to same]…like you are addicted to Iceland!” he said.

On my walk back to the tent a kid with a basketball feinted to toss me the ball, then spun it on his finger and carried on.  That was unexpected too.DSCF6796

When I called to book our bus ticket to the airport, I found out that one way to get to the airport is via the Blue Lagoon.  For a modest increase in price (nothing compared to their entry fees at the door), the bus will stop at the Blue Lagoon for a few hours on the way to Keflavík, and you can jam the Blue Lagoon experience into the last hours of your time in Iceland.  I couldn’t say no to that, so I didn’t.

DSCF6801On the bus there were a couple of obnoxious British loudmouths going on and on and on about football and footballers.  They drove me up the wall, but Derek was probably interested in the stats they were talking about.  At the Blue Lagoon, we left our stuff on the bus (2012 note: now you have to unload your stuff and store it in the building and reload onto a different bus – the bus doesn’t wait for you – too efficient now) and went in to the pool.  It was very high tech, with bracelets that you brush against a sensor to lock and unlock your locker in the changerooms.  that was cool.  Fancy.

The thing I wasn’t ready for that totally shocked me was that the Blue Lagoon is salt water!  Nothing I’d read mentioned that.  Nor the tripping / toe stubbing hazard, because you can’t see more than six inches below the surface of the water.  The water is white and cloudy, with that seawater slipperiness.  Very interesting.

There are pots of salt clay around the pool with long handled spoons to dip out clods of it and smear it on your face and skin for the “healing properties”.  The pool is very large, with differing temperatures in various areas and nooks, and there are features- the cave, the shower, the bar that serves drinks to bathers in the water.  Just wave your wristband to pay with your credit card when you leave.


The shower is the best- a powerful waterfall that hammers down on your shoulder when you stand over it.  There’s a risk for any women with swim suits that fasten at the neck; the pounding water was determined to unfasten the top of my suit.  There were some old men hanging around the waterfall.  They knew what was up.

The salt water made my hair so unhappy.  It was squeaky and brittle, hanging in ropes.  I could hear it crying.  Back in the change room I took a forever shower and dumped conditioner on my hair.  It seemed like we had all kinds of time in the Lagoon before we had to be back on the bus, but the time ran out.  We rushed back to the bus, getting only a couple pictures on the way out.

DSCF6868All in all I liked the Blue Lagoon, but I was sure glad I didn’t pay 28€ for the experience.

At the airport we got our VAT receipts stamped, checked our luggage, and ate a skyr.  Derek had one can of Guiness left over and drank it in the lobby, knowing he couldn’t bring it on board.  Slammed it, actually.  We had a laugh about that, not sure how chugging a beer would treat him on the airplane.  At security the skyr I was carrying on was denied, so I walked back a bit and wolfed it down, then went through security again.  After the stress of security there was vast shopping options that we sort of darted into.  Running through passport control, then the gate, finally slowing down on the ramp, we realized we had definitely caught the plane.


On the plane the attendants weren’t wearing their wool hats like they had on our arriving flight.  The whole experience was a bit of a disaster.  Derek and I couldn’t sit together, although we both had windows.  The child behind me was vigorously and continuously kicking the back of my seat, and his mother couldn’t make him stop it, even after I finally had to comment about the situation (politely).  I spent the first half of the flight sitting up straight and perched forward without touching the seatback.  When the beastly child fell asleep, so did I, with the channel playing Icelandic folk tales in my ears.  Their folk tales are a bit gory.


I was feeling wistful, anxious, and a bit wound up.  Having the last Hraun, the last appelsinu (orange) chocolate, looking at the last chance to buy Blue Lagoon mud from the “Saga shop” (Icelandair shopping), it was all sinking in that we were gone.

Ever since, I’ve been desperate to go back.


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