Iceland, day 9

October 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm

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Horse valley

Horse valley

P1060378P1060372P1060380-1P1060396We’re in the driest part of the country, so it comes as no surprise to me that I go running early in the rain. It’s a sort of whimpering, nagging drizzle, nothing like the extreme conditions of the South east, but still a little disappointing. We go to the excellent Blaa Kannan for coffee (looking through the daily Icelandic newspaper, Morgunbladid, I see Chelsea have beaten Manchester United on penalties in the Charity shield – that’s not my great command of the Icelandic language shining through, but rather seeing John Terry and Frank Lampard with the shield makes it kind of obvious) have our store bought breakfast in our room and head off.

Because it’s such a novelty – not because we actually like these things much – we stop at the shopping center on the outskirts of town. There we do actually indulge in one of our favorite travel experiences – buying interesting foods at a local supermarket.This time it’s mainly licorice products to take home and some pastries for the day, but usually we’ll include one product to bake/make at home. Of course once home we’ll discover the directions aren’t in English and the product does not appear as exciting as it was in the place we actually tasted it, and it will sit in a cupboard for about two years until someone throws it out. Still we can’t help ourselves.

As it’s still mid summer, and we’re cold, we have more coffee before heading off. Although visibility has dropped to about zero, we decide to board the ferry for Hrisey island, a little way from the mainland. It’s a small island with (surprise, surprise) virtually no people, but it’s reputed to be lovely and have ptarmigans walking around the streets everywhere. Except today, apparently, because there are none in sight. So we go walking around, half aimlessly, half trying to follow a trail that doesn’t really have any markings. But although this may not be going to plan, we wind up having a great time. Our pants are covered in mud, quite a lot of the time we don’t know where we are, the 1000’s of ptarmigans turn into about seven, but it is beautiful, and quite an adventure. and here’s one of the curious and wonderful thing about travelling with (your) kids : you may not think things are going according to plan (and many times  they are not), but often you get happily surprised that they enjoy so many things and even enjoy them with you, that just the experience of being somewhere else totally trumps the actual activity. This is one of those times. We meander around for well over an hour before deciding to go back.

Too late we realize we’ll probably miss the next ferry, so we move into high gear and race for the ferry dock. We get there just in time to see it leave, without us, and so we get to kill another 45 minutes on the island. We go sit in the Brekka restaurant and share our regular assortment of coffee, soup and bread. We watch out for the ferry and get there well in advance for the return trip along with the other handful of passengers.

Back on the mainland we carry on  north along the ring road before deciding that the signs warning of bad roads are too menacing so we turn round. We decide to detour to Godafoss, the last major waterfall we have not yet seen. On the way though I pull over somewhere for us to do a short hike. There’s nothing on the map (not even the side road we’re on), but there’s a picture of a hike by the side of the road. It feels like we may be trespassing, but what the heck, we go anyway. There’s a small gorge up a steep mountainous hill, with a river, and of course a waterfall. There are horses in the distance – we name the walk Horse valley (not it’s real name but far easier to remember than Nykurtjorn –  and a lot of scampering opportunities. As we go higher, the horses seem to be advancing. It’s possible they do not want us here. Surely they’re not going to chase us off ? Just as they get very close, they all lose interest and carry on with what they’re doing.

We continue for a while until we decide it’s enough, go back down and get on the road to Godafoss. When we get there, my son has decided to become a professional photographer, a desire that will last only a week, but will result in a lengthy series of Godafoss pictures. Eventually he’s done and we head back to Akureyri. There, we enjoy the fabulous bookshop and souvenir stores of the main drag, before going back to Bautinn for dinner. The soup offering tonight is goulash which sounds quite appealing. It’s obviously going to be lamb or beef so it’s an appropriate time to try something authentically Icelandic (we realize goulash is actually Hungarian, but this feels Icelandic enough). And then it turns out to be TOO Icelandic : the meat is horse, which for some reason is off-putting for us. So we share some other offerings and head back to the hotel.

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