Monday, September 25, 2017

Of sheep and magnificent colors

Fall has arrived. Some parts of Iceland are seeing the first storms with high winds and tons of rain. There’s always a low pressure area somewhere just about to hit. We’ve had a few so far here in the Westfjords but I don’t mind rainy days with the wind shaking the house and the spray from the ocean waves slapping the windows. It’s great to curl up with a cup of tea and the cat on my lap with a good book in my hand (though the cat never stays on my lap for more than a minute). But overall we’ve had a really mild September and apart from two mornings with ground frost, the temperatures have been over 10° for most of the month. We’ve also had some really good northern lights already. And lucky me, I don't even have to leave the warmth of my bedroom to watch them.

The sheep roundups are also finished. Most in this area were done the last two weekends. I had a look at the local one here in Engidalur. I only stayed for a few pictures since I was clearly in the way standing around doing nothing but looking. This is serious business for the men and there was a lot of screaming and yelling and since I didn’t quite understand it all, it was quite intimidating. Next time I would like to help out, but I need a quick briefing first in the rules of sheep roundup conduct.  
I am totally tickled by the fall colors here. I’ve never been here this late into fall and with the mild weather, I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of outdoors time. I also discovered a new waterfall nearby, and I simply cannot believe I’ve been here 6 years already and didn’t know about it. It’s a magical spot with such beautiful colors. I could sit there for hours in the grass, grazing on blueberries, taking pictures, enjoying a hot cup of tea from my thermos.

I am certain there are still many more new adventures in store for me here!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Birthdays remembered

Most of my adult life, birthdays were nothing special. I’ve always had a great time and good friends who think of me in one way or another, but I never really thought of it as a special day. When I turned 40 back in 2011, I decided to change all of that. After all, I am very grateful to be alive and healthy, I have a wonderful life and I think that’s worth celebrating. Instead of being just another day on the calendar, each of my last birthdays has been a special day in one way or another. And I’ve spent most of them in Iceland. 

I kicked off the tradition on September 13, 2011 with a birthday trip to Þórsmörk. I wrote about it here in my blog if you care to reminisce with me. What I didn’t write about is the birthday party I threw afterward. I rented a whole luxurious apartment at Hlemmur square in Reykjavík and invited my closest friends who were around at the time. Mainly I celebrated my plans to start a new life in Iceland, because it was right around then that I decided to make this my second home. I want to name my dear friends here who attended, because even though I’ve lost touch with some of you, you made that day very special for me and I still think of you often: Ómar Már (who made really tasty finger food for everyone), Björg, Krista, Sigrún, Kristín, Súsanna, Steini – I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone! 

I’ve spent the last few birthdays at my new home in Ísafjörður. I love this time of year and I really am an autumn child. I love the beautiful fall colors, the amazing sunrises and sunsets, the berry-picking season, the first frost and the smell of winter in the air. 

I start the day as usual. Get up at 5:40 am after hitting the snooze button twice on the alarm clock.  I go for a walk on the beach at 6:15 and it seems like every morning there is something new to discover. Today there are hundreds of tiny, clear jellyfish scattered absolutely everywhere. Although it’s sad since they’re all dead, it’s a bit funny to observe how they all leave skid marks in the sand as the tide goes out and drags their slimy little bodies along with it before finally giving up and leaving them on shore. I’m quite amused and lose track of time. Later I discover a nice plate of homemade cinnamon buns at my doorstep from Bernhild, the upstairs neighbor. At lunch I meet Angela for Thai food. I rarely go out for food so it’s a nice little treat. Afterwards we take a nice walk before I head back to my desk. But first I open some wonderful cards and presents that have reached me by mail.

At 3pm I can finally relax. The downstairs neighbors are letting me use the car – a birthday treat. As I slam the front door behind me and jump in the driver’s seat, I wave to Helga who is dressed in old attire, giving a tour of the city to some tourists. I stop at Angela’s for some wonderful birthday cake with candles and the works. I probably haven’t blown out candles on a cake since I was ten years old. But it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon and we’re eager to get outside. We hop in the car and drive just a short distance out to Arnarnes. We meander about for a while in Arnadalur valley, looking for a way to cross the river without getting too wet, but there’s no sun there in Arnardalur so we drive on further to the path by the lighthouse. 

After a short climb we’re at the top and the view is simply amazing. We climb up the ladder to the lighthouse and enjoy the view. The skies are blue and we can see clear across the Djúp to Snæfjallaströnd. The sun is shining on the church at Unaðsdalur and the beautiful waterfall Möngufoss is a majestic gouge in the cliff. Just then the airplane from Reykjavík comes in and we wave, thinking someone might see us. 

We want to watch the plane take off again, but it‘s cold and windy and we can‘t just stand around and wait – so we walk. We hike up the back ridge of Arnardalsháls and have fun taking a bunch of pictures. Finally the plane takes off but it climbs up real high quickly and out of view. On the way down, we spot some nice blueberries that are too big to simply ignore. I can hear them calling to me: “Hey, don’t leave us just hanging here!” After all, they’re going to freeze off soon and that would be a shame. Just as our bellies and containers are full of berries, the sun dips behind the mountains and it gets instantly colder. Time to head back. 

Thank you all my dear friends and family for making this day memorable!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The adventurous drive home

I’m wide awake at 6:50 so I get up and shower to avoid the morning rush. I try to be quiet but the wooden floors and doors squeak. I’m out the door by 8:15. There’s no other life sign in the guesthouse, although all rooms are full. How can anyone sleep so long on such a beautiful day?

It’s 4°C and drizzling up on Steingrímsfjarðarheiði pass. My first stop after the descent is the old abandoned house at Arngerðareyri. It‘s a shame part of it has been covered in graffiti not too long ago, but it‘s still a pretty photo-stop. The wind prevents me from staying long, although I do take the time for a quick sandwich in the car. 

There are a few more sights in this fjord that I‘ve always wanted to stop and explore, but the weather is not too inviting to step out of the car for long. There‘s a small roadside stand advertising "eggs and more" at Svansvík though that I‘ve always wanted to look at, so I poke my nose into the box to see what‘s on offer. No eggs, but Iceland moss (fjallagrös). This is a real treat! I purchase two bags according to the price on the sticker and put my coins into the designated can. This will make nice healthy addition to soups in the winter. 

As I pull away from the stand, I suddenly notice the car is quite loud, much louder than usual when I step on the gas. Going up the mountain seems slow and endless, something just isn’t right. Luckily Reykjanes is just down the road and I’m certain the owner knows a thing or two about cars and can have a look. 

Jón has a good look at everything, confirms that it’s a really good car despite being so old, and says it’s only a hole in the muffler. Although it’s loud, it’s no problem at all to drive home. I happen to know that a hole in the muffler can also cause carbon monoxide to seep into the car’s interior. I’ll just make sure the ventilation is good and pay attention to any potential symptoms. In any case, I’m relieved and decide to relax with a swim. After all, Reykjanes has one of the best pools in the Westfjords!

I continue my loud journey at noon with no further major stops until Súðavík where I decide to have a quick burger at the sleepy fast food joint before entering the hustle and bustle of town. As I munch away, I see someone I know drive by. It feels good to be home!