2:30 p.m. in Eyrarfjörður
Being reminded that the Earth itself is out in space is a trip in itself.
Fun for all! This is the kind of road that keeps the economy going by helping tourists to rip out the undercarriage of their rental car. This is not, really, a road. It is tourist made, because that’s fun.
Still, the one below, the old road to the church at Gerðaberg, although more traditionally Icelandic is, well, more traditionally Icelandic. It is not going to keep anyone’s economy going, but most fun for trudging.
And the harbour road at Hellissandur? Well, heck, the old icehouse, that you can see in the distance, is on the very bad road to the now-abandoned harbour, but does that stop Icelanders from getting there quickly on their own 4x4s on no road at all? No it does not. This is the kind of ghost road that shouldn’t be, but it is, because, well, that’s fun, too. The tracks are full of a sand-snow-ice-seaweed mixture. Very special!
A more useful road gently curves up to the abandoned farm Vaðstakkaheiði, and the waterfall behind it. Lovingly, the road is just called Foss, or “Waterfall”. It’s a great one for bringing the horses in and out, and for going up the hill to service the power lines running under the glacier, but all that is locked off in the winter, which means that you can get to the cliff, and then what? You can practice your confined-space three point turns to go back, or, to really ramp up the fun, reverse your way back to the farm, that’s what, which should keep you laughing all the long night through, when you think about it.
In comparison, the main roads go through tunnels, which is a very fine thing because the roads themselves are skating rinks. And the light is blue, which, yes, is also fun.
Thinking of an adventure on a private Icelandic road instead? Great idea! Here’s where you can put the 4×4 investment to good use, which is easier and more fun than plowing with the tractor. Only older farmers plow with the tractor, because they can’t afford a 4×4, but if you can afford one, very fun. (Don’t forget, though, that tractors are fun, too, so very fun that the old guys keep them to themselves. You’ll have to settle for a Nissan. Sorry.)
But on Highway 829 at Littlaslétta, even at dusk (1:30 p.m.) on a winter day, it’s a good time to put the pedal to the metal and fly at her, taking the curves like a hawk after a sparrow. The mountains will do their best to distract you, as Icelandic mountains, the tricky dears, will, but that, too is good.
Now, get out there and have some good old Icelandic fun!
That’s the fun part. Here’s the next window in the store on Laugavegur. Same stricken climber dude, hanging on now without his tree, and a woman up front in a tank top AND a climbing jacket, so, like ready for a night on the town, but look at the background:
PURE Mountain, the Dolomites. When did Reykjavik move to Italy? It must have been an expensive purchase. Is this why the Italian economy has been in a shambles?
The beautiful view is closed off now, although the sun still shines in and statues still look out.
And for a palm tree just south of the Arctic Circle, where better? Is it Icelandic? The question is: what isn’t?
But the violinist playing to his city, now playing to an international hotel chain?
It can be exhausting to grow old and famous. Even three years ago, Harpa stood proudly out in the sea. Ten years ago, she was an open public space, with art shows and cool shops everywhere. Now she’s growing up, the dear.
So are we all.
So are we all.
The government sees to its popularity. The project is to keep tourists moving, and to give them a stop or two now and then to refresh. It’s a technique learned over a thousand years of sheep herding. Humans aren’t sheep, of course, but we do have physical needs. Air, for instance. Light. Spiritual purpose. That kind of thing. For that, some places are better than others. Gerðuberg is a great one: the first place you’ll stop, two hours out of Reykjavik on your one-day-long and way-too-quick way around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You’re going to want to stretch your legs by that time. But don’t be fooled. By the time you get to Gerðuberg’s natural wonders, you’ve already passed the second way of seeing. It was on the road in.
You see, every natural wonder in Iceland is framed by a long history of human struggle. These post-war North American metal sheds are used as barns everywhere. It’s no longer the fashion, but hundreds are still in use, just as they are (for instance) on the Canadian Prairies. You can see Gerðuberg and its crater in the background. You are getting closer to Iceland now. Crater? Yes.
The Third way of seeing. Well, you passed it, too, probably wondering where you could stop to take a photo.
The answer is: off a little side road, and then along a 2.5 km trail across private land. Other than that, no-one has made a spot for you to stop, except for Gerðuberg. But there’s a trick to this third way. You will probably be lulled by Gerðuberg. You might just miss Eldborg, because you’re looking the other way. And that’s the secret to the third way of seeing in Iceland: turn around.
Probably coming home with tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner.
Just in time.