Category Archives: tourism

Gerduberg in Winter

This old farm building below the famous basalt cliff Gerduberg is a good reminder of a changing climate, for even here, in a remote farming district, the wind is taking the soil away. Look at how it is staining the drifts on the hilltop brown.

It means there is no plant life holding it down. No-one needs a farm shelter here any more. Touring Iceland is often a trip through ruins. It’s like a winter trip itself: one freezes terribly in the wind, but can enjoy it because one will soon go in to a cozy room in Borgarnes, with all the lights blazing. It’s a romantic image, though. This is Iceland. Here you can’t go in.

Snaefellsjökull, The Watcher

The volcano was an island-volcano off the coast, before a completely separate volcanic event raised a ridge of volcanoes out to meet it and then past it into the Atlantic. It watched them come.

It watched humans come, too. Some go there now to watch it. Others go to be watched by it. It measures the distance between those two points of view.

Spot the Gull! A Fine Icelandic Tourist Game

See her?

Up here in North Iceland, with the cities far away, one makes one’s own fun. When you tire of the Spot the Gull game, you can start in on the spot the troll nest game, which is just as much fun.

After all, Gunnar Gunnarsson moved to Denmark and became a writer, not precisely in that order, because he was given a walnut for Christmas, and raced its shell down the parsonage stream, imagining it was a big sailing ship. So, if little Gunnar could do it, we can look more closely, too.

Hvallág

I wouldn’t play this game in Reykjavik, though. They might think it kind of country bumpkinish. As they thought Gunnar was.

Pathfinding in Iceland

If you’re going to follow the trail …

Threading through the mountain bogs on the way south from Stapavik

… the sheep won’t help you.

Yes, this poor ewe is lost.

It’s best to follow the stakes set out by the Icelandic government, to keep things safe. You’ll have to stomp around quite a bit to find them.

They’re not always even on the trail!

It’s always a happy moment to spot one.

Even if you’re at the bottom of the trail at that point! It’s just a little game Iceland plays with you. You might as well play along.

Hiding in Plain Sight

While getting boots and gloves and hat ready to go over the lip of the hill last December 24 and visit Sheep’s Falls, one of my favourite waterfalls, many tourists stopped as well: the first stop, it seems, two or three hard hours of driving from Reykjavik. Time and again, they took a few pictures over the Berserkerjahraun to the rising sun, and then posed for each others’ cameras and drove on. It was intimate and sweet.

Still, they had Kirkjufoss to get to before the rising sun was no longer behind the mountain, and they didn’t need me telling them it would be worth it to walk for ten minutes down through the drifts, because they might not have come to Iceland to see the pale, pale winter sun and to learn its nature. They had places to be getting along to, with better cameras and the hope for brighter light, and promises had been made to them, and promises, we know, should be kept.

Just imagine how many times a day any and every traveller in Iceland, myself included, encounters people who know where they are and what is worth seeing and say nothing, because that’s the way of the land itself. As Paul Theroux pointed out half a century ago while travelling by train through South America, it’s North Americans (myself included) who point to stuff.

Oil Slick? Not in Iceland!

In Canada, this would be an oil slick, caused by a passing freighter illegally flushing out its tanks at sea.

Njardvik

Not so nice!

But in Iceland, it’s more like an Earth slick.

Njardvikura

It’s the confluence of a river that is taking an 1100-year-old farm away and the desire for a new road to prevent rural depopulation in Borgarfjördur Eystri.

The concept of “nature” is a balancing act here.

The Complex Social Ecosystem of East Iceland

An American gift. Pretty.

Neskaupstadir

Everywhere!

Perhaps the Windiest Holiday Houses in the World: Eskifjördur

Out with them!

Baula

Your holiday stay (and those pics you took of the pretty lupines)…

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eltz_2019/27844425172/

…pays for this volunteer time on days off. A complex social ecosystem, eh.

The Irony of Laugavegur

Laugavegur, in Reykjavik, has always been the people’s street. It started as a public work project, a cobbled road to make the work of washerwomen more efficient. They could take their laundry down to the hot pools by the Old Harbour in a cart rather than in baskets while stomping through mud, rendering the act of washing moot. This project increased general Icelandic productivity many times over, and, what’s more, was done primarily for women. During the economic crisis, the storefronts abandoned when Iceland moved into its suburban mall were snatched up with people selling whatever they could, to make whatever money they could. It was a kind of flea market to attract tourists. Well that worked, even if now they’re full of chain souvenir shops and none any different than the rest. Even the kitchen shop has moved to the mall now, yet even though Icelanders no longer cruise the street in their Old Timer cars, and young Icelandic women don’t pass down the street so much in their party clothes, and old Icelandic men don’t hang around their drinking holes (those are for tourists now) construction continued, even last summer. In a country desperate for housing for the poor or even lower middle class, more hotels was the solution private money found.

June 2019

Now it’s Covid Times. Tourists aren’t rushing in. The old idea does seem best again. Not so much cobbles, maybe, for women to lug their laundry along, but a roof over their heads, so they don’t have to commute long distances in the dark and somehow care for their kids. I’m guessing, only the government can pull it off, but in a country in which men …

…spend the summer driving in circles on a tractor to make hay, while watched by their horses, so they can feed it to their horses in the winter while they watch them…

… and make an economy out of that solid relationship, a little help to the women seems wholly within their power and capacity. What do you think, guys?

They’re asking for our vote.  And, like, more than a bus shelter.

Puffin Guardians at Raudanes

The puffins at Rauðanes…

…are well-guarded. Note the troll, whose hair they live in, and his peek-a-boo stone seal.

Plus, a whole guard team on shore. Here’s one at work.

All this help allows puffins to build a pretty lovely set of penthouses in peace.

Just respect the management’s rules, that’s all, and yield at trail intersections!