"" Writer's Wanderings: Iceland - Surprises!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Iceland - Surprises!

The morning after our awful rainy and windy day, the sun shone beautifully in the early sky. You would hardly know that just the day before we were whipped by gusts of wind and horizontal rain. We ventured out after breakfast to see the swimming pool and hot spring that was next to our hotel. Somewhere we read that for every 2500 people in Iceland there is a public swimming pool.

This was available for the area and if you paid a fee at the hotel you could use the showers and dressing room in the building by the pool. The hot spring was more like a natural fed hot tub without the bubbles. The curious thing we found though was a little ways behind the pool building. It was a structure built into the hillside.

It turned out to be the historical site of interest for the area as well--the Sorcerer's Cottage. It dates back to the 17th century and shows how difficult life was for the poor farmers. They believed that magic would help them and concocted all sorts of symbols and charms to help them along. One of the most interesting things I found on the information panel was the number of animals that were needed to sustain a family of four: 2 cows, 20 sheep, 4 wethers, 1 lamb and 1 horse. (I have no idea what a wether is. When I search for it all I get are weather reports.)The man of the house would spend his winters away fishing for a living. Can't imagine having to handle the harsh winter and all those animals plus kids on your own.

Isafjordur, our next stop for the night was not real far away but we did have that long gravel road to travel. We put away the cameras and headed for the fjord we had to drive around. Surprisingly the gravel road was not all that bad. It drained well except for the construction areas. We hit the asphalt road and made our turn only to be waved down by the British couple we had dined with the night before. They were standing next to their car and waving both arms at us.

When we came to a stop they excitedly told us they wanted to catch us so we wouldn't miss the whales that were out in the fjord. As they pointed the whales spouted water right on cue. They also said they'd seen some seals at the end of the fjord and we should watch for them. Apparently they'd backtracked a bit to be sure to catch us. They went on their way and we turned around to follow the whales down the fjord.

Bob drove a ways down the road and we found a spot to pull over. Once we were outside the car and watching for the pair of whales, we began to attract a bit of a crowd. Several others stopped to see what we were looking at. I had my camera set to sport mode that takes several pictures at a time when you press the shutter button. I learned that to catch the fluke of a tail, several pictures in rapid succession usually did the trick. I had no idea what was about to happen though.

I saw one whale surface and then dive. I pressed the button hoping to catch a picture of its tail. As the camera began clicking away I saw the whale start up and out of the water, do a slight piroret and then dive again. All the while Bob and I are yelling, "Do you see that?!!" When the whale disappeared we both stood there mouths gaping. Wow!

Down around the point of the fjord, we found the spot where the Brits had said the seals were but we could only find one. Maybe the others had told him to sit, stay, while they went out to hunt for food. We took a picture and went on our way.

We drove for a while and found a waterfall. That was hardly a surprise especially given the rain the day before. But across the road from where the waterfall was there was a group of whooper swans. We had passed lots of these along the way during our drive but this was the best chance I had at grabbing some shots of them. They breed in Iceland and winter in Britain and Ireland and are related to the American trumpeter swan according to one piece of information I found. So graceful.

There are signs along the way that have a flower-like symbol on them that indicate an attraction or historical point of interest. We hadn't had a stop in a while and happened upon one of the signs near a little cottage up on a hillside. It was an historical home, Litlibaer. Built in 1894, it was occupied until the mid 1960s and often held as many as 20 people. Many of the thick stone walls that surround it date back to the early days. The house was restored and became a part of the National Museum. A couple provides coffee and waffles for a price of 1000 ISK ($9). We passed on the food but wandered in and out of several rooms that were really small but had little tables for customers. Lots of interesting items in the house but it was hard to get a good look at them in the cramped space with others having their coffee and waffles. It did have the friendliest dog though that sat outside and greeted everyone.

We arrived in Isafjordur in time for lunch. We actually drove past our hotel and then found a restaurant close by that looked out into the harbor. I remember having a BLT, something I wouldn't have guessed would be on the menu. It was great. I was getting tired of soup for lunch.

Since it was too early to check in to our hotel, we wandered around town a bit. This was a pretty good sized town and the receptionist had pointed out a spot on the map that was supposed to be the older historic part of town. I couldn't tell a big difference but the day was warm, the sun was shining, and it felt good to be out of the car.

Across from our hotel Bob had spotted a Bakeri (bakery) and his sweet tooth kicked in. Before we checked into our hotel we stopped for a coffee and some donuts and a Facebook checkin with their free WiFi. Most places in Iceland had free WiFi and most did not even require a password. The hotel's WiFi did however. When Bob asked what it was the lady turned a framed printout around and pointed to it. I took a picture of it to save but didn't pay attention until we got upstairs as to what it was: 1234567890.

After a light dinner of Iceland style pizza (mild sauce with a cheese other than mozarella) and a hamburger, we decided to walk down to the wharf area. It turned out to be another historic area with several marine displays that referenced the early shipping and fishing days.

Bob's sweet tooth kicked in again and we found a spot that sold ice cream. While I waited for him to get his dish of ice cream I spied a stuffed puffin in a display case. I had to take a picture. It was probably the only puffin we were going to get to see this trip.

Northern Lights prediction? Not good this night. I slept well.

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