Day 7: Monday 20 August 2012
Distance travelled: 444km (275 miles)
Breakfast at 8 o’clock. We have one other couple, French, who are staying at Vilborg’s. The table is laid with every care and attention and the food is epic in a simple, understated way. Cereal with yoghurt and milk – followed by homemade rye bread with cheese and cold meats, homemade cakes and toast and jam with fresh orange juice and coffee.
About 8:45 we are setting off with a deadline to get to Husavik in time for our 10 o’clock boat. Deadline or not we stop a viewing spot by the side of the road opposite Akureyri. The water is like a mirror and the sky is a perfect blue and the view and the view is picture postcard perfect.
And then we are off once more, climbing a high and steep path over the mountains and down to the flood plain of a glacial river to navigate down and around and straight into Husavik with just minutes to spare. We’ve booked our tour but have to pay still. When I ask if we are in time the 10 o’clock sailing the girl looks over her shoulder at the boat preparing to set sail. She says with a smile, ‘Can you run?’ So we do. Not that I thik we need to as they have already radioed through our presence and a bus load turns up after us.
The North Sailing boats are traditional old oak boats and lovely. They also have 98% reliability at finding whales. When we set out across the bay for the first 40 minutes of the three hour tour we don’t see much besides the occasional Fulmer and I worry that we are not going to see anything…
And then we have our first sighting. A humpback whale, first blowhole, a dorsal fee and then its fluke before a deep dive. I can’t believe what I have just seen, and I also feel guilt at having seen it in case that is our only whale and Emma hasn’t seen it.
I need not have worried, as by the end of our tour we have seen a total of six different humpback whales, some more than once, and a couple of pairs doing synchronised swimming between our boat and a sailing schooner, and fluking right up close. Amazing! Then years ago all I got to see a few lethargic minkies.. As we return to Husavik, the crew serve us steaming mugs of hot chocolate and warm cinnamon buns.
Upon arriving back at Husavik we decide to eat out at lunchtime and snack ‘in’ on flatbread and cheese later. Our restaurant of choice is Salka, an old, traditionally timber built, green-painted building in the heart of town. Ten years ago I ate puffin in this building. Today we both opt for pan-fried arctic char – delicious! And very relaxing – a perfect end to a perfect day – except that it is not the end. Sadly we don’t have time to add the Icelandic Phallogical Museum to the itinerary with its ‘bizarre collection penises’ including ‘silver castings of each member of the Icelandic hand ball team’ as we have places to go. The place in question being Ásbyrgi with its horsehoe canyon, reputed in legend to have been formed when Ódinn’s eight-legged horse clipped the northern edge of Iceland as it jumped over. Actually formed by a massive glacial flood that eroded the Jókulsa-y-fylum river that now runs nearby seem positively small and insignificant by comparison.
Now the canyon is forested in birch trees and abundant with wild blueberries that we pick and eat. It is tranquil and peaceful with its clear pool at the far end, and its viewing platform from which you can survey the whole canyon. There is also the concrete ‘slab’ where tradionally the locals would gather for dances and feasting and the filed where rock concerts are sometimes staged.
Sadly we don’t have time to venture further south to Vesturdalur and its castle-like rock formations, and I am very sad about that as it is one of my favourite places.
Arriving back at Ytra-Laugaland for our second night we discover that we are the only guests and Vilborg shows us to our new room.It’s upstairs in the old farmhouse with a view down the valley and even nicer than the last room.
Day 8: Birds, Bubbling Mud and Ash Craters…