Making Tracks Across The Fjords

I wake up to a wet motorcycle, and a wetter tent and rainfly. The wind is still whipping and the clouds hang so low I feel I can touch them. So dark and brooding I dare not for fear that I’ll pinch a whole and let the rain fall.

Today I’ll push on across the northwestern fjords, saying gIMG_0252-1ood by to Hrutafjordur and then cruising across Vatusdalur and make my way to Blonduos where I know I can refuel. The rain is pelting and the roads slippery. I pass a man in the middle of a road, one hand on his mobile phone the other gesturing me to slow down. As I pass I see a small Skoda in a ditch, folded up like an accordion. A not so mute reminder of the danger of these narrow and wet roads.

My plans for moving to the interior change. The weather, frankly, sucks—at least for riding a motorcycle. I’m cold, but feel humble and so small under the grandeur of ominous skies and the scenery. Though I’m not trying to sleep, I stop counting sheep. They’re everywhere. I think back to the sweater I wanted in Reykjavik. I hardly see cattle and certainly no goats.

Waking up to a wet tent.

Waking up to a wet tent.

Perhaps most impressive, are the Icelandic horses, I’m told the strongest in the world.

At the fuel station in Blonduos, a British traveler is inspired by my bike. He just spent 3 days scuba diving the lake at Myvatn. “Not much to see,” he explains, except for the tectonic plates and evidence of volcanic activity. “No wildlife under the water,” he says. The lake is on my list to visit. I hope that the weather doesn’t deter me.

As I make my way north through the Skagaheiui fjord, I start climbing in elevation. Signs warn of the need to put chains on wheels—in the colder and darker months of course. The temperature does dip, but I hardly notice as the rolling hills, barren and gold, and dotted with horses and sheep are stunning and empty. There’s hardly a car. As much as I want to stop, explore and take photos, I choose to move on.

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Hanging outside a fish processing plant on the Skaga fjord in the village of Saudarkrour.

As I descend upon Saudarkrour, the grandeur of another vast expanse of water, the Skaga fjord (Skagafjordur) appears before me. A small fishing village, known for langoustine and for farming and sheep in the hills above, I decide to settle down here for the evening the guest houses are all full, but a hotel gives me a deal if I bring my sleeping bag. I feel relieved I don’t have to make camp.

The waitress and a small restaurant in town convinces me to try the puffin dish. Puffin is a small awkward bird that has a loose lineage to penguins, the last of which disappeared from northern iceland centuries ago. Like penguins, puffins have webbed feet, and can fly—though they seem more comfortable on water and waddling.

The restaurant quickly turns into a nightclub, and before I can pay my check and leave, I’m surrounded by a bunch of 20-something kids eager to hear my stories and engage me in drinking games. I indulge them and it’s not long before they are all engaged in the Iceland football team chant and clapping—the same celebratory teamwork chant that captured the world’s attention after Iceland beat England in the Euro 2016.

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My charming locals eager to engage me in their culture, drinking games and strong chewing tobacco. Smartly dressed and neat haircuts.(photo by Johnny A)

IMG_9733-1Next, one of the guys insists I try some Icelandic tobacco—or at least Icelandic strength tobacco—always willing to try something, I say sure. He rolls up a small packet and tells me to put between my gum and teeth. Seems like a hand rolled solution to a Shoal Bandit. As he prepares my dose, which is says is low, he tells me that he’s been using this tobacco since he was 14. He’s now trying to quit. Others tell me the same thing. After about 10 minutes, they warned me, I started feeling buzzed. After thirty minutes, one of the kids was surprised I still had it tucked in. I finally gave up.

The drinking game got boring so I moved over to a table with three young ladies. They asked how I liked the drinking game, and then offered to show me another. “Ready,” one asked. “One, two, three, DRINK!” Very simple and she was excited that it really didn’t take much to learn.

There’s not much to do in these small farming towns in the north, I learn. And this restaurant turned nightclub is the social hub. Everyone knows everyone. And me and the film crew—we stand out. Their curiosity is endearing, but the drinking is heavy. Soon, I must bow out, as tomorrow I’m making my way to the next fjord, to stay with a true farm resort—a bucolic restaurant and inn sitting at the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

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