We awoke this morning to blue skies and bright sunlight. It was a little hard last night to remember that this is summer – we were rugged up in fleeces and layers and still shivering. This morning it’s all sunglasses and t-shirts.
Iceland was owned by Denmark for a chunk of its history so Danish pastries are the genuine article. We stocked up at a local bakery before setting out towards the North East. The first part of the drive takes you under several huge mountains. There are three tunnels the first is about 4km, the second almost 8km and the final 3.5km. That’s a fair bit of time underground feeling like some ogre might pop out from a passing-bay. The third of the tunnels is only one lane wide, by the way, so passing-bays are sort of essential.
We started out in bright sunlight. Popped out of the first tunnel into a valley that was still shrouded in cloud. By the time we exited the third tunnel we were back in sunlight. It was altogether an unusual experience.
We then had a couple of hours driving through some lovely green countryside past rugged coastline and the occasional fjord, all the time edging closer to distant mountains. We stopped to stretch our legs in a small coastal town with absolutely nothing happening.
Finally we reached Akureyri the largest city in Iceland outside of Reykjavik. We found a lovely spot in the sun down by the shores of the fjord and settled in for a picnic while watching the world go by. Akureyri is nestled in a long, still fjord surrounded by mountains – it looks classically Swiss or Norwegian (or even Icelandic!). It’s a tourist town as well as the regional centre for the North of Iceland so whale watching businesses jostle for space with accounting firms and restaurants.
We had a lovely time soaking up the sun and watching the locals come out to play. A large crowd of teenagers gathered and started jumping and diving into the harbour. What made it amusing was the fact that most of them were wearing wetsuits, although a couple of brave souls were in swimmers. We found out later that the water temperature at the moment is 9-degrees centigrade so I reckon the people in wetsuits were on the right track.
In the afternoon we drove all the way around the fjord to a little village up the coast. We saw some more turf houses – well Jennifer and I did, the boys actually baulked and pointed out, with some justification, that once you’d seen one turf house you’d seen them all.
Anyhow the turf houses were not why we were there. We had come to ride Icelandic ponies. We went for a fantastic ride along trails with the mountains and fjord in the distance. Declan had no lead rope, for the first time ever, and did a great job. Both boys are now quite confident in the saddle, although when we sped up at one point they got a bit nervous. It turns out that Icelandic ponies claim to fame is an unusual gait which is known to be particularly comfortable. I can’t say I’m experienced enough to know. Regardless they were lovely horses and it was a brilliant ride.
By the time we’d finished the weather had changed again. A bank of fog had charged in across the mountains; pure white and looking solid. Declan described it rather nicely as “an island of floss”. As we drove back we skirted the bottom edge of the fog cloud but by the time we made it back to Akureyri it had cleared again. We’ve spent a fair bit of time discussing the difference between ‘fog’ and ‘cloud’ as Iceland seems to do an interesting variety of both. We’re particularly taken with the thin lines of fog or cloud that bunch halfway up the hills with clear air both beneath and above them.
I looked up the weather forecast earlier today and was amused to see the details for sunrise and sunset. Sunrise tomorrow is at 4:30am and officially the sun does not set. It’s roughly the same every day so we seem to be in a place that the sun never sets! (I assume it is doen that way because it actually sets after midnight and, if they listed it, it would look like it had set before it had risen.)