[Note: I know you have nearly given up on my posting this portion on Iceland. So have I. It has been written, but I was determined that you should see photos of Puffin. Boy, has the photo part been menacing. I apologize for the delay, but I have probably spent a total of 30 hours or more on this portion, alone. Hopefully you can click to make the images larger.]
When we lived in
Hunter wonders why he can’t remember Alaska or ever wanting to know about puffin before, but the first morning he woke up in Iceland saying, “Mom, I don’t have jet lag: I slept the whole night,” he desperately wanted to take the Puffin Tour on a boat in the sea. Other than breakfast, nothing else mattered. He made sure to pick up a Puffin Tour brochure on the way to breakfast (adding to those
We could have done an art tour, gone fishing in the sea, taken a whale-watching tour or, as mentioned earlier, driven a few hours to some famous waterfalls. We could have been typical tourists and only wandered around (shopped) in
We dragged ourselves out the door, had the great idea to remove the large boxes from the back and backseat of the car and leave them in the hotel room, which took more time. As we were leaving, I opened my laptop to read a downloaded chapter of a guidebook on
Car idling, boy in the backseat wondering why we haven’t left yet, the electronic whir of a slowly fuming husband, the slow connection to free unsecured wireless and the equally slow payment and download of the last available chapter on Iceland (could have purchased the book more quickly!), so we could figure out what to do in Reykjavik while we waited for our ship to come in.
Sometimes we can be so technologically savvy, that we are time and adventure stupid. Phil and I have acknowledged this and sworn to go back to our more simple roots—where our parents studied fold-out maps and headed somewhere with only a vague idea of what the family might see. It was so much easier than trying to scroll up and down, up and down, to view a map on a tiny screen. But there we were with everything one could need in a PDF on a tiny screen and no map. Even the GPS we rented seemed stupid, making us drive several miles only to require a u-turn back to where we’d started.
Thus armed, we drove to the Capitol city of
We bounced all these ideas around while standing on Hamburgergatan which lead toward the tour and started at an intersection where the whole tiny corner houses a hip little hamburger joint, complete with posters of Elvis, the Beatles, gnarly looking rock n’ roll angry fashion statements and cute children’s drawings of themselves eating at their favorite hamburger place.
Oh yeah. You wanted to read about the puffin tour. It’s coming. The most roaming around we did was to see a house decorated in the most kitschy garden art, better seen from across the street than up close due to the high surrounding wall. We decided we’d get burgers and fries to take with us on the two hour tour after we’d walked up and down the harbor a bit. (This may have happened after the souvenir shop.) We let a souvenir shop lure us all the way inside such that we entertained plunking down some money for odds and ends (some of which have proved useful—like a pair of underwear, a rain hat and a baseball cap. Not telling which was for whom). We tasted things. We asked a lot of questions about the area. Then an ordinary looking man walked in with a painting and I asked if he was an artist.
The painting in his hand wasn’t his. It was a sepia toned painting with black outlines. He painted in oil somewhere very north of here, but could I come and see his gallery? It would take four hours by car, but not so long by boat. This was to be my waterfall. (Oh! Look at the time!) We’d have to leave seeing such paintings behind.
They were the kind of paintings sought out by “
He was a farmer and a fisherman, too. His boat bobbed at the harbor, along with the Puffin Tour boat, near the place we stood talking, lost in the wonderful world of shared interests with humans from around the world.
“Do you have a website?” I asked, getting pen and paper ready.
“No, but my daughter is working on it.” I hand him the paper and pen and ask for an autograph because you never know who you’re really talking to: “
I keep the piece of paper in plastic so it doesn’t get ruined. Will I ever see his paintings? Guess we’ll have to go back to
My husband was kind enough to let me enjoy this moment, but gently reminded me, after the artist excused himself, that we still hadn’t made our purchases and we hadn’t grabbed lunch to take onto the boat.
Purchases and lunch in hand, we finally went to the tour boat. We were directed onto a medium-sized boat-made-restaurant where we bought our tickets at the bar, then sent below deck where there were water closets (toilets) and a tiny side deck from which we would access the smaller tour boat. We admired the heavy wooden staircase and walls, highly varnished by marine varnish and time.
The tour boat arrived, was tied up with heavy rope and its human contents spilled quietly out, onto the tiny deck and through the narrow door near where we stood. Soon, we were allowed on the boat, pleased as ever.
We wove our way up tiny stairways to the top of the boat for a great view of the harbor. There were picnic tables, exhaust pipes, the captain’s windowed area and a walking deck surrounded by rails, but the space was barely large enough for ten people to enjoy at once. Since we were there first, and
We waited for the boat to “set sail” before we started eating. I watched
The water was smooth as glass. The weather had cleared into a clear blue sky. The only reason our boat swayed at all was the passing of other boats, even a huge private cruise ship. There was really no reason to feel queasy.
I decided to lean over the front rail, overlooking the bow. We were headed in the direction of a mountain I had been using as a point of reference. It reminded me of Steam Boat Rock in
Just then, one of the shipmates walked out onto the bow below me. She enjoyed a long, peaceful smoke. I kept hoping she would finish and move on, but she continued long enough that I couldn’t take either kind of exhaust, so moved below deck. There were no windows, only a small kitchen beyond some
booth/table lined walls. There was a large photo of some Puffin to look at, but that was all. How was I to see amazing birds down there?
So, I went to the back deck to look out over the side. I had read, in Lonely Planet’s chapter on the history of
We were passing an island not far from
We were called below deck for a few minutes of instruction. Wewere told that the North Atlantic Puffin is quite small compared to those in
Of course, I didn’t remember much of this, so had to look it up at
They are fascinating creatures.
“These puffins gather and lay their eggs on craggy rocks, oh, and look! We’re almost there,” we were told and rushed up to the front of the boat. I was shutter-snapping happy, but my lens was too short and too slow for these critters zipping overhead. The boat captain was a photographer with the same camera but an impressive lens. When he found out I was interestedboth in photography and birds, he stood nearby as snap-happy as myself, but giving mepointers. I was in
My photos are nothing like those the captain could take. His photos were on the brochure and in some other magazines. But I’ll show you a few here.
Just because you like the little critters, doesn’t mean you can’t eat them. I didn’t get to try (wasn’t aware of the possibility at the time), but I guess the locals do.
All too soon it was time to turn back.
Beautiful as the water and landscape was, it was nothing after being so near puffin. As if to keep my mind off of wanting to go back, some of the captain’s old coast guard buddies waved from a passing coast guard boat, then another group of them buzzed overhead, close-range, by helicopter--smiling and waving.
When we reached land, the dock was covered with school children laying over the sides stick fishing. They were all colorfully dressed enough for a photo.
Before the helicopter, I had asked the captain if he recommended The Blue Lagoon for tourists. “Sure!” he said, “I used to go there. It’s a great place!”
But when I told
After we had disembarked the boat and were trying to figure out what to do next, we were invited to get back on the boat for a free whale watching boat-ride which would take four hours. We knew we wanted to see more on land so we passed up the deal (that tour was more expensive than the puffin tour). Now, I kind of kick myself for that.
As usual, it took us awhile to agree on where to go and I have to admit that I was pretty insistent about going to the thermal springs instead of trying to drive around the rest of our last day. We ended up driving awhile, anyway, because Blue Lagoon was farther south, even, than the airport. And it seems we had to go back to the hotel for a swimsuit.
I also asked to see a lighthouse on the way. Everyone is getting tired of lighthouses in my family, because I like them so much. But how often does a person get to see a lighthouse in
We were all getting that jet-lag kind of tired; the kind that messes up touring.
Even when we parked in the parking lot, we couldn’t tell why so many brochures mentioned this place. The only thing we saw was black rock, busses, cars and a tiny spout of steam or two. People were leaving--from where, we couldn’t tell—with wet hair and towels under their arms. What crazies, we thought. Even us.
“Mom, why do we have to go here? What is it anyway? I don’t want to go swimming!”
Mean mom and bull-headed wife that I am, I grabbed our bathing things and walked the same way people were leaving. The sidewalk led us down into the rock. Before we reached the entrance, there was a little pathway around several bright blue pools of sulfur.
But we forged our way in. Inside was a spa like none I’d seen before—not that I’d seen many. Needing coffee and a snack for
Photos exist, but not many as we quickly realized it was time to get out there and experience it for ourselves (after paying through the nose). Ah, warmth, sometimes, ouch! Hot! You should have seen
Speaking of tread, though they had carefully painted the lava rock with lime to soften the volcanic rock under foot and against the walls, it was fairly common to be among those frequently stubbing their toes.
Since we had been able to see people so well from the cafeteria, we made sure not to go near those tall windows. You know, it’s one thing to be dweebs, another thing altogether to display how much. We kept a low profile, trying to keep all but our heads under water.
Showering afterward was interesting. There must have been 25 or more showers in the women’s locker room alone. It was necessary to wait for a shower, especially one with a curtain. But the wait wasn’t too bad. Each shower came with special shampoo and conditioner to get the salt off of body and hair.
Did I look back? I’m not sure. My shower was one of the only booths with a curtain but the special conditioner was empty. There was just enough shampoo. So I thought. It took awhile for my hair to dry, but when it did, my hair was a pillar of salt! I couldn’t run my fingers through it or even wear it on my head without feeling like something just wasn’t right. (When we were back at the hotel, I asked the receptionist if she had anything for sulfuric/salty hair. She understood right away, telling me about the time she visited the place at the age of 10 with hair "down to my butt." She took me up a few flights of stairs to a linen closet and found a box of things left by former customers. There was a shampoo conditioner mix as well as some very good conditioner. She advised me to use both and to do it twice. She was right. It worked. )
We drove away from that place happy. Even
Furthermore, the sun began to set. In many ways, it was as brilliant as sunset on the
The rest of our time was spent trying to find cheap food, repacking a few of our bags, making room for souvenirs, sleeping, eating a sound breakfast and heading for the airport. As we did so, we stopped at the Perlan and
What do I know about
[post script: We flew Iceland home to Idaho and back for Christmas. There was no snow at Keflevik when we landed December 19 and only a skiff January 4. The man next to me admitted to being Icelandic and said the Icelanders get used to it being rainy, dreary and dark--that there isn't usually much snow in those parts. He said, as people in most parts of the world say, "You have to go toward the mountains."
He also told me that while Blue Lagoon must be a nice place, he'd never been there. He said it is one of the places in Iceland that doesn't use the local currency. So the locals don't even go there. (Sigh, we were such tourists!) He said most every town has it's own hot springs, anyway, so that's where he goes. (What? There was a cheaper way of soaking in the springs?) So when the boat captain said he "used to go there," he meant before it was all fixed up for the Conde Nast types. And we're not even of that type. Boy, were we suckered!]