Day two… (Reykjavik, Borgarnes, Varmahlíð)

We woke up this morning (well, we woke up several times during the night) to the sound of screaming gales, battering against our shuttered windows. None too great, but it took me back to one of the odder features of Reykjavik: virtually every house had at least one window open, despite it being <4 degrees C. We wondered why this might be. A hypothesised that it might be to let the aromas of the city in – the back streets smelt of generic fairground frying, the Italian restaurant we passed smelt of English Indian restaurants, and the Indian restaurant we passed smelt of English kebab houses. All very curious. I hypothesised that the intention was more likely to be to let the vapours out. These were, perhaps the houses belonging to yesterday’s cigar-puffing men in polar bear skins. They would unquestionably be too warm in a room heated to anything above freezing, whilst their womenfolk and offspring  waged perpetual warfare against cigar fumes. They might also have been attempting to vent bath fumes, as the local tap water has a distinct eau de Volcano, and needs more than a bit of soap to scrub out. 

We soon discovered that, whatever the Icelandic motivation for opening windows, it was stronger than a mere sub-zero gale. 

Popular enough, in fact, for the Tourist Information Centre to blaze a trail for local habits

This open door looks so welcoming that it’s hard to describe *just how bloody awful* the weather was. I was in the process of using a jacket hood in anger for, I reckon, the first time since c.1989. My ears felt like they were about to fall off. For anyone with a conventional understanding of doors, indoors, outdoors and warmth, this embodies a flat-out indecent approach to door opening behaviour. 

Our first mission today was to find cash. So we walked across town to the ATM (rendered inaccessible yesterday by a surprise swarm of zebra hens), past some tremendous morning scenes:

And a number of town centre cats, where N>0. 

Thence to a mini-mart, to buy lunch & admire the Icelandic delicacy that is *not* fermented shark. What else, but boiled, singed, cured half sheep’s head?

Had A not forbidden me from possessing any “sudden lambvasssing”, or opening any within 500m of her, lunch may have held substantially greater quantities of mutton. I’m reminded that Jamie apparently once made a fortune, shipping one-tonne containers of 20,000 pairs of chicken’s feet from Bernard Matthews to China. Maybe Reykjavik helps the world with its surplus half mutton head supplies. 

And then on our way North… Barely half an hour from R, we were beginning to pass some pretty decent mountains. Tbh, the photos I’ve got are a bit “mountains mountains mountains” and risk tending towards increasing mountainyness as the trip goes on. There are only so many ways to make big pieces of rock look ace, presuming you weren’t there (which you werent, unless you’re my wife) so I’ll try to distil them a bit. 

Mountains:

Mountains:

Mountains:

ROBUST HORSES:

Indeed, we past lots of robust horses, almost invariably looking bored and cold, drawn up in uniform ranks in the least windswept part of a given field, arses to the wind. This picture does not do them full justice, as only got my camera out in time to get some non-uniform (though still ROBUST) horses. 

We saw no cats at *any* point in this drive. 

Back on theme, mountains:

Mountains WITH FOREGROUND inactive LAVA FIELD!!!!!:

A suddenly twigged, as we were driving through,  that the heaps of boulders were a bit unusual and lava-y. (Well, more rock / ashfall-y, but the principle stands.) Then a few miles later, we passed what looked like a wee heap of gunpowder: only about 100m tall, but with a top that must’ve been a blown crater.  Excitin’! It must’ve been an enthusiastic tyke when it was active. 

Mountains:

These last mountains are sort of cheating a bit, as we didn’t see them whilst driving. Instead, we pulled into a small village called Borganes (as in boeuf de Borganes, no doubt), and couldn’t resist a floridly mustard-coloured corrugated iron tea house, with a circular saw outside. 

Happens that the exterior was one of the least fruity things about it. After the owners opened it up especially for us, and after we had made our way past the displays of knitting yurts, hand made candles and dream catchers, we discovered that it was a fantastically chintzy gallery with a sideline in semi-erotic tapestry. 

You don’t get many of THEM to the pound in Dorking. 

They also had a bevy of lived-in sofas, several very enthusiastic side tables, and *all* the free Doritos a sane man could eat. And some really good coffee, to my very pleasant surprise.

The gentleman of the house sat at his computer, playing Solitaire on what looked like Windows 98. The lady of the house was absolutely lovely, asked about our travel plans, and expressed some consternation at the condition of the roads. We are pretty sure by now that a full ring might be optimistic.

We headed back to the car, via the town church, which seemed to share something of Reykjavik cathedral’s rocket ship aesthetic…..

 

It would be fair to say that road conditions fell short of universal optimisation. As the weather changed, we saw increasingly beautiful vistas, though. And rarely felt in genuine peril. 

From that point on, it was sort of same old, same old. Mountains mountains road mountains fear of icy road death mountains mountains, until we popped out in a stunningly sunny valley which just happened to be our destination. 

Awesome sauce!

Our lodgings here are adequate stunning beyond measure or comparison [edited, as I’m informed that British understatement does not always survive translation…]. They consist of a self-catering wooden lodge, with geothermal heating:

And a regulated hot pool. Only time will tell whether or not this is the last time I will find myself wearing merino hiking socks and Bermuda shorts. 

A’s (rather more elegant) solution involved a flannel dressing gown, and bobble hat. 

A4.JPG

 

 After a failed attempt to mount a local hill (thwarted by seas of glistening ice), we dined on fine Danish mini-scallops in cream and garlic sauce. A bargain from a small supermarket in a town of c.2,000 souls, coming in (with salad) at just under thirty quid. We briefly considered a small bag of frozen king scallops, but their 5,000ISK (£30) price tag prompted a swift reconsideration…

I am now wallowing, post-Archers, as A prepares for another swim – perhaps (though the forecast suggests it’s unlikely) with a view of the northern lights. 

Akureyri tomorrow, Iceland’s second city (pop. 30,000). The in flight magazine on the way over informed us that a local artist is spending six weeks going through his historic papers, naked and emotional. We hope to arrive in time.   

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