I woke up so content with my little room on the farm. I ached to stay. The world felt so much easier to manage from a place like that. We strolled down to the host kitchen for breakfast, where the host’s cousin (Alma) met us again. She sat and chatted over breakfast—a nice spread of toast, hard-boiled eggs, ham, tomatoes, and cucumbers (common for Icelandic breakfast). It was shocking to share stories of our “normal lives” which lay in stark contrast to one another. Alma told us about how they always run into sheep on the road when they’re driving (similar to how we run into deer in the U.S.), but if they realize that the sheep in front of their car belong to their farm, they have to jump out and chase them back. She said that one time, she had to run 2 kilometers up a hill after a stubborn sheep who wouldn’t go the way she wanted.
“They’re pretty stupid sometimes…”
We told her how beautiful the country was, and she said that sometimes you can visit a mountain, leave for a week, and return to the same mountain and the scenery would have changed. It verified the feeling of constant landscape transformation that I’d been experiencing throughout our trip. To give some perspective, we told her that at home in NYC there are over 8 million people squished into a small piece of land, which rivals the 320,000 in all of Iceland. Her only response was “Whoa……”
People are so sweet and gentle here, it makes me wonder what our problem is back home. Too crowded? We can’t ever seem to truly relax. We’re always fighting against something—reacting impulsively and with intensity. This is especially relevant in our circus of a political climate right now. It makes going home feel almost crushing.
Despite how this sounds, I wasn’t feeling depressed per se. My eyes were just more open today. The contrast between here and home was becoming clearer. I tried to shake off that persistent and biting awareness, because there was so much beauty left to see while I was still here.
We made the easy drive down to Husavik, a small harbor town where we had signed up for a last-minute whale watching tour. We arrived and got suited up in bulky jumpsuit-style outfits meant to shield us from the windy waters. The boat took us out about an hour into the sea, and almost immediately we started seeing whale fins peeking out of the water. Our eyes darted back and forth in a furry, as whales quickly appeared on all sides of the ship. It was exciting and overwhelming to see their gaping fins push through the water and curved backs weave past one another. We sat out on the water with several other little boats and snapped photos until it was time to turn back.
Before getting to our destination of the night, we made one more “sight” stop at a waterfall called Godafoss, or “Waterfall of the Gods”. We hiked across slippery stones that crossed a stream in order to sit with our feet dangling by the edge of the falls—a hairy yet invigorating experience, to say the least.
That night, we stayed in Akureyri, lovingly known as the “Capital of the North” due to the fact that it’s Iceland’s second biggest city. It was weird to be back someplace with stop lights and an urban feel. We stayed in an adorable 1-bedroom apartment all to ourselves with a balcony on both sides, right in downtown. We went to dinner at Strikid for some buttery Arctic Char with roasted apples and a veal apple glace. The restaurant sat on the 5th floor and boasted some great views of the lake and mountains. Afterward, we had a cold beer at Akureyri Backpackers bar while overhearing travelers share stories. That night, we stood on the balcony for the summer solstice and watched the midnight sunshine turn the sky into a pink and orange back-splash.