18 Days around Iceland – June/July 2017

ICELAND, ICELAND, WHAT CAN I SAY?

18 days in their summer around Iceland  was  our  choice  for  a holiday. Winter has its attractions, especially  the  Northern  Lights but we had to be realistic. Even summer in Iceland can be bitter by  our  standards.  Winter  days are 10am to 2pm; you can’t see much in 4 hours especially when the wind and snow are blowing. Landscape was the attraction and to give you the end of the story first…….Iceland has it in spades. It might not be much bigger than Tasmania  but  the  landscape  is truly dynamic.

The  glaciers  are  retreating  but to  our  eyes  they  are  enormous and living in a relatively benign landscape  in  Australia,  I  really didn’t  appreciate  the  force  of nature until I stood on a glacier and  the  ice  caps  of  Iceland. Iceland’s most  active  volcanoes sit beneath the ice-cap and when they  erupt  the  ice  melts  with incredible  force  carving  huge valleys through the ice and basalt and flooding the coastal regions. Getting  there  is  quite  a  feat, Reykjavik is a 3 hour flight from London  and  the  flights  aren’t cheap. So on top of a Perth to London flight you have another haul  and  though  not  cheap, Iceland Air is pretty basic. Once you land at Keflavik Airport, it is 49kms to Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is a pretty little town, with  onlyl23,000  people  but then the population of Iceland is only 333,000 people.

The  roads  are  great,  the infrastructure  great  and  the facilities  great.  Iceland  doesn’t have any armed forces, so money can be spent on more essential things  such  as  education  and health. Heating and electricity is basically free, coming from the thermal springs and water is plentiful.

The food is something else……..just think fermented shark (just gross), puffin, horse and minke whale. If you are an environmentalist, best stick to soup and bread.

The main meat dishes are lamb and fish. Vegetables are rare but tomatoes  are  plentiful  being grown  in  glasshouses  heated  by thermal energy.

Food    and,    well    just    about everything,  costs  heaps.  Buying any luxury makes you think twice and alcohol is a rich man’s game. Eating  out  is  pricey,  consider  a steak and salad at US$73. However the main game in town is the landscape. Head west out of  Reykjavik  and  you  enter  a landscape   that   inspired   Jules Verne’s  Journey  to  the  Centre of the Earth. One highlight was visiting    the    fermented    shark factory      (Bjarnarhofn      Shark Museum).  Historically,  life  was very hard in Iceland as very little grew  on  the  volcanic  soil  and the  long  winters  made  keeping stock  difficult.  Fermented  shark sustained them through winter. Made from the large Greenland shark,  it  had to  be  cut and  left to  ferment  because  when  fresh the  shark’s  flesh  is  poisonous. Once  fermented  it  is  edible,  or so they say. The only way to eat it is in very small cubes, quickly swallowed  before  you  smell  or taste  it  and  washed  down  by  a quick tumbler of local schnapps. Once tried, never again, I suggest, but you can buy the T-shirt!

At Stykissholmur we boarded a boat  and  chugged  out  amongst the   100s   of   islands   of   the Hvammsfjodur.  The  islands  are notable for twisted and contorted basalt pillars and puffins!

Amongst the islands we saw the small  bay  and  island  that  Eric the  Red  (or  Erik  Thorvaldsson) lived on before being exiled and finding  Greenland  in  982.  Out on  the  water  we  were  glad  we brought   some   warm   clothing with us, clothing that never gets an airing in Roleystone.

So   what   more   can   I   say   in this   short   article?   The   people are    wonderful    and    friendly to   Australians,   the   history   is fascinating   and   the   landscape stunning

Image result for i survived putrified icelandic hakarl t-shirt shark