Tour of Iceland: Budir, Vatnes, Budardalur, Blonduos, Glaumbaer, Akureyri
Disaster! We had just been informed that another volcanic eruption had caused a massive glacier to float down from a mountain and take out a bridge in the south of Iceland, meaning that the ring road around the island would be closed for 3 weeks, thereby scuppering our planned circular route and meaning that we would have to double back at roughly halfway around. Then the starter motor didn’t work on our hire car…
After a lengthy delay a replacement car had arrived, so Big Boy and I set off once again, chuckling at having found out that the word for ‘bye’ in Icelandic is ‘bless’. Ahh, how sweet!
First stop after driving west through some stunning mountain scenery was a tiny village called Budir, notable for it’s striking black church, swish hotel and rugged coastal scenery, which surprisingly included a beach with yellow sand, rather than the more common black volcanic granules. By this point I had ridiculed Big Boy’s regular habit of yawning noisily, despite having had plenty of sleep; alternating between “Aaargh, ay yi yi” and “Aaargh, ho ho ho”. This must have happened at least 10 times per day!
Next stop around the western peninsular of Vatnes was yet another tiny village called Osar, known for it’s weird volcanic rock formation known as Hvitserker and its seal colony. It was a short walk through beach scrub to the shore across from the seals. Big Boy led the way and turned to say something to me when an arctic tern swooped down towards his head. Alarmed, he hurried on, but this time with more terns in hot pursuit. Once I had controlled my laughter, I cleverly sought a route away from the obvious nests that were close to the path… only to face the same assailants. We just had to make a run for it! One of the birds even swooped down on me when I was clear of the nests by the shore, just for good measure. We had got the message.
On the continuing journey, we felt obliged to pick up two hitchhikers in the middle of nowhere – how could we refuse? They had spent several nights in a tent to save money. They smelt bad.
Our next night was spent in the underwhelmng town of Budardalur which, despite having to obvious charms, was a convenient stop off point. At this point I should mention that when I refer to ‘night’, what that actually means is a few hours of dusk before a return to blazing sunlight. You need good curtains in an Icelandic summer. Our guesthouse had an amiable young barman to chat to and a viking hat to try on when drunk. Or at least we thought that we should. But it also had more sulphur water in the showers. We had a slight green tint after washing. Ugh.
After a few hours driving the following day, we headed north and stopped off in Blonduos, notable only for its weird church, which was designed to look like a crater. Why? Well, why the hell not? Sorry, I mean why the heavens not? Makes a change in a bland town. Some time later we took a detour to visit the hobbit-like turf houses of Glaumbaer, which had been built in the 1800s and showed how the old Ice people used to live.
Our final stop and a base for three days of exploring was the country’s second ‘city’, Akureyri, home to less than 18,000 people, including yet more alcoholics in the town centre. It is an attractive seaside town, home to winter sports and close to some wonderful natural sights. But the welcome from the owner of or guesthouse was less than friendly, as Big Boy attempted to get a discount by flirting with her, only to be rebuffed with an ice cold stare: “No, this is high season. In fact it’s quite insulting for you to ask that.” Okay then.
Apart from that lady, we really have been won over by the relaxed demeanour of Ice people. And I’ve never known a race who can roll an ‘r’ as well and as often as they do. When the waitresses ask us if we would like sugarrrr, I can hardly restrain my hand from reaching out to stroke their chins, just to make them purr some more. Ah bless… No wait, we’re not leaving, don’t say goodbye!