Near the Old Man of Storr, Scotland I took this in 2004

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Sagas continue...The Northern Lights, not once but Twice!


After 4 long hours I finally arrived in my wee fishing village near the west Fjords, in Grundafjordur.

Ok, well there was just one slight problem. Just one really. And that would be the fact that it was a full-on windstorm when the bus pulled in to the local Esso station. The wind was so severe that the driver went in to the Esso store, to tell the clerk I had arrived, and to ask her to call Johanna, the woman who ran the hostel. The clerk called Johanna, while the driver waited. Then the clerk and the driver chatted a bit. After which point, the little girl and the driver said bye to me and left.

I waited in the Esso store and tried to chat with the clerk who was anything but friendly to me.

Finally Johanna arrived. Though it was only a few minutes, it truly felt like hours.

It was such a strange experience to be in such northern reaches of Scandinavia, Viking land. In a wee village. Definitely not a tourist trap, by any means. And to that end, to be an attraction by virtue of being a foreigner, who spoke English. And why, people kept asking, did I want to visit such an out of the way village? As I waited in that Esso shop, a local boy came in, probably just to have a look at that foreigner. Pretty bizzaro. And not for nothing Esso is a huge whaler. That is they are responsible for killing- murdering a lot of the whales . It's pretty horrific. For more horrors, here is a link to my website,

Anyway, Johanna's English seemed really good, but did she have an accent? I couldn't tell?
She seemed just as unfriendly, as the bus loads I had met earlier in the day, plus the clerk I had just met, brisk, is this the word?Apart from the bus driver and his daughter, I hadn't met any friendly Icelanders.
Well, as it turned out, Johanna was from South Africa, not Iceland, but same shit really. The Dutch/Boers, Apartheid. She greeted me first ff by saying: " You would normally be making your way to the hostel by yourself." Well, I'm fine, thanks for asking! Geesus.

As we approached the hostel which was no more than 5 minutes by car from the Esso, the wind had pulled down a side of the fence surrounding the property. And this, Johanna told me was typical Icelandic weather.

But it wasn't all icy. The land is amazing! I had a whole dorm, with heat and a snugly duvet, to myself. The view out the large window faced the mountains in the background, and directly across the street was a small house with little witches and elves hanging in the window. And that was so normal that no one even mentioned it.

The following day, the weather had cleared and it was bright and sunny, and yes, still cold.
But I climbed a mountain and painted for a few hours. Within my 5 days in that village, I saw the Northern lights not once, but twice. And each time I saw them I was in complete awe.

The next night 3 other people arrived. One was a single traveler, like myself, and also female, she was from Germany, and had been in Iceland to sheer sheep. Apparently, it;s a big thing for Germans. The other were 2 Aussies, female also, who were pretty shitty.

That evening after everyone had settled, we all went for a stroll to find the elusive Northern Lights. all, but we did see some cool boats, or at least me and the German woman, whose name I have forgotten, thought so.

Early the next morning, the 2 Aussies were off, and made sure to be as loud as possible. The usual hostel garbage. And later that day, the German woman was off too. I was happy to have to have the room to myself again though.

On my second or third day, I was introduced to a woman named Helena who had just arrived from St. Petersburg, Russia. She was also living in the hostel, but as her home. She had come to teach music. We became friends. We decided to go and search for the Lights, and went and bought the liquor store that opened for 2 hours twice per week..I bought Chilean wine, I know, but it was the cheapest thing. So first we started drinking, and then headed out for a walk to see if we could have any luck seeing the Lights. We found a bench by the water, well it's an island so that wasn't hard.. and sat down to listen to it, and we could see
the local monument, a mountain without the peak called Kirkufel. This sounds all very nice but it was Iceland, and it was night, and as I said, we were by the water, so, It was damn cold!

Helena, my Russian friend, was, unbelievably colder than me!
Dang, and I thought Russians were equipped for Siberian winters. I don't think she was dressed warmly though. So we smoked, and wondered if we would be able to see anything cool in the sky
We stayed there for a while smoking and talking, just hanging out, and every now and again we would look up hopefully at the sky..nothing.

If anything the sky seemed to be getting darker. Then suddenly, through the pure blackness, the sky stared getting lighter, and lighter and all of a sudden it was this amazing blue. It lasted so briefly, but that was ok cuz I was cold and Helena, who had left her warm clothes with her mom at the airport, in St. Petersburg becuz they were too bulky for her luggage limit, was freezing.

We went back to the hostel, had hot chocolate, and finished our wine.

The next night, Johanna was throwing a "European languages" party at the hostel.
She, by the way, spoke fluent Icelandic. There was a Ghanaian woman, who's mother had moved there to marry an Icelander, and so she could speak Icelandic. It was fun. Cozy, warm. There were at least 10 people. All women.

After a while, Helena and I nipped out for a smoke. We were standing outside, just
chit -chatting, trying to smoke quickly, cuz after all, it was cold, and it happened again.

We looked up at the sky out of habit, and there it was..super dark. But that sky gets so dark that you feel mesmerized and keep staring, which we did. And sure enough, it started gradually lightening, until suddenly the sky was filled with this insane, incredible deep, and dancing pink!! Everyone at the party was disappointed they hadn't seen was so amazing.

That alone made my trip, that and it was a desire quenched, finally. As I said I had always needed to go there.

The Sagas continue: The last bus there

My Icelandic Lesson
there I am, on the bus, as the last other passenger leaves... and we gently careen into a little village.
I was panicking the whole way, but as the bus pulled in, I figured, "we must be here", plus it was pretty, so I hoped so, and we weren't just on the highway anymore. So, I asked the driver if we had arrived. But no no, the driver was just delivering something to a friend! The village was c
alled Stykkisholmur, that didn't sound like Grundafjordur!
He got out, and so did a little girl, who I hadn't really noticed having been on the bus. I figured he must have been delivering her to her house, because she was small. This wasn't the case at all. After a few minutes both driver and the little girl hopped back on, and she was nibbling sweets.

I realized it must be the driver's little daughter, and how adorable, she was getting a ride with Dad. She sat right up with him, but then maybe she sensed my worry as I tried to ask her dad how much further, and he kept trying to reassure me all was fine. After a few minutes, the little girl, started, very casually at first, to seat hop!

She hopped her way to the row across from her dad, and peered over at me. I was writing.

Then she leaped over to the seats directly in front of me, and and stuck her face between the slats of the chairs to see what I was up to. I at this point I was also nibbling sweets..mine beat hers, I had chocolate..I offered her some. She happily accepted, and then offered me some of her candy..I think I tried one, and then politely declined anymore. It was some kind of black licorice, which I hate. But even the little girl was no fool. She knew good sweets when she offered them. She hardly nibbled anymore of her licorice, and soon my chocolate was gone:)

After a few minutes of us getting to know each other through the slats of the chair, she finally saw I was alright, and decided to sit next to me. I tried asking her stuff, and she me..Yes, one little problem, I don't speak any Icelandic, and she being just a wee child, naturally spoke no English.

So, she did what all logically minded people would do. She took my notebook, found an empty page, and proceeded to give me an Icelandic lesson via pictographs, or more precisely, drawings. We started with the basics. The weather as it was occurring at that moment, she pointed out the window, it was snowing, so she drew a little picture of snowflakes and then the Icelandic word for me. Then she decided on some animals that I should learn, naturally accompanied by her lovely drawings, sheep, cow, horse and snake. And just as quickly as it had begun, the lesson was done. And now it was time to confuse me completely. It was time for a game. I guess I know how my ESL students feel now, when the language has no relationship to their own. I felt pretty lost. She started drawing some kind of maze, or spiral, I'm not sure But what I was supposed to do, I really couldn't understand. For all I know, she was making the "rules" up right then and there. She just kept giggling. And finally I had to use an internationally recognized form of communication: ( another one being Esperanto, but yeah right!) and I sadly, I gestured, a shrug, meaning: " I don't understand, I'm sorry."
I wanted to play. It looked great. She was my first Icelandic friend!