Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Isafjordur...

pic: my sights on the most southwestern point of Hornstrandir (Grænahlið)

So I did end up in Isafjordur... It was a beautiful, easy, early evening paddle there Saturday, June 27 from Sudureyri. There is a quite fascinating naturally existing L shaped sandspit in Skutulsfjordur on which the town of Isafjordur sits. It is extremely sheltered (making it nearly an ideal place to learn to kayak.) And the place, although the largest settlement in the West Fjords, is quite charming and intimate and feels full of history and culture. I spent my day off on Sunday meandering (and eating lots of ice cream.) It was a rare warm, beautiful day with a shining sun and blue skies! Dori, the kayaker I was hoping to meet, was scheduled to return from his sailing weekend around 8pm. I met him at the sailboat docks and saw three sailboats (all with kayaks on their decks) return from their weekend together and was greatly amused when they rearranged other 40-50ft sailboats by pulling on lines so that they could double dock. What a beautiful small community, everyone knowing everyone, that you can simply crawl over others' boats and move them around and that's okay.
Dori is one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met and seems to have good reason to be so with the life he has in Isafjordur. The place is a little magical haven of sorts. There´s hiking and sailing and waterskiing and pool time galore for kayakers, the beauty of paddling in the West Fjords and along Hornstrandir, and a challenging tidal race a 1-2 hours drive away. In the winter, there´s great skiing right in their back yard. The kayaking club is quite large for a town of under 3000 people, is full of beautiful boats, and is in the process of renovating their large space after an unfortunate fire that happened last? year.

Dori invited me to join them all for dinner and this was where I had one of the best meals I´ve had in Iceland, one I will never forget. There was one group pan of catfish and one group pan of haddock?.. Both were delicious, but I was blown away by the catfish. And of course, as I did my standard - MUST GET EVERY LAST BITE - cleanup of the pan, they made amused comments in Icelandic and said that they would bring me some more. I didn´t think they were serious or maybe I thought they would just bring a small piece of fish, but they brought a very full individualized pan of catfish with all the fixings to me. These words escape my mouth at very few moments throughout my life, but I was full. All this beautiful food and I am full to the brim! I ask if I can take it to go. They shake their heads. Can i take the pan with me to my tent 400 meters away, eat the food for breakfast and return the pan? They found a plastic salad container. So thank you, thank you to Orn for the most fabulous dinner and breakfast combination I´ve had in my life. The company all around was great as well, I got some information about caves and rivers and landing spots, and Dori made sure I got the weather and a proper send off on Monday morning.

My crossing to Hornstrandir had very little wind, but once I made it past the first point it was clear I wasn´t going to make it as far as I intended. I ended up in Fljotavik for the night and camped in Hornvik the next night. Tuesday´s paddling was in some rain and quite a bit of cloud cover so I wasn´t able to see much scenery.

On Wednesday, I hiked above the also famous bird cliffs of Hornbjarg and the weather began to clear allowing me to see across the bay and creating an enjoyable day.
(Yes - this picture --> is the
I also was finally able to start a fire that evening with some of the abundant driftwood from Siberia that can be found on much of the north coast. (I had tried the night before and failed miserably, probably a combination of my poor fire making skills, damp wood, and too much wind.) It was particularly appreciated this evening because it was a little windy, making it just a bit chillier, and I was packing for my first night paddle (the paddlers of Isafjordur insisted this was the best time to paddle, especially around the cliffs, because of the light) with a scheduled launch of 11pm. The 24 hours of daylight are fantastic and allows one to easily extend a day of kayaking or hiking without the concern of dark descending, but... The sun does dip a bit and there is a few degrees change in temperature. Not a big deal for most Icelanders, but for me... it´s significant. So I added a layer of clothing, soaked in some heat from the fire, and set off on an absolutely gorgeous, calm paddle where I was warm the entire time. Around 5am I was in Reykjarfjorður with a warm rising sun, I slept very well, and by 2:30 I was headed towards Drangajokull, the glacier that I previously mentioned.

The next night, I arrived in Krossnes/Nordurfjorður, about which I´ve previously written.

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