Iceland – Thingvellir

We got off our plane and picked up our oddly snazzy rental car and took off to Thingvellir national park and world heritage site.

Thingvellir is an interesting collection of natural and historic landmarks. It’s ground zero for the mid-Atlantic tectonic ridge. The whole place screams ’geologic transitions’ in play. Big hunks of crust are being pushed up from below forming big mounds covered in moss and open to the underworld. The rift lake and the fissure that run down the middle of the park are evidence of the space created as the plates come together. It’s pretty cool.

Thingvellir also happens to have been the assembly site for a bunch of ancient viking tribes who came together there to decide and arbitrate laws. Coincidently there is a ‘drowning pool’ near the ‘law rock’ – from the interpretive signage the drowning pool was exclusively used for problem women. I didn’t see mention to any ‘chopping rock’ which I assume is how the man problems were solved.

And as often happens with pagans they came into conflict with the spread of Christianity. The park signage told us that the dispute between the two religions was handled peacefully. One of the pagan law makers went into a cave for a couple of days – when he came out he told everyone that Christianity was going to be the way to go. There was some subtext that the decision was political and expansionist. The pagan law maker knew that Iceland would only thrive if immigrants came in and helped build the country. There were more eager Christian immigrants than pagans. You usually don’t hear this story told with an immigration context around it.

We froze our butts off but the park was gorgeous!.

Iceland – regional flight out of Wesfjords

We arrived at the Isafjordur regional airport for our flight to Reykjavík and found that it had been delayed.

“Weather?” I asked.

“No!”, he scoffed, “Never weather! The flight crew had to work late last night so they said they would not be able to work until they had slept”


So we killed time, drove around and looked at sheep farms, and we found the landfill!

We spent some time at a local pizza shop/mini mart/cafe and watched Chinese table tennis.

It was a random morning.

The rental car return process was alarmingly casual. The airport terminal clerk took our car keys and threw them in a bucket with a number of other keys. I kind of stood there for a minute waiting for the paperwork and the dent inspection. He just shrugged and said, “They come for it.”

I’m sure this won’t cause any problems for Kaety’s reimbursement with UABC.

Iceland – the Fisherman Trail conference dinner

I spoused along on Kaety’s conference concluding dinner. We boarded a giant bus at 6:30 which launched with the oddly ominous announcement from the bus driver, “Our separation will be short. We will reunite in 25km”

We were headed to Suðureyri, and the Fisherman’s Trail. I had to look twice and make sure it didn’t say trial. It was getting late in the day for a trial.

But a trial is what we got. We arrived in

and began our time with a tour of the fishing village. We made it not 50 paces from the bus and were beset upon by an epic winter squall. Horizontal Arctic Ocean rain came whipping in at 50 mph and had us soaked and shivering within minutes.

The lot of us ran like we were being pursued by wild dogs towards shelter…and beer.

The tour resumed from a chair in the town cafe as everyone dripped and fogged up the place.

We learned many things about Suðureyri which we swiftly came to learn was essentially a company town. The processor owned all the quota and everyone in the village worked for the processor including the fishermen, the baiters and the cutters.

One interesting tid-bit we learned from the Q&A session after the tour talk – the high school bus driver was the only guy in town who caught seals to ferment their flippers and purportedly enjoyed eating them with a big glass of milk.

Good stuff.

After the slightly depressing talk about how great their nicely marketed sustainable fishing village was they fed us…lamb. We were super confused.

Dinner with the international GIS people ended up being a complete trip. I talked with guys who were map makers from the Soviet Union who had smuggling ARC Info software across borders. There were so hungry for data layers that they would find any printed copies of maps they could find and digitize them – sometimes entering plot points by hand just to understand and visualize their world better. They would risk imprisonment by smuggling GIS software computer manuals into countries where owning such things was illegal.

Talking to them made me realize how far we’ve come and how important GIS data is to so many people.

Their criticisms of early benthic mapping were interesting – much of what the world used until the 70s was built on 5 transects and a lot of imagination.

Another guy I spent time talking to was a data consultant who worked with global industries harvested kelp – not the eating kind, but the food additive kind. The global politics regarding ownership of marine territory was fascinating.

We finished our meal in the community center and by 11 were convinced that our soaking wet lower halves would be sending us into hypothermia if a hot shower in a communal bathroom weren’t had soon.

When we got into the warm embrace of the GentleSpace we stripped out of our wet clothes that had become a clammy cold second layer. Kaety dug around near the closet and found the knob to our geothermal heating apparatus and announced, “Honey, I’m turning it up to 3!”

Iceland – our run at Dynjandi

We made a run at the Dynjandi waterfall this afternoon. I picked Kaety up from her last conference session and we ventured into the long single lane tunnel towards the waterfall. It was supposedly only 24 miles away, but the torrential rain, and poor visibility made the journey much longer. The weather was shifting radically every five minutes. Rays of sun would punch down on the landscape and highlight a patch of color in the grey. At one point the sun was behind a bank of clouds making the sky a freaky blue black color. The little farm houses dotting the sweeping landscape gave us an epic perspective on just how huge the mountains were around us. At one point we dropped down into a fjord and a small town and its net pens were spotlighted in the sun. Overlooking the town were some slightly goofy looking norse god totems.

When we found the turn-off to the waterfall we realized that we’d never make it. We had 26 more miles of snow covered gravel road ahead of us to navigate in our roller-skate…nope!


Iceland – Cod drying houses

As I drove from town to little town I noticed these cod drying houses. Some communities had many locked drying houses scattered all over the hillsides, and other communities had large open structures that look almost like range fencing for drying. I’m sure there’s a story…


Iceland – The shared bathroom in the GentleSpace

Isafjordur is a small enough town that when Kaety went to book a room for the conference everything in the traditional hotel realm was full…so we found a room in one of two boarding houses. Our boarding house was called The GentleSpace, which for some reason cracked us up, “Kaety, the GentleSpace doesn’t like dirty clothes on the floor”.

The 4 rooms shared a common bathroom. It was a pretty rockin bathroom with heated floors and enough space to host a yoga workshop, but neither of us fully appreciated how complicated a shared bath could be.

When we arrived we got a detailed bathroom orientation from the owner. After our 9 hour drive I didn’t hear a word she said. I did notice all the slightly shaming signage urging you in ambiguous terms to ‘speed things up’. I wondered absently how competitively I’d fair in the common bathroom race and what the measure for success exactly was.

The most troublesome aspect of the common bath was trying to figure out if it was available. There was no place to hang out and wait that wasn’t weird.

We took to making our run at the bathroom a group activity. It would start in our room – one of us mentioning that going to the bathroom might be in the future. Then we’d lay in the bed until the need became urgent. It reminded me of camping where getting dressed and going out into the cold was so odious you would risk kidney damage.

Once one of us decided – a multi step prep began. Getting dressed to socially acceptable limits had to happen, then navigating a complicated skeleton key lock on the room door, then creeping down the hall and peering into the bathroom to see if it was occupied. The peering became part of the process after being surprised several times by the owner standing silently in the dark bathroom doing…something.

When all the bathrooming was completed we’d reverse the process.

Last night Kaety announced during one of many such forays, “Ok, I’m really OVER the shared bathroom thing now!”

I looked up from wondering if laying on the bathroom’s heated floor would be weird and said, “Kaety, the GentleSpace doesn’t like loud voices”

Iceland – More Tjöruhúsið

We tried to go somewhere else, but when you are convinced you’ve had one of your top 5 best food experiences in your life, you pretty much go back for more. We plopped down at Tjöruhúsið (AKA “The fish Resturaunt”) and awaited another culinary delight. The menu was completely different – Spotted catfish (ocean going), salt cod, and blue ling were new dishes that blew us away.

Mid way through the meal two older British guys behind us struck up a conversation that started with, “Exactly what does the north remember?”. They ended up moving themselves and their wine to our table and we talked and talked until the staff started putting on their coats. We enjoyed them immensely – Two long lives full of a lot of perspective, adventure and love!