Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 39: Aug 3, 2011

We spent the day exploring the peaceful town of Isafjordur and took an afternoon boat trip to Vigor Island. It felt like luxury not to cycle for hours in the cold rain! In fact, it was sunny and warm for much of the day, and seemed almost like a different season from yesterday.

The Vigor trip was today's highlight, an island bustling with puffins, arctic terns and Eider ducks. Saya called it "busy town." A single human family has lived on the island since the 1800's, with the fourth generation still in residence. The island boasts Iceland's only windmill and the country's smallest post office. But I was most interested in its natural wonders: astonishing views of the surrounding ocean and mountains, and many hundreds of nesting birds. In the distance, Iceland's northernmost glacier loomed under clouds beyond sharp cliffs cut by powerful waterfalls dropping hundreds of meters and crashing into the sea. The country's only glacier that is not in full retreat from warming temperatures, I longed to travel to the Hornstrandir peninsula to experience it up close. But that will have to wait for another day when I am not with my children.

As we hiked around Vigor, cute bumbling puffins flapped their wings frantically to keep their pudgy bodies airborne and sometimes crashed hilariously into the water. One posed for us, perched on a cliff's edge looking out over the water, small fish hanging from its distinctive orange and black beak. Sho carefully approached the bird to get a picture, patiently working to get close enough for a good shot. I loved seeing his concentration and joy in appreciating the lovely creature.

The arctic terns aggressively protected their eggs and chicks, and swooped overhead making assertive clicking squawks whenever we ventured too close. I don't speak their language, but recognize profanity when I hear it. Eiko, Arisa, Sho, Saya and I each carried a stick with a small blue flag and waved it overhead to give the birds something other than our heads to attack. Sometimes, Sho dove to the ground or crouched low clutching my legs to avoid an attack, laughing but wary. As president of the Arctic Tern Fan Club, I was in heaven, snapping pictures of the glorious birds' aerial stunts. I captured some good close-ups and apologized to the animals for making them waste energy on me to protect their young. They'll need all their reserves for their upcoming migrations over tens of thousands of miles.

At the end of the afternoon, I took Sho and Saya to the local pool, where Sho worked on his dive and Saya perfected her belly flop. She doesn't like to admit when she's hurt, and when I heard her say "Ow!", I asked if she was o.k. She chose to lie to my face and responded, "I didn't say 'ow'. I said 'cow.'". Yeah, right. Hubris starts young, I guess. She can also be creative in her compliments. After watching Sho do an impressive jump, she said, "Sho, you're a great sportster!".

Here are some pics:

Saya on the boat ride to Vigor:

Sho and I on the boat:

Puffin on Vigor:

Arctic terns:

View from the hike:

Arisa with flag to protect her from bird attacks:

Arctic tern shots:

Saya feeding the Eiders:

Arisa taking a break:

Eiko and Saya:

Sho and Saya:

Saya on the beach:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

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