Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 42: Aug 6, 2011

Sho and I looked longingly at our bicycles, disassembled and ready to be loaded on the bus from Isafjordur to Brjanslaekur. "It doesn't feel right not to cycle," he said. Just after 9 am, we were rumbling out of town, Eiko and Saya seated in the row behind us. It felt strange to look out through a window at the passing scenery. I agreed with Sho. From the inside of a vehicle, I felt disconnected.

We headed west out of Isafjordur, passing beneath the looming, rocky peaks of Kirkjubolshlid Mountain, scene of a dramatic avalanche in the mid-1990's that killed one person and crushed several homes here. After the tragedy, one man stubbornly refused to move out of the danger zone, but is not permitted to live in his house during the winter.

We soon entered a 6 km (3.7 mile) tunnel that would have been a freaky, but cool cycling experience. We emerged from the tunnel to a glorious view of dark mountains and rippling blue lakes. After passing the fishing villages of Flateyri and Thingeyri, the road conditions deteriorated significantly. My guidebook accurately described the road as "little more than an unsurfaced and badly potholed dirt track.". Sho and I agreed that it would have been extremely uncomfortable for Saya in her bike trailer over the rough road. I estimated that it would have taken us three days to ride this section. Alone, or just with Sho, I would have done it. But with a four-year old in a cycle trailer, we made the right decision to take a bus.

We made a brief stop at Dynjandi, an immense waterfall storming over a mountain ledge one hundred meters overhead. Considered the most impressive waterfall in all of the West Fjords, it is featured in many tourist brochures. We also decided to spend the afternoon on a side trip to Latrabjarg, the westernmost point of Europe and one of the world's major bird cliffs. We spent an hour and a half carefully hiking along the edge of the sheer drop off, appreciating the remarkable swarms of various gulls and guillemots visiting their vertigo-inducing nests. The deep blue Atlantic Ocean filled the panoramic view and sparkled gloriously in the bright sun. I spent some time just sitting, listening to the birds' calls and the foamy surf swirling around black jagged rocks far below.

As I stared out over the sea, feeling it's power and insouciance, I felt close to the rhythms of nature and began to think about the phases of a human's life. Each phase seems to come with tasks to master, problems to solve and traps to avoid. I suspect that the particulars only become clear in retrospect, if ever, once you have moved to another phase. Now in my 40's, I think one of my most pressing tasks is to help my children grow into healthy adults with a sense of responsibility to care not just for themselves, but for the world around them. I also feel the temptation to seek material wealth and prestige. This is certainly a trap, and I have tried during this ride through Iceland to explore how my relationship to other people and to nature changes if I prioritize the richness of an experience over the material gain it offers. Whenever I was cold, tired or frustrated on this long adventure, I've consoled myself with the thought, "It's supposed to be hard.". Just like challenging the status quo in order to help reverse the environmental destruction of our time, or simply getting through life's phases...

We took a 7 pm ferry from Brjanslaekur to Flatey Island, a tranquil home to fields of wild yellow buttercups, and soaring kittiwakes, fulmars and arctic terns. A handful of summer homes are clustered on the island near a picturesque church. We set up our tent beside the water and fell asleep to the sharp calls of arctic terns hunting nearby, their songs carried away by the ocean wind.

Here are some pics:
In front of the apartment in Isafjordur:

Bikes disconnected and ready to be loaded onto a bus:

Sho at Dynjandi Waterfall:


Mountain road:

Hiking in Latrabjarg:


Eiko, Sho and Saya in the distance:

View of Atlantic Ocean from Latrabjarg:

Saya with her friend "invisible girl":

Ferry to Flatey Island:

Church on Flatey:

Sho and Saya goofing off in the tent:

Sunset at 11 pm:

Our tent by the sea:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

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