Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grimsey Island

Around the time of the General Election, I decided I needed to quit this land for a break to try to regain tranquillity of mind.

So, as it was becoming clear that we were in hung parliament territory, I arose after a couple of hours of sleep (having been up most of the night watching the results come in), and hopped on a flight to Iceland.

It took a long time to get there. To avoid the plume of smoke from the erupting volcano, my Iceland Express jet flew up to the Arctic and back down again. After almost five hours (twice the normal flight time), we touched down near Reykjavik. By early evening, I was checked into a room, supping gin and tonics with my dear friend Midders.

I won’t expend time on the adventures we had out of the town in “Rekkers”. Suffice to say, we had a laugh and then drove across Iceland to his adoptive town, Akureyri.

Although it is the second largest town in Iceland, “Akkers” is about the same size as Lewes. If anything it is even quieter than Lewes during the week, and with the mountains overlooking it, it is just as beautiful.

It was just what I needed. I went swimming in the geothermal baths every day, walked in the foothills or driving along the coast in the Midders-mobile, an awesomely fast machine which I could only comfortably drive in his absence for fear of being given driving lessons!

Bliss! Then one day I booked a flight to from Akkers Airport to Grimsey island, a strip of land on the Arctic Circle 25 miles north of Iceland.

It was a quintessential late Spring day as we climbed over the fjord and navigated through a spectacular range of snow-capped mountains in our 15-seater light aircraft before covering the final stretch and espying Grimsey – a dun-coloured oasis in an azure sea.


What I liked about Grimsey was the quiet. I walked most of the way round the island and, for most of the time, did not see a soul.

I loved the clifftops of the coves full of puffins and Arctic terns, which were tame enough to swirl around you and still wild enough not to nick your sandwiches.

From the southern side of Grimsey, you get a spectacular view of the nearest mountains of Iceland.


From the northern coast, Greenland could be seen shimmering in the distance. At the most northerly point there was a little pyramid of stones and a short drain pipe. It would have been good to have cooked over an open fire there as the sun sank in the sky.

I walked on around the perimeter of the island. Although it is only around five-and-a-half kilometres by one-and-a-half, Grimsey takes more walking than you might expect.


When I had clambered out of the plane, the Grimseyan who had opened the door and greeted us went into hoots of laughter when she saw my shorts. “You’re going to get cold,” she said. In reality, I was boiling by the time I’d walked round half the island and found myself racing against the clock in trying to get back to the plane (when we arrived, we’d been told it would be three-and-a-half hours before it took off again.)

Huge tufts of sand-hued grass covered much of the island, like fields of teddy boy quiffs.


Realising I would not have time to completely walk round the island, I make the mistake of leaving the path and yomping across country.

The terrain got rougher, the grass taller and sharper, and then I encountered marshes and fences. I began to wonder if I would ever make it back to the air strip, as I waded on, waist-deep in grass.


I emerged near the church (it used to be said that the Arctic Circle went through the pastor’s bed!). It is a beautiful structure as are the comfortable houses with their big plots.

Chess is popular on Grimsey after a rich American passing on an ocean liner paid for every household to be given a chess set.


I wondered what it would be like living full-time on Grimsey through the warm summers and the bitterly cold winters.

It would be glorious to sail into Grimsey Harbour one day in bright sunshine with that cooling Arctic sun on your face.



My few hours on Grimsey were very happy ones. I was sad to leave, despite the pleasure of flying through the snowy mountain range again in a small plane with an open cockpit.

Back at Akureyri, I hung out with Midders and his local and ex-pat mates at Mongo "Jerry’s" Bar, a welcoming place on the corner of a row of shops in a superb.


I did not really want to return to Reykjavik and when I did I had to wait days for a flight to take me home (the volcano again). At least I didn’t hang out at the airport like a whingeing Pom, returning each time to the centre of town and haunting Oliver’s Bar which I made my own (well, it was named after me).


It was lovely seeing Midders again in his ecological niche. He is a very private bear and has this time requested that I use no photographs of him.

I eventually arrived back in Blighty, which had turned Libertory in my absence - feeling mentally stronger and more resilient.

Here are some pictures of the erupting volcano. One I took from the air as I flew to Reykjavik, the other close up on a day-trip with Midders.






2 Comments:

Blogger Steerforth said...

Fascinating stuff. Yes, Iceland is the place to go if you want to restore your equilibrium and I love the landscape: rock, water and sky, with very little else.

In Jared Diamond's book "Collapse", there's a fascinating chapter about how the Vikings nearly died out durng their first century in Iceland and how they managed to survive to ensure that later generations could enjoy Magnus Magnusson.

Sunday, 27 June, 2010  
Blogger The Poet Laura-eate said...

Great pictures. I love the aeroplane shot in particular.

Sunday, 11 July, 2010  

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