mánudagur, október 03, 2005


Every night, all we can see across the inky blackness of the water outside our new place is a tiny line of lights. And during the day, with the sunlight on them the right way, the lights become a tiny row of white buildings far across the bay. A lost city, a promised land, Iceland's gem: the town of Akranes.

So after our marathon Sunday appliance- and housewares-buying spree, E and I took a drive out there yesterday. It's only about 45 minutes away, but that's thanks to a tunnel that goes deep under the fjord separating us and Akranes. It used to take more like 2 hours to get there, by driving the entirety of the road around Hvalfjörður (the Whale Fjord). This seems all the further considering that as the crow flies the Promised Land is only 12 miles across the water from our house.

The tunnel comes out next to the looming bulk of Akrafjall, "our mountain". The road passes farms and horses, sheep, and cows, all huddled at the base of the mountain, and then comes over a rise where Akranes in all of its smoke-belching glory is suddenly laid out. There is the Byko sawmill, the grocery-store-at-the-edge-of-the-Universe, the rows and rows of grey apartment blocks, the shopping-street-that-time-forgot, and the hillocks spired with art-contest steel sculptures. Towering over the whole thing is the smokestack for the fishmeal cooker, a vast factory complex that takes up the better part of the business end of town.

(When the fishmeal cooker is on full blast, baking up fishmeal delights by the ton, the smell is apparently pretty strong even for the locals, who call it "the smell of money" in order to cushion the blow.)

We stopped in at the local museum, which was closed, but had all manner of grass-parked boats available for the clambering. One we christened the Original Jugboat because of its sad creaking-sailing-ship construction. There were some smaller boats, too, including one named after a coworker of mine. Next stop was the town swimming pool, where we thought we'd catch some chlorine, but that was on the verge of closing.

On the way out of town, we stopped near the camping area and hiked through some grasslands to cliffs on the ocean's edge. There we could see the lowering sun, the fishmeal smokestack, and the wind-whipped masses of waves smashing on the cliffs below. Occasionally the waves would smash so high on the rocks that I'd get sprayed with water. In the distance, a vertical rock was getting plastered with water that shot directly into the air 30 or 40 feet. The thundering bass from tons of water rushing up the cliff walls under my feet was a sound that will carry me through the work week.


Blogger Paul said...

If it used to take 2 hours to drive there, wouldn't people take a ferry instead? I guess I don't know how long a 12 mile ferry ride would take, or if Akranes could support a ferry. Do people in Iceland commonly own boats of any kind?

Blogger JB said...

Yeah, pretty sharp observation. I believe there used to be a ferry, but the opening of the tunnel closed that down. I wish there was still a ferry, it would make a fun ride.

Yep, tons of boats in Iceland, mostly fishing vessels of all sizes. There are some people who own small fishing boats (and fish quotas) and spend a month or two a year fishing.


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