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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Drive to Akureyri

Today I woke early to get an early start to drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri, the northern capital of Iceland. It is cold.

The drive out of Reykjavik for me from Baldurbra, left, second left, right at round about, left at light and go straight and stay on Rt 1 to Akureyri for 385.5 KM.   It should be a little less than 5 hours, but it isn't if you tour. After the tunnel, I detoured. I stopped to shop at a BONUS, a grocery store, for stores for the room when I get to Akureyri: crackers, smoked salmon, lamb pate, bananas, Holland apples. I stop to take pictures and to eat, twice, the lunch I had made at guesthouse for the ride. I stop at a bank to convert more money and to buy gas which is mad expensive here. I take another detour on a loop near Akureyri.

The drive was challenging. In the morning the road was iced. I noticed this when I tried to stop to take pictures. It was a good thing the road was very clear of traffic. I didn't see the sun until noon as it finally cleared a mountain. Then the orb was fixed in my rear view mirrors which I had to adjust and were useless until I changed my direction and the sun set. I realized my trip back to Reykjavik will be a challenge. The presence of snow grew as I drove further north. Also I have to climb over more mountains and then descend them on icy roads. Iceland doesn't believe in guard rails as we traverse steep drops into gorges and rivers.

 This is a desolate road. Gas pumps pop up every so often that are unmanned. The views include horses everywhere, digging into the snow to find grass. Not as many sheep as I had expected from my last visits. They are all long haired and when I stop to capture them on film, they immediately run away. The white of the snow with the black ribbon of the road as it bends and weaves is mesmerizing and beautiful. At one point, I drive into a fog bank that lasts for about 10 KM on icy roads. I'm driving 70 KM on  90 KM road, aggravating those who come up on me. And then later in the ride I hit clear black roads and find myself going 120 KM for 40 KM.

This has been one of the most challenging drives I have ever had. This is one of the things I love about Iceland is that the conditions always change and require 100% concentration. And the result is that I can totally enjoy the beauty around me. Since I have been to Akureyri before I know where I'm going so I arrive at Hotel Akureyri, 6 hours 20 minutes after leaving Reykjavik.

I settle in, unpack, shower, do my laundry. I set up my computer, recharge camera batteries and head out to explore and find a quick dinner. The hotel is located at one end of town so the walk in allows me to see on side of town and the other on the way back. I find a good fish and chips shop for dinner. I have stopped and viewed menus of some restaurants for future dinners. I observe where the bars are. Some shops are still open. Akureyri is a compact city with lots to offer. After dinner, I stopped at Cafe Amour to find only the bartender and the DJ. People won't arrive until 10 or 11 and dance till 4 AM. My next bar is Gotu bar which is also empty except the bartender. The only beer is Viking and I get a Classic and then spend time speaking to Birki, the bartender. He informs me of the culture here. Folks go out to dinner go home to change or eat at home and then go out to the bars at 10 or later and stay until 4 AM. He has been to Ocean City in MD and spend a couple of weeks with his girlfriend last summer starting in NYC and drove to Key West stopping at beach spots all the way down. He loved Assateague, because of the horses, and Key West. He offers me some Icelandic schnapps and vodka. He tells me about a local brewery across the street from Rub 23, a sushi bar rated top restaurant and one I plan to eat at while here. I bid adieu and walk over to the brewery, Kaldi. I discover Goya Tapas Bar next to Kaldi. Upon entering Kaldi, I'm alone and the bartender, Anna, I discover is setting up a back room. She, too, informs me that the place won't start hopping until 10 and keep on till 4 AM. I get a glass of the unfiltered Christmas Ale which is quite tasty. She is originally from Reykjavik and we speak about Reykjavik and then of Ajureyri. The main topic with all three bartenders already tonight is about the absence of light in the winter and the abundance of light in the summer. Slowly I'm learning about the culture of Akureyri which isn't that much different than Reykjavik, except the concentration of it in the northern capital.

All evening I've been looking to the skies for the Northern Lights, but the clouds so far obscure their sightings. Birki informs me after looking at a Northern Lights forecast site that tonight's cloud cover may clear at midnight. All I see in the sky are spotlights flashing across the sky which I learn is for the high school dance happening at the high school.

I buy three bottles of beer, an Octoberfest, a dark ale, and a special one form Baldi before heading home and bed. I'm exhausted. I have been told which sports bar I will go to this week to watch the English football matches.

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