Friday, August 20, 2010

Eskifjörður


Photos: The bleak village of Eskifjörður with one mighty mountain that the village is quite proud of

I’m up at 5:30am, have a quick breakfast and hike to the info center to catch the 7:20 bus back to Egilsstaðir. It’s raining again, which doesn’t surprise me one bit. A few other people gather here as well, they must have arrived on the ferry yesterday. The drive back to Egilsstaðir is absolutely stunning – it’s not quite as cloudy as the trip here and now I can see lots of rivers and waterfalls. In general, the Eastfjords seem to be much greener and have more rivers than the Westfjords.

We arrive in Egilsstaðir just a short time later. It’s still raining. I chat with the guy at the info center and tell him that I found his waterfall, and he offers me a cup of coffee. But soon the next bus comes and I’m on my way to the next fjord village on my list – Eskifjörður. I’m alone on the bus except for a local lady who gets out at Reyðarfjörður. The ride is beautiful and I wish the weather was a bit clearer. I can only imagine what it would look like here in the sun.

The bus driver lets me off at a tiny dumpy little Shell station in the drizzle in Eskifjörður. What on earth am I doing here? This place looks so dreary in the rain. I start out by having some coffee at the gas station before hiking to the guesthouse. I’m real tired and worn out today, and certainly not camping in this permanent rain. The guesthouse doubles as a café and restaurant. Puh, what a dump! This would be a great cheap sleeping bag accommodation, but it’s not. The place advertises a flat screen tv and washbasin in every room. The TV is about the size of a sheet of paper, but flat, and the only thing that works is Pay TV. The washbasin is wedged between the wall and wardrobe and there is no warm water. There’s a bug and hair in the sink, and the garbage can is disgusting. Maybe the never-ending rain is just finally getting to me. In any case, I decide not to leave any more money here than I have to, meaning that I’m not at all tempted to try out the café or restaurant. The whole place is not very cozy or inviting anyway.

I take a long walk through town to get acquainted, staying along the shore at first. The grocery store is being renovated and it’s unrecognizable as such from the outside. I have to ask before I find it. There’s a tiny harbor, several rivers cascading down the hills, and an old church that lures me up the hill. Surprisingly the town is quite charming from this height. The houses up here have a splendid view of the mountain and fjord. One house is so quaint that I spend a lot of time looking at it and taking pictures – a beautiful house that I would feel comfortable living in. If it just weren’t here in Eskimofjörður! The perpetual rain soon drives me back to the guesthouse for a nap.

Afterwards I venture out again for coffee and decide to visit the maritime museum (ISK 550). The museum is a pleasant surprise, and a pamphlet explains all the exhibitions in English, which the technical museum in Seyðisfjörður (ISK 600) failed to do. Downstairs are a lot of fishing things and stories of whaling, but upstairs contains various stations of the different professions in the old days. I’m especially fascinated by the doctors who worked in these remote villages under such primitive conditions. I spend a lot of time in the museum and even watch the video. I notice that the old couple running the place doesn’t speak any English, so when I leave I say a few words of thanks in Icelandic. Such people are usually quite thankful for a few words in their native tongue and patient when I try to speak it. We end up talking for quite a while and I bask in their compliments on my language skills. That gives me a needed boost of confidence since I’m quite shy about speaking the language, although I can understand quite a bit. However, these are the only nice people in the whole town. Everyone else is cool and aloof. I don’t feel real welcome or comfortable here.

Back at the room for some asprin and a bite to eat. I feel feverish today, just can’t shake this darn cold. But I decide to go swimming since there’s not much else to do. And I’m so glad I do! The outdoor pool is beautiful. It’s 9°C and cloudy with a bit of drizzle. There’s a splendid view of the mountains while sitting in the hottubs. There are a total of five swimming areas, a nice slide for kids, and a nice sauna. Everything is modern and new and there are lockers in the changing room (many pools in Iceland do not have lockers and you have to leave your valuables at home or turn them in to the pool attendant and pick them up afterwards). Priced at only ISK 340, this place gets the pool prize so far. There are only a few people here and I soak in the hot water for over an hour, and feel much better afterwards.

On the way home, there’s a kids’ soccer match and the whole village seems to be outside watching it. This sleepy little town is not so sleepy after all. I saw lots of people outside today, lots of action. And the town isn’t as dreary as my first impression imagined it to be. This is often the case in Iceland, that a place reveals its charm only after a while, after spending some time in its midst and getting to know it.