Photos: (1) Map of key places on this trip; (2-3) The Arctic Express from Reykjavík to Ísafjörður; (4) Ísafjörður indoor swimming pool; (5) Flags at half mast; (6) Boats in the bay at sunset
I arrived in Iceland two days ago, spent the first night at the Salvation Army hostel in the capital city and took the bus the next day to my basecamp at Eystri-Sólheimar to pick up supplies. After spending a pleasant evening with friends old and new, and sharing a good meal and some tasty wine, I headed back to Reykjavík the next day and hopped on the plane to the largest city in the Westfjords – Ísafjörður (meaning “Ice Fjord“). This is my third time in Ísafjörður and the place really fascinates me. Located on a spit of sand in Skutulsfjörður fjord, nestled between majestic mountains, its just 25 miles from the arctic circle. Despite its size, small population, and historical isolation from the rest of the country, the town has a rather urban atmosphere and has recently has become known as a center for alternative music, with a yearly music festival - Aldrei fór ég suður. For me it’s the perfect home base for exploring the Westfjords in more detail.
The plane ride is pleasant as usual. I like the tiny airports, the tiny planes and I lovingly refer to this flight as the Arctic Express. I have a window seat, and as we lift off, I can see Reykjavík covered in a thick cloud of ash from the recent eruption of the volcano, Grimsvötn. The weather is sunny and dry but very windy, which not only stirs up volcanic ash, but also causes turbulence in such tiny planes. We hit such a strong patch of turbulence that I started thanking my lucky stars for being allowed to die in Iceland. And I can’t think of a better way to go, with my remains scattered in the air over the best place in the world :-) But I guess my number’s not up yet and when we finally land, the weather is absolutely beautiful and the wind has mysteriously disappeared.
After setting up camp at the Hotel Edda, I race into town to buy some gas for my stove. Gas is often out of stock, and since my hiking adventure begins tomorrow, it’s vital that I find some today. The N1 gas station has exactly one canister left, which I quickly snap up. I wonder if there were any other hikers on the plane with me who will also need to find gas tonight? It’s 14°C (57°F)and sunny as I walk through town and it’s humming with people, locals and tourists alike. I last visited this place a few years ago in the darkness of winter when it was hibernating under a thick layer of snow. Today, flags are at half-mast to show sympathy with the Norwegians in the wake of a national tragedy.