Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to spend 8 hours in Bolungarvík

The Co-Op

The Co-Op
There’s a rainbow this morning as two ravens on the rooftop argue about something, as though they might be talking about the weather. One might see only the grey clouds hanging deep in the valley, but the other sees the sparkling sun that glistens through the raindrops. I am an optimist and I am convinced it will be a wonderful day. The gloomy raven flies off, leaving me and my optimistic pal to ourselves. I pack a lunch, fill the thermos bottle with hot tea, and even throw in my swimsuit for good measure. You never know what the day might bring! 

Actually, I do have a plan and at 10am on the dot, Angela shows up on her Bronco bike and we pedal off to Bolungarvík. There are some light raindrops but it’s clearing up quickly and the forecast is good. It will probably be the last real summery day of the year where the mercury hits above 10°C/50°F.  

Church wall
Our first stop today after biking 15 km is the church in Bolungarvík, where we bask in the sun and enjoy a few snacks. I really admire the church wall, which is made of brightly colored rocks. The sun disappears behind a cloud and immediately it gets chilly. We head off to the local co-op for some serious shopping. We both love to look in stores and can spend ages in the tiniest little shop, which is exactly what we do. Angela chats with the saleslady while I marvel at the strange mixture of goods on the shelves – children’s clothes, some food items, books and greeting cards, picture frames and gift items, all in a surface area the size of my modest living room.   

So now that’s we’ve warmed up a bit, we head to the shore for a walk. As we park our bikes, a friendly cat brambles over for a stroke. Friendly is an understatement – this little gal is hungry for affection and she follows us on our walk. We finally lose her after climbing the avalanche wall for a view over town, but soon come across another kitty, this time a tom, who is a bit more shy but still enjoys a good scratch behind the ears.  

Sailors' monument (with cat)
We then spend a good twenty minutes gazing through the large windows of a highly interesting store with such a huge variety of items crammed into such a small space that it makes us giddy. So many wonderful things! Door mats, hiking poles and boots, curling irons, waffle irons, screws and lightbulbs, cleaning items, barbecue utensils, fishing poles. It’s such a shame they’re not open today! But after all the tantalizing, we really need to spend some money, so we each find a small treat at the local grocery store. It’s amazing how much time we can spend in there too, comparing their stock with that of our local supermarket, and admiring some of the products that we don’t have. 

We’re getting hungry so it’s time for the highlight of the day – food! Although we’ve packed a lunch, we want to eat out today. After all, it’s a special occasion – we’re celebrating my birthday. Since the town restaurant is already closed for the winter, there’s only one other place to get a hot meal – the gas station. If you’re familiar with the film Nói Albinói, you know how charming a small gas station in Iceland’s Westfjords can be. First, there is a wonderfully cozy toilet with toilet paper and a sink, and for two ladies with needs, even a little thing like this can make us happy. Then there are wonderful rows of sweet, sticky sugar items ranging from ice cream to a whole wall of bins filled with various colored candy (just google “nammibarinn” and you’ll know what I mean). We opt for burgers and fries, and while the latter are real good with the traditional cocktail sauce, the burgers are a bit too pink inside. But we enjoy the gas station atmosphere for all its merits – the greasy smell, the lively atmosphere (radio and TV blaring at the same time), men and boys of various ages roaming in and out to play the gambling machines, and guessing what each customer purchases when they walk through the door. 

Dinner time!
After lunch there’s one more place we need to visit – the handicraft store. Here the local women sell their handmade goods, in particular knitted sweaters, hats and mittens. This town is known for its unique Icelandic sweaters – unusual patterns, color combinations and designs. The zip jacket I want is much too big, but Angela and I find some goodies anyway. We spend ages trying things on and checking ourselves out in the mirror and we have fun entertaining the salesladies.

Now it’s almost time to go home, but first we have a look at the charming little botanical garden and have some tea. We take one last spin through town, stopping at the pool and campsite and walking through the park, pushing our bikes through the brand new disc golf course (Frolf or Frisbee golf) that seems to be the rage here in town, at least in the opinion of the person who decided to build the course. It looks unused and despite the fantastic weather, not a soul is in sight. When building this, did anyone ever think of what it’s like throwing a Frisbee in these arctic winds? I didn’t think so. 
The ride home is really beautiful. A small cruise ship and a large freighter meet on the horizon under a rainbow. The ocean is so calm and still, not a ripple or wave. After 8 hours of playing outdoors, we’re finally back in town and it’s definitely been a day packed full with stuff for great memories.