A Grapevine service announcement Be patient: That eruption is expected to last until 2015
Travel
Still Waters And Colourful Jellyfish: Kayaking In Hvalfjörður

Still Waters And Colourful Jellyfish: Kayaking In Hvalfjörður

Published August 1, 2012

When I was asked if I would be up for some kayaking, the image that immediately sprang to mind was plunging down frothing, rocky rapids, doing barrel rolls through deadly currents as I swatted aside electric eels and manta rays before rocketing off a steep waterfall, bellowing my war cry while Van Halen’s ‘Panama’ played in the background at full volume. This is not the kayak trip I went on.
Arctic Adventures offers a kayaking tour of Hvalfjörður, a peaceful and picturesque fjord about 40 minutes north of Reykjavík. Rowan, our genial and patient New Zealander kayak guide, took us out to a remote shelter by the water where the kayaks and wet suits were kept. At this point, I should point out to readers that as less-than-hot as Icelandic summers may be, you really shouldn’t wear too much for this trip—the wet suit is plenty warm, to where even a shirt and a T-shirt under my gear made me pretty warm, especially while paddling.
DISCO JELLYFISH
There was a review of safety procedures, the most important tidbit being what to do in the event you capsize. This was not to be of concern today, though, as the wind was unnaturally still by Icelandic standards; the water like a vast plate of tarnished silver. Ideal, Rowan told us, for the trip we were to take—down a length of fjord coastline and back again.
At this point, I figured alright, so this’ll probably be pretty leisurely to the point of boring. I was fortunately proven wrong. While the paddle down the fjord was nearly effortless, it was anything but boring. The fjord is teeming with life. Jellyfish (which I’m ashamed to admit, after living twelve years in Iceland, I had no idea lived anywhere near here) bobbed along the surface of the water. I have no idea what species they were, but Rowan called them “disco jellyfish” on account of their colour-changing ability. There were also puffins, numerous starfish clinging to rocks (again, to my surprise), sea urchins, and a baby seal watched us cautiously but curiously from a distance.
We went ashore for lunch (sandwiches, juice and cookies—all delicious) and I asked Rowan about any of the dangers one might experience on such a trip. He considered it a moment, before remarking that sometimes groups get too spread out, and it becomes difficult to have people within shouting distance. Also, kayaking trips are cancelled if winds are exceeded five metres per second.
“Really?” I was incredulous. “That sounds like a strong breeze.”
Rowan shrugged. “It is, but you’d be surprised.” Even the mildest winds across the water can make paddling not just challenging but also a bit risky—paddle the wrong way, and you could get taken far from the group.”
A CONTEMPLATIVE ADVENTURE
There was some socialising going on during lunch, but for the most part, this group of about a dozen were more or less content to paddle in relative silence, taking in the stunning mountains and minutiae of wildlife around us. It was a contemplative adventure, one that quiets the internal, incessant dialogue, if only for a few moments.
The wind speed on the way back was around four metres per second. I scoffed at this faint breath of a breeze as I got back into my kayak and began to paddle back—with a great deal more effort than before. I was puzzled. Surely, I must be doing something wrong here. Why is it taking all my power to move forward? Why is the group moving further ahead of me, but the shore is getting no closer? For some reason, I could not allow myself to be the last person to shore. I’m not competitive by nature, and it’s not like I have a reputation as a stellar athlete to uphold. It was more like a personal challenge, I guess, and one that ended up requiring focus, grim determination, and probably more than three hours of sleep beforehand.
I did not reach the shore last, it turned out, but all I was thinking about on the moment was the magic stillness of the fjord’s world, and the adrenaline rush I felt in bolting my way back through a zephyr that might as well have been a gale force wind for the challenge it presented.
Ultimately, this kayaking tour is a good idea for non-athletes and outdoorsy types alike who want to see Iceland’s natural world up close during a day trip. It’s well worth the experience, even if you won’t be bulleting through the whitewater. Sometimes, your greatest thrills are all internal.

Tour offered by Arctic Adventures. Call 562-7000 or email info@adventures.is for booking and more information.   



Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

Americans Love Iceland

by

A couple of weeks ago I was hiking on a trail about 90 minutes from my home in Portland, Oregon, USA. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for a year. I asked her what she’d been up to. “Oh, I just got back from Iceland,” she said. “Really? I’m going Wednesday.” Is the whole world going to Iceland? Apparently so, I learned when I picked up the recent tourism issue of the Reykjavík Grapevine. And I’m not sure I should tell you this, since that issue pointed out the not entirely positive effects of tourism, but a lot

Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

Merchants’ Weekend Is Here!

by

Every year in Iceland, the first weekend in August is dedicated to celebrating Verslunarmannahelgi (“Merchants’ Weekend”), a labour day / bank holiday equivalent. While not everyone is actually a Merchant, every Icelander is encouraged to celebrate like the holiday is their own, with many getting three or four days off work. Though it is traditionally Iceland’s heaviest drinking weekend, there are plenty of ways for everyone to have fun, including Pride parades, spiritual programs, and swamp soccer. We highlight some of the most well-known festivals taking place this holiday weekend. The Gæran Festival is held in the town of Sauðárkrókur

Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

Iceland In Miniature

by

Having planned to spend much of this summer—my first summer in Iceland, in fact—gallivanting around the country, I’ve instead spent most of my time in the city, close to home. But today, I’m lucky. In the name of research, my partner and I get twelve hours to explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula. This is “Iceland in miniature,” I’ve been told, a veritable “Best Of” sampler where many of the country’s most sought-out natural wonders exist side by side. Above The Lava Field Circumnavigating the whole peninsula would only take about three hours, but with limited time at our disposal, we decide

Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

Into The Abyss

by

“It’s a good thing you’re going underground,” our bus driver calls out as his windshield wipers work furiously to bat away the rain. I watch the drops race across my window, blurring the moss-covered lava field that surrounds us. We are headed thirty minutes southeast of Reykjavík, with the intent of entering the chamber of a dormant volcano that erupted 4,000 years ago. In Jules Verne’s fantastical novel, the Snæfellsjökull volcano is an entry point to the centre of the Earth. But in the real Iceland, Þríhnúkagígur is the only volcano where dreams of descent can be realised, and only

Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

A School For The Beer-Curious

by

In a small lecture hall doubling as a private bar, twenty men raise their glasses and have a big gulp of Egils Gull as Stefán “Stebbi” Pálsson begins the bjórskólinn (“beer school”) curriculum. The school is hosted by Ölgerðin, one of Iceland’s two largest breweries, and offers the obtuse a chance to learn more about beer and its culture. We recommend that students don’t arrive on an empty stomach and pace themselves, as even the hardiest of people can be toppled by the school’s free refills. We begin our adventure by looking into the history of beer and its culture.

Travel
<?php the_title(); ?>

Delicious Feet

by

Some people find it disgusting to be licked by animals. I am not one of them. I am a disgusting person who loves it when cute animals give me big wet kisses. Like most folks around town, I had never heard of a fish pedicure (or any other piscine spa treatment) before noticing Fish Spa Iceland on the corner of Hverfisgata and Barónsstígur earlier this summer. Fish Spa’s owner, Hallgrímur Andri Ingvarsson, was first exposed to the treatment back in 2012, when he got a fish pedicure while on vacation, and it sparked an idea for enterprise. “I’ve always been

Show Me More!