Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Lady Gagga's Airport in her garden, Grimsey Island

'Not everyone has an airport and the Arctic Circle in their garden,' said Gagga, my landlady,  Grimsey's Lady Gaga, full name Ragnhildur Hjaltadottir, much prefers her nickname.
Lady Gagga
 She is also one of several women who own the Basar Guest House and take turns in running it, as well as coping with several other jobs - Gagga also works as ground crew at the airport when the tiny 16-seater plane arrives and takes off - only a few times a week in May, still the 'winter season' when I was there.

You can fly in, (30 mins) walk round the island in an hour or two and fly back to the mainland, or else take the ferry (3 hours), then return later in the day...which is what most tourists do. A bit of birdwatching, quick visit to the craft shop/cafe (which only opens when boat or plane arrive) and take a selfie at the signpost marking the Arctic Circle boundary line (or thereabouts. It's on the move.)

If you want to stay a few days, there's the possibility of a boat trip around the island, once the fishermen have returned to harbour, and weather dependent of course.  I was lucky enough to be taken round by one of the fishermen plus the delightful company of Halla, as commentator (also one of the guest house landladies.)
Basalt columns, a view of the guillemots and fulmars perched on ledges on the 300 foot  high east cliffs, impossible to see them from the sheer cliff tops.

My third landlady, Ummur, is also the cook at the only Restaurant/Pub, 'The Krian' (what else?) and I recommend her gourmet-standard cooking.  Interesting to see how the babies and children were welcome in The Krian - at least till 9pm - women rule in Iceland.   Saturday night the whole village seemed to be there - teenagers on mopeds revving up and down the one road. (So it's not always quiet!) The men arrived on quadbikes (only a few 100 yards drive from their homes.)

 It's clear from chatting how much the islanders love their island.  In fact, all my landladies were warm and friendly and I was completely spoilt. The Basar is remote, on the north end and involves the scary walk through the arctic terns but if you can't face that, there's another guest house in the village further south.  Or go after August when the terns and puffins have left.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Doing Nothing much on Grimsey Island, Arctic Circle, off the north coast of Iceland.

View of North Iceland from Grimsey Island: midnight.
There is nothing much to do on Grimsey, (unless you're a bird-watcher) but that's what I like.  A small island, easy to walk around, a few days  experiencing the place slowly: birds, views and silence.  Perfect for a writing retreat -time to write notes for poems sat wrapped up in several layers against the wind. Brilliant sunshine but still cold.  And an island, small and intimate enough to meet locals when tired of my own company.

The view is stunning:  ice-capped mountains of North Iceland across the sea to the south (snow to the south, and us in the north  green - a surprise, but Grimsey is warmed by the Gulf Stream. I watched the mountains' continual change of colours, due to weather and time of day. White shadowed by pale blue triangular shadows, or white with dark grey shadows, or pink in the setting sun (midnight) or hidden in fog.

 Silence, well I mean no people. Only the Kria, Kria of arctic terns (Icelandic name Krian, appropriately) and offshore  the eider ducks' 'Oh, Ah' like disapproving great-aunts at the mating antics of the terns. The puffins were silent, continually twitching their heads back and forth, with a puzzled expression. (I've heard them chuckle in their burrows in  Shetland but here they had only just arrived and had not started nesting.)

Then after days of nothing, the great, rather scary, excitement of being attacked by 5 arctic terns at once.  Think Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. Red open beaks, scythe-like wings bent at acute angle. But I knew, from Fair Isle, to raise my hand and wave it about - the terns will attack whatever is highest - a hand better than my head. Luckily for me they did not swoop. 'Ah, they must have started laying,' said my landlady when I told her, and she issued me with a plastic stick.  Usually the laying does not start till later in June but we'd had 3 days of brilliant sunshine, occasionally quite warm, comparatively. Global warming no doubt.

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