We arrive at Keflavik International Airport in the morning of July 8, 2011 for our two-week trip around Iceland. Immediately after the passport controls, we start putting on long pants and sweaters. We are no longer in the July heat of New Jersey. Outside is not freezing, but it will pass as March weather in New Jersey.
We walk to the Hertz rental car counter. Beware that it cost us about $1500 for 10-day car rental. Since we are exploring Iceland on our own, we ask for a GPS device, and it proved, day after day, that it was a good choice.
We also buy a physical map of Iceland at the airport. Gail and I both like physical maps since we can figure out alternate routes if we want to explore other roads and then come back to the main road.
We plan to drive around the entire island for ten days on Route 1 (there is no Route 2), also called the Ring Road, and end our trip at Reykjavik, spending our last three days there. This means several hotels, and driving 1,332 kilometers (828 miles), with many planned and unplanned stops on the route.
It takes us a few hours to reach the small town of Stykkisholmur to catch our first excursion with SeaTours in the afternoon. We are not wasting our time in Iceland. There is so much to see. Our tour is called Unique Adventure Tour, later renamed VikingSushi Adventure Tour. I think they need to rename it VikingSashimi Adventure Tour.
We park our car at the Stykkisholmur port and get our tickets. The boat takes off to explore the Breidafjordur Bay with beautiful uninhabited islands filled with thousands of birds, and dotted with uniquely formed basalt columns that look like skyscrapers.
Water is crystal clear. Air is fresh and crisp. There is no pollution. The boat weaves through the islands. It comes so close to some of the islands that you can almost touch the rocks.
We keep our eyes open to spot the cute puffins, or cormorants, terns, kittiwakes, fulmars, and white-tailed eagles.
The puffins were enjoying their sunshine on a flat top of a small island. It is their island. We, humans, are not allowed to disturb their peace. With their cute, colorful beaks and the kind-of-sad-looking eyes, they are the most famous birds of Iceland. They are one of the reasons I traveled to Iceland – just to see them in person. Later on our trip, I cannot help and buy Brian Pilkington’s children’s book “A Puffin Called Fido” for our grandkids. It is a beautiful book about a baby puffin who was left behind when the parents and other puffins migrated. He was rescued and nurtured by a family, and released into nature when the other puffins returned.
The tour is about a 2.5 hours ride. On our return to the port, the crew drops a net plough into the ocean, a thick-roped fishing net. The boat slows down while the net trolls the bottom of the sea. In ten minutes, they pull the net, filled with scallops, sea urchins, starfish, crabs, sea cucumbers and other bottom dwellers.
We purchase two glasses of wine and approach the wooden bench onto which the entire contents of the net is dumped. Three crew members, with gloves, are constantly prying scallops and sea urchins open and handing them over to the passengers. I have never eaten raw fresh scallop before. I don’t even hesitate a moment before eating a raw scallop. This is my chance to try raw scallops knowing that there is no fresher scallop you can find than this.
I take the first morsel in my mouth. It tastes like candy. Sweet and salty from the sea. It melts in my mouth. I close my eyes. Now, I feel the cool, fresh salty sea. I feel the sweetness of scallop at its height, before it disappears some with cooking. I want more. I keep approaching the bench and taking more samples. It takes courage to sample the sea urchins. I never have eaten sea urchin before. For me, they are the nuisance of the seas when you want to swim near the rocks. If you step on them, they hurt for days. But, now, they are forgiven. They taste amazing.
Gail and I do not even view the scenery on our way back to the port, we are in heaven eating scallops and sea urchin. We watch the kids playing with the starfish.
If I ever go to Iceland again, this is the trip I can take over and over again.
We get off the boat, and drive our car through the narrow streets of Stykkisholmur to find our guest house. This will be my first night without darkness. I am so excited that I cannot sleep. I walk out of the guest house and sit on a rock and look at the mountains. It is one in the morning and the sun is still shining. This is going to be a tough trip for me. I don’t think I will be getting enough sleep any of these days.