A day spent exploring the beautiful Eyjafjörður Valley, south of Akureyri, can be surprisingly exhausting. And the locals seem to know it. Two farms on either side of the valley have expanded their normal operations to offer unique places to recuperate, and we took advantage of both.
When Halldor offered to show us the autumn colors of the Eyjafjörður Valley, south of Akureyri, I was a little amused. Up until this point, we had seen approximately three trees in all Iceland. "Maybe the idea of 'autumn colors' means something different here," I thought. "Like, a pile of red lava rocks on top of wet, yellow hay." But it turns out that Iceland has some trees after all. There are a lot, in fact, if you know where to look.
When we pulled into Akureyri, I couldn't believe my eyes. This cute little village was supposed to be the second-biggest city in the country? Come on, Iceland, stop kidding. Where's the real Akureyri? Where is this "Capital of the North" we'd read so much about? Where are you hiding it?
Inclement weather and an irregular winter ferry schedule forced us to cancel our trip to the northern island of Grímsey, the only place in Iceland which crosses the Arctic Circle. But we'd been in this country long enough to have learned: always have a Plan B. And so we hopped on a different ferry bound for a different island: Hrísey.
A village of just 800 inhabitants built around a natural bay of the same name, Ólafsfjörður was our base during the three days we spent exploring the eastern half of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. The town itself doesn't have a lot to distract tourists, but the surrounding landscape picks up the slack.
Until being usurped by tourism, fishing had always been Iceland's most important industry, and the country's biggest factory was found in the tiny northern town of Sigluförður. Today the former plant houses a museum dedicated to the bygone days when herring was king.
Although the great majority of it is completely inaccessible to all but the most adventurous hikers, the peninsula of Tröllaskagi is one of Iceland's more heavily-populated regions. It's book-ended by Sauðárkrókúr to the west and Akureyri to the east, with the towns of Hofsós, Sigluförður, Dalvík and Ólafsfjörður strung out along the coast. We drove along the coastal road just after the year's first snowfall.
The first time I saw an Icelandic horse, it was laying on the ground, on its side. "Horses don't lay down," I thought. "It must be dead!" And then it rolled onto its back, all the way over onto its other side, and stood up in one semi-fluid movement. "It must be insane!"
Most of Iceland's horses spend their time free in the highlands, instead of on farms. Like sheep, they roam at their whim, with neither supervision nor control, able to graze wherever they choose. But once a year, toward the end of summer, they're brought down from the mountains.
Our time together was short, but Mósa didn't need long to work her way into my heart. I loved her soft coat, her short stature, her rich color, and how she farted with every other step. I loved her mane, and her mild countenance when I accidentally pulled some of it out. I loved how determined she was to speed past others when it came time to gallop. I loved her stubbornness. And most of all, I loved that she didn't buck me off, although it would have been so very easy.