A group of middle school students visiting the cave near the A-10 Deluxe Bed and Breakfast where I was staying rapped the glass with their knuckles as I rode by. There were three or four of them looking down from the coach bus as I moved past clumsily, shifting uneasily over cracks in the pavement and small rocks. Expecting to be given the middle finger by the cool kids, instead I looked up to find them saluting me and giving me a thumbs up.
I rode on, stopping near the harbor to take a few pictures and admire the large boat on shore. Making my way aboard, I put down my penny board and jumped on top of the main cabin, climbing hand over hand to the crow’s nest. The submarine yellow rungs were ice cold from the frigid wind blowing off the northwest coast of Iceland. Up there, I could see Keflavik International 3.7km away and most of Reykjanesbaer.
“How far away is Reykjavik?” I asked a man pumping gas. “Oh, maybe 50km or so.” “Oh my god!” I thought, planning on just walking there. Instead, he pointed me in the direction of the bank where he thought they might be able to help. A woman in her late 30’s called up the bus company for me, found the schedule, and exchanged my $20 for the exact fare. “Here,” she told me, handing me a pair of bills and a coin for my right hand and another pile for my left. “The price of the ticket can be paid for with your right. The rest is for you. The bus should be here any minute. I hope you make it.” I thanked her and made my way out just in-time to flag down the bus driver as I was rolling up to the bus stop.
Aboard were four people including the bus driver. I sat right behind him as a confused foreigner needing some extra guidance. Across the aisle sat an older, weathered looking gentleman wearing a black trench coat, black pants, and black socks with his black sandals. “Where do you want to go in Reykjavik?” he asked me. “Anywhere, really. I don’t have any plans.” “Well you’ll want to go to the city center then. I’ll take you there.”
I listened to them talk the entire way as I looked out upon the rocky, green landscape that spanned until mountains on the southern horizon. They talked as if they knew one another, pleasantly, with few pauses and laughing at each others’ jokes. Having studied Spanish and French, I have never listened to a conversation where I couldn’t decipher a single word. Even German has enough similar sounding words to give you a vague idea of what’s being said. Icelandic is like nothing I’ve ever heard.
An hour later I was following that older man off the bus. It was raining, as it had been off and on, with intermittent periods of intensely beautiful sunlight breaking up a depressing grey. He left me near the tourist information building where I learned when I could catch a bus going back to Keflavik. A younger guy around my age with long brown hair greeted me at the tourist info desk. He recommended a hot dog stand around the corner when I asked where I could find some cheap food. “World famous! Bill Clinton ate two of them recently.” He had a a very good sense of humor. He exchanged my pocketful of coins just shy of 500 ISK for a single bill, telling me he would do so because he was in a good mood. When I asked where I could find a cup of coffee, he was sure to point out that I would then have to miss out on a hotdog.
Nearly catatonic, I huddled over a small cup of coffee in the shop he recommended, Kaffitar. It reminded me a lot of coffee scenes in the US. They even had soy milk. Having slept from 3am-6am (US time), I was in that weird, jet-lagged, auto-pilot state, my brain slightly more awake than sleepwalking. I bought, wrote, and mailed a postcard, skated around town some more, and boarded a bus heading back to Keflavik International.
Once at the airport, I cruised the 3.7km along down 41 back to the hotel for a glorious hot tub experience. It was outside, lightly raining, and around 50 degrees. Dinner, and food thus far, has been less than glorious – 2 cups of tea and a bowl of dried cereal. Tant pis! Can’t complain. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes that he would just go to the gardens when he was hungry and didn’t have any money for a visual feast. Iceland has more or less been doing the same for me.
Leaving for Paris in 5 hours!