By Karlie Marrazzo
Driving into Akureyri, the view of the town and the surrounding area is incredibly breathtaking. It sits at the end of a fjord with mountains rising up all around it. The sky was such a brilliant blue and the sun was shining so bright, it made the water twinkle in the most beautiful way.
After we settled into our guesthouse, we headed out to explore Akureyri by foot. We grabbed a couple of beers at the liquor store to sip on while we walked around. Weekends are a busy time at Icelandic liquor stores, as drinking in the bars is very expensive, so people drink at house parties first. But this liquor store was manic. Foreshadowing of things to come. As we walked around the very cute and photogenic town, something struck us both as very odd. It felt like a ghost town, even though it is a fair size by Icelandic standards with over 17,000 residents.
A little later on we found out that the Bíladagar auto festival was on that weekend, so everyone in town (and everyone from many other towns) was up at the Bílaklúbbur Akureyrar grounds watching the events. Dave is a big car enthusiast, so we hoped to be able catch some of the events. By the time we got directions and made it up there we were a little too late, as everything was winding down and everybody was going in the opposite direction. The smell of burning rubber was almost suffocating, and provided quite the conflict of senses against an almost setting sun with horses grazing right across the road.
Unfortunately we had a terrible night after that. We went to bed around 11:30pm but we didn’t get any sleep. Sadly, the young people that come from all around for this car event take the opportunity to party and go absolutely wild in the “big city.” Keep in mind that some of these people come from farms, or town with only a couple hundred people. Everybody was out in the streets drinking, totally disregarding residents and visitors alike, being very loud and unruly. There were actually groups of people standing directly outside our window talking, screaming and fighting with each other, and blasting music louder than I even thought possible out of their car stereos. At one point I stumbled to look out the door and saw the police talking to a couple of the guys while their girlfriends cried in the background.
Even though we were very disappointed to do so, we decided to cut our stay short from two nights to one. We didn’t get to do as much in Akureyri as we had wanted to, but we had a lot on the go and just wouldn’t be able to function with no sleep again. Thankfully, the guesthouse owner was very understanding and let us check out early without penalty.
Our next destination was Stykkisholmur, 350km to the west, but first we had to backtrack 90km NE to Husavik to catch a whale watching tour. We didn’t want to take on that much driving and activity in one day, so after consulting the map for a few minutes, decided to try our luck and see if we could find a place to stay in Hvammstangi, a tiny village of less than 600 people, about halfway. We booked a room by phone and went on our way.