A Short Story in the Eastern Fjords


A few weeks earlier I had ridden through the eastern fjords of Iceland in the early hours with three Americans. That morning the low sunlight had a serene pink glow about it, peeking out above soft clouds to light the tips of the mountains. I remembered crossing a huge pass, cliff faces dripped in rosy sunlight. The pass gave way to a perfect coastal town, nestled between fjord and sea. I was tired then, drifting in and out of consciousness to peek up at the magentas, fair, ghostly reds, pinks.

I wanted to see that view again, to experience it just as I had before. I now found myself back in Egilsstaðir, a small central town in eastern Iceland from which several roads snake out to the north, south, and eastern coast . I decided to walk the coastal route, I believed the road's pass was the same as the pass from the ride. In no particular hurry I set off from the town. I enjoyed pleasant weather on the way up, a layer of fog closed the view below me.

Step-by step I looked ahead for that grand cliff face, wondering when I would finally be able to see what had roused me from my sleep while riding with the Americans. I looked and looked, right up until I reached the crest of the road. With the road beginning to decline I realized I had already passed the mountain I had seen before. It was a pretty mountain, no doubt, but nowhere near as powerful a view as I remembered it. In my lucid state the grandeur of the pass had faded. The dreamlike, otherworldly nature of the views I saw in the car relied on my semi-conscious state.

I camped in the pass for two days, using the time to finish Peter Matthiessen's "The Snow Leopard." I urinated too close to my tent site and a distinct smell hung around while I read. A year later I would repeat this mistake while camping for a few weeks in Aragon.

After finishing Matthiessen I continued along the road into stormy weather and fog. A long, rainy day of walking on asphalt left me dog tired. Walking alongside speeding cars does little to raise morale, an already diminished goal can become pointlessly bleak. The fog subsided and the day became dreary. As I reached the small town of Reyðarfjörður, I saw nothing of interest.  I sat for a few minutes at a picnic table looking through the gloom then hitched back the way I came, returning to Egilsstaðir in around 15 minutes. At least I killed some time.