“You should go to Húsavík,” my impromptu host in Akureyri told me. “I went whale watching there.” Clara handed over some brochures she had kept. Alright, why not? We got up early to go to Akureyri’s geothermal baths and then I rushed to the bus station. Luckily, I realized I was at the wrong station just in time—and the right one was just across the street. I settled into the minibus between my neighbors and we sped off into the morning.
Riding a bus in Iceland is never boring. The landscape is enormous and beautiful and the weather overhead is rapidly shifting. The bus pulled over and we squeezed in even tighter to let on a father and son. Even though the bus was already full, we weren’t going to make them wait hours for the next. Hugging ourselves inward, we smiled at each other and settled back as best as we could in the tight space.
It was still early when the bus dropped us off in Húsavík. It wasn’t too difficult to find my way around in the town numbering just over 2,000. Yellow flags flapped in the wind declaring, whale watching! I went and bought a ticket and dinked around by myself until the ship would depart. A line of mist hung over the harbor and it was hard not to stare. I began to pile on more layers. Clara had bequeathed me a chunky and overly large red sweater that she had found in her apartment when she moved in. Heeding her warnings about the cold on the sea, I tugged it on over my T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and scarf, and then awkwardly fasted my jacket on top of the bulk.
Joining the group on the ship, I realized I was probably the only one by myself. There were families, there were couples, there were friends, and there was me. I didn’t care. I ran across the boat along with everyone else, side-to-side, glimpsing dolphins, minke whales, and my beloved puffins. After awhile, the boat began to make its way back to harbor and we were served hot chocolate. By that time, I was shivering horridly, despite my puffy layers. Eventually I had to succumb and put on the ship overalls. I willed the boat to get off the cold sea more quickly now that we’d seen the sights.
Immediately after disembarking I went hunting for food because I needed to warm up. I found a place selling French fries out of a window. Those are warm. And indeed, I was able to gradually strip off some of my layers. After finishing my meal, I began to wander around town, my backpack in tow. I stopped in a bakery and bought a kleina, a pastry consisting of fried dough. So, yum.
When traveling, I seem to vacillate from one end of the socialization scale to the other, in ways that may put others on edge. I had gone from staying with three different strangers in a row, all in tight quarters (including a wet tent), to wandering around by myself. I don’t mind; I like both.
I walked through the back streets up to the main road along the harbor. I stood outside of the Phallus Museum (I kid you not. It has since moved to Reykjavík.), looking at the stone and wood statues alluding to obvious things in lieu of paying for a ticket to actually get inside. I stopped by the tourist information center to dash off a few quick emails (“I’m in Húsavík; I hadn’t planned to be here but I am; it’s nice; back to Reykjavík in the evening to catch my flight out”). I wandered up a hill and explored the graveyard overlooking town and the sea.
It was time to catch my bus. This one was a tad more roomy. I exercised my vocal cords again by chatting with the man next to me who wondered what I had been up to. Wandering and whale watching. Yes, alone. Yes, it was fun.
I contemplated the scenery out of the window, which is what I had been doing all day really, sans pane. I like to contemplate. It can be easier when you’re alone. Meet people: learn. Step back: absorb. My time in Iceland was about to end. I let it all filter through me in silence.