Saturday, 16 March 2013

Tales of Whales!....and sick bags

Oh dear god.

Esja, the snow-capped mountain
which looms over Reykjavík
(home to troll-lady Grýla and her delinquent sons)

I hate whales. As in, a knee-buckling at 'Free Willy' kind of hatred, a passing out during 'Finding Nemo', kind of fear. Yet after bobbing up and down in the Atlantic Ocean or wherever the hell I was today, I have somewhat rapidly discovered that sea sickness is far, FAR worse. To be honest, when your head is submerged somewhere between a paper bag and box of tissues, the last thing you care about is whales. In fact, I really couldn't have cared less if a whole herd of whales went tweeting by in top hats singing the national anthem, waving a giant banner declaring: 'HIII ANNA, WE ARE GIANT SCARY HUMPBACK WHALES'; I just wanted to get off that sodding boat. I mean, lordy me, there were icy-waves crashing over us and American tourists throwing up left, right and centre (first time in my life I'd ever seen them so quiet, in fact). Poor old Cecily had crumbled a long time ago, and was now reduced to sitting motionless in the corner, turning a rather startling shade of pale. We had agreed to go 'Whale Watching', for her birthday (which is today - Happy Birthday, Cec!) and plied ourselves with snúður með karamellu (an Icelandic cake, kind of like a caramel Chelsea bun only MORE HUMONGOUS) and were now regretting the decision considerably. I did feel a tad sorry for the wee scottish lad who admitted, 'oooch, I'm hanging! I've bin' on a four deey bender, I had beer for breeekfast and noow I'm hanging like a fish!' and proceeded to vom over the railings.

Iceland is beautiful, but dear lord it isn't half temperamental. We saw no whales at all (*phew*). Instead, we saw the fin of a rare white dolphin and lots and lots and lots of lots and lots of never-ending blue sea. There were gorgeous snow-white mountains tantalizing us in the background (land! stillness! alas...) and homicidal birds diving beneath the waves only to surface minutes later. No whales. Lots of sick. I'd like to say that I was peeved at such a turn of events, but in fact I didn't mind: it turns out that Elding, the tour company we went with, is firmly anti-whaling, and are actively seeking to create spaces dedicated to the conservation of whales. In fact, their catch phrase is: 'Whales - meet us, don't eat us!'. As a vegetarian who has frequently felt the wrath of the majority of Icelanders for my lack of carnivorous tendencies, it came as a pleasant surprise to discover that some Icelanders not only share my view that eating whale meat is barbaric, unnecessary and downright wrong, but they are actually doing something about it. So my money was not totally wasted, even if my breakfast was....

Cecily enjoying her first taste ofsnúður með karamellu,
(pre-sea sickness)
Despite head-in-a-bag nausea, whale watching was pretty cool. To be honest, it was just exciting to be ON the whale-road (a kenning or metaphor meaning 'sea', for those non-Norsey peeps) rather than being merely ACROSS it. I was half expecting Grendel's mother (Beowulf ref) or one of my sea-dwelling giantesses from Norse mythology to pop their head up and say hello (I bet they're not scared of whales), but alas all that transpired was a complimentary whale-watching ticket to 'give it another go' (fat chance), a dodgy stomach and no apparent cure for my whale phobia. alas.

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