We've traveled with the Killer B's a couple of times in the past and they've always been great travel partners. They aren't particularly fussy about accommodation or food and they tackle any adventures thrown their way with a good deal of enthusiasm. I'm sure that in the privacy of their own room, they question the sanity of blindly turning over the day-to-day planning to me. Even with DH, it's always a bit of a thrill to push her slightly beyond her comfort zone and with the Killer B's currently embracing the world of grandchildren, it's pretty easy to find risky activities that stretch them outside their current Tele Tubbies world.
To that end it made good sense to schedule the gang for a whale-watching excursion on Iceland's only schooners in and around the area where Iceland touches the Arctic Circle, and follow that up with a day of rafting in some glacier waters nicknamed the 'Beast Of The East' (despite the fact that the river is actually in the northwest area of Iceland?). To be fair, I did separate the two death-by-cold-water trips with a day of special treats for each of the Three Musketeers.
First up was the whale watching out of Húsavík (although it was only after we were trapped on the boat that the captain decided to let us know that the breaching and splashing behaviour of whales in the warm waters of the south doesn't happen in Arctic waters- apparently even whales get too cold to play). We did see a number of blowholes, curved backs, and a couple of flukes (a whales tail coming out of the water as it dives), but it was the idea of tracking these massive creatures in traditional wooden oak fishing boats under full sail while wearing a bulky Arctic water survival suit that made this a must-do (if slightly numbing) event. I think the crew loved the idea of putting the sails up because it gave them a chance to warm up while the rest of us did a deck dance with cold Arctic winds blowing up our pant legs. We did travel over to Lundey, the Puffin Island of Iceland for a reasonably close encounter with thousands of breeding puffins- with puffins being front and centre on many Icelandic menus, I assume that these birds like to keep a healthy distance from any hungry looking humans (and with a dark overcast day and a bouncing boat, it was close to impossible to get any good photos- I'm just building excuses so I don't get hammered by Tina B for blurry puffin pic's). We also saw a few frolicking White-Beaked Dolphins (see puffin excuses) who were breaching frequently which, given the excitement of the crew, is apparently a very rare sight.
After a night spent warming up, we headed to Akureyri which is the second largest city in Iceland with a population of 18,000 including 5 policeman (there are only 200 people in all of Iceland that are in prison). Akureyri has a lot to offer but we were here with a specific checklist in mind:
1- For Dave B, we made our way over to the Akureyri Golf Course which is the most northerly 18 hole golf course in the world. It's also home to midnight golf (24 hours of daylight) and hosts the Arctic Open. It had just opened for the season and it was raining so we didn't stop for a game but we did spend some time on the driving range so Dave could qualify an official Arctic Open ball for his golf ball collection.
2- DH had been fixating on having "ice cream in Iceland" ever since we got here (weeks of seafood chowder in Ireland had to be replaced with another fixation at some point). Akureyri is home to what is reputed to be Iceland's best ice cream shop so DH rushed us over there and elbowed her way to the front of the line. I can't say I was overly impressed with the taste of the 'best' ice cream in Iceland but I would expect that it comes straight out of the Icelandic cow as ice cream so that has to count for something. DH, with excess chocolate smeared on her face and shirt, was impressed but given the speed she hovered her cone, I'm not sure she really tasted it.
3- When we found out that Akureyri was home to Santa's House (presumably his summer house) Deb B nearly lost her mind. Christmas is a very big thing in the Killer B household to the point of being a little bit freaky- there are elves and Santa's everywhere with a tree collection that almost becomes a forest. Her pride and joy from an earlier trip to Guatemala was a felt Xmas tree made by a blind nun who was dipping into the Sacramental wine- it has a place of honor each year in the Killer B house. Deb B would outdo most kiddies when it comes to the joys of Christmas so it was no surprise that we lost track of her for a couple of hours in Santa's House (and when she emerged she was staggering under a load of gifts).
After this day of rest it was time for our last big adventure in Iceland. DH and I have done a number of rafting trips in different parts of the world but we have never had to done a heavy duty dry suit to do one. I don't expect that the rivers of Iceland ever get warm but in the early spring glacier run-off we knew this was going to be test (this was probably the first time we really paid attention to the part of the safety briefing that provided the guidance for not falling out of the raft). Removing air from the dry suit proved to be a bit embarrassing for DH, but outside of flatulence noises we all got layered up and started our way down river. There are a series of level 4 rapids to navigate and we were doing reasonably well until Dave B (where the 'B' stands for Boney Butt) put a hole in our raft. Apparently this was the first time that anyone's butt was pointed enough to penetrate the indestructible zodiac hull and it took a couple of hours for Plan B to kick in (a replacement raft). After the lengthy stranding, it took some aggressive paddling to get the blood circulating again but we did manage to finish the length of the river without anyone from our raft going in. It wasn't the toughest set of rapids we've seen but with the ice cold water smacking you in the face like shards of glass it was definitely a unique challenge.
We found a hotel just down the road and settled into our last night on the Ring Road. Sadly, it was nearing the end of our journey around the Ring- we'd be heading back to Reykjavik tomorrow to wind up our time in this wonderful country.