Four days after returning to Iceland from the USA I packed my bags again and got in the car. This time Scott and I were heading to the northern part of Iceland to play in the town of Siglufjörður which is only 40 km (25 miles) south of the Arctic Circle.
It's been years since I drove to the northern part, an actually I had never been to Siglufjörður before. I was looking forward to it since my mom's family was from that area and she spent her childhood in that town. Driving in the country side of Iceland is a stark difference from driving in the USA. The roads seem primitive in comparison to US highways, paved, one narrow lane in each direction with no shoulder. The nice part however, is that there is a lot that meets the eye. There are no tall trees to obstruct the view of mountain sides, waterfalls, purple lupin, live stock, farms in bloom and abandoned ones.
We had to drive over Holtavörðuheiði which goes as high as 400 meters above sea level and I was looking forward to experiencing the view from there. Unfortunately it was totally foggy and I didn't see much. About an hour short of Siglufjörður it occurred to me that we might be about to pass the last gas station until Siglufjörður. As it didn't seem like we would make it all the way we pulled over in the town of Hofsós (population 200). We found the only gas station which was self-serve only and only accepted credit cards. Unbelievably it wouldn't accept any of our credit cards. Panic! We're stuck in here! We'll miss our gig! We looked around and saw a young man outside a house across the street. He quickly offered a solution which was to go next door and get the shop's manager to open the shop, sell us a gas card and even pump the gas. Wow! What a service! Then we got a phone call from a fellow band-mate Andres who was already at the venue. There is no piano!
The drive up 'till that point had been enjoyable but the rest of the drive was amazing. The scenery was beautiful and actually reminded us of the Pacific Coast Highway with the steep mountain side being kissed by the ocean beneath. We could see beautiful lighthouses on the way and I thought to myself that the following day I'd stop to take pictures. We drove through Strákagöng, a 40 year old, 800 meter (0.5 miles) long, two-way, but one-lane tunnel. So what do you do if a car comes from the opposite direction? You back up to one of the pull-off areas and let the other car pass. While driving through the Lincoln Tunnel is like going through someone's dirty bathroom with tiles on all sides, this tunnel, as most tunnels in Iceland, is finished au naturel. Check out the video!
Siglufjörður is really beautiful nestled in between high mountains and the ocean. Since the risk of avalanche is high during winter months a few massive grass covered walls have been built to direct the avalanches away from the buildings. I found it quite moving to look at and imagine living under this constant threat from nature.
When we brought the festival director's attention to the fact that our venue, The Public House, had no piano he suggested we'd move our concert to the church (built in 1932). We were the 3rd and last band to play that night and we feared that people wouldn't be into attending a church concert at 11pm so we opted to borrow a Nord electric keyboard from one of the other bands and stay at the Public House. I was expecting people to have worn out their listening ears after the day's concerts and eager to party but to my surprise the audience enthusiastically listened and applauded to our interpretation of Icelandic songs, cheered when I announced that my new record "The Dream" had jumped straight to #20 on US jazz radio charts and even demanded an encore. What a great festival.
The following day my plans to take photos were fogged out.