Fish or Cut Bait

No fishy plot twists here: The answer is yes.

Yes, we tip-toed the fish out of the fridge at the Harbor Hostel without getting in trouble for stinking the place up. Then we crammed it into the back of the SAD car, and drove it from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to a little red cabin in the Westfjords.  

Aforementioned Little Red Cabin. Please note fire escape from second-story window.

The Westfjords region is the oldest part of Iceland—16 million years old, give or take a dinosaur and a violent eruption or two. If you look at a map of Iceland, it’s the top group of fingers on the left-hand side. Right now we’re on the middle finger. (Just kidding, but really, where else would we be?)

The landscape here isn’t active volcanoes or lava fields like the “younger” parts of Iceland; it’s waterfalls (sooo many waterfalls), and green grass (oceans of it) and rivers (that turn into waterfalls) and arctic foxes (one ran across the road in front of us) and hot springs galore, even though you have to find them first.

Geographically, Iceland is like the Columbia River Gorge, except with harder to pronounce place-names, and near the Arctic Circle and without trees. It’s the Gorge boiled and plucked of its verdant plumage. (Please note: that was was chicken metaphor NOT a fish metaphor. I’m sick of fish.)

Historians blame the Vikings for decimating Iceland’s trees, although if history is any guide, someone else would have done it, eventually. 40% of Iceland was forest until the Vikings arrived and chopped down the willows, rowens and aspens to build their longhouses and boats and bowls and barns and hats with horns and whathaveyou. Centuries of subsequent wind and glaciers scoured the soil, exacerbating the issue. As of now, only 2% of Iceland is forested. Thanks, Olaf!

Not a chance of a Bigfoot.

I think that’s why Bigfoot doesn’t live in Iceland, only trolls and elves. Bigfoot likes trees. Trolls and elves make do with rocks and caves.  This is my opinion, of course, not science-based.

The Westfjords is sparsely populated, even by Iceland standards— maybe because it’s covered in snow for a good portion of the year? Or maybe because the roads are narrow and only partially paved? Or maybe because there aren’t many supermarkets?

Or maybe because there aren’t any addresses. The Westfjords is the big league for geocachers.  A compass would be helpful, and maybe an altimeter and a pair of electric socks, but not an umbrella because it’s too damn windy. When the Airbnb man who owns the little red cabin gave me his “address”, he didn’t say “Turn left at the stop sign onto Country Cabin Avenue, Drive until you see the red mailbox in front of 1223”. He said: “The country cabin is about a 40 minute drive from Holmavik and a two-hour drive from Isafjordur. The coordinates are N65 52’ 35.9” W22 19’ 52.4”.

This bird doesn’t need GPS.

Luckily Guy is driving and he’s good with numbers. Luckily we coughed up the extra money for the portable wifi hotspot in our SAD car. 

Before we crossed into the Westfjords wilderness we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on olive oil and lemon juice for the fish. We also bought a pint of HUGE blueberries, potatoes, chocolate cake, a bag of licorice, a thick family-sized chocolate bar and a pack of HobNobs, all of which we rapidly devoured once we got to the cabin. 

This isn’t even all if it, for God’s sake. There’s still more waiting in the fridge.

We did not, however, eat all the fish. 

We didn’t eat it all on the first day.

Nor did we eat it all on the second day, although I added blueberries when I reheated it, because I watch “Chopped”, and it seemed to fit the flavor profile. 

We didn’t finish the fish.

Don’t get me wrong. We had fun fishing: a good time was indeed had by all.  And we, each of us in our own special way, were proud to have caught those Arctic cod on that boat on the blustery fjord, but what we were left with when the salty sea-foam had settled, was still, undeniably, unequivocally, fish.  Even after it was lovingly baked in oil and lemon, it remained most emphatically fish, a lot of fish: flake after acres of flakey soft white fish flesh.

I don’t like fish. I don’t hate it, but I wouldn’t trade a cheeseburger for a bowl of bouillabaisse and five dollars.  I ate more fish at that country cabin that I have eaten in years, especially if you don’t count sushi or tuna salad sandwiches. Which I don’t. Because those taste good.

We could have donated the fish to the seal museum but the seals probably pefer fish raw.

At the end of the second dinner, we all agreed that our relationship with the fish was over. We were relieved to toss the remains into the trash—except the next morning I read the fine print about how to check out of the country cabin: “Please leave the cabin the way you found it. Pack out your leftover food and garbage.”

So we pulled that goddammed trash bag out of the can, loaded the fish (now stained blue from the berries), and the various empty cookie, cake and chocolate cake wrappers back into the SAD car, loaded ourselves, turned on the hotspot and followed the GPS coordinates away, down the dirt road, into the treeless beyond.

We’ll always have peanut butter.

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