I know I’ve been absent for several days, but I have a good excuse! I have been sorting out many school related challenges. From figuring out which courses will transfer back to my home university, to figuring out which classes are in English and Icelandic, it has been a busy, paperwork filled week. However, it didn’t manage to prevent me from doing at least some things.
On the first day of September, I came home from getting groceries to discover three of the people who live in my building (one Icelander, one Aussie, and one Canadian) getting ready for a hike. As I put everything away they told me that they were heading out along the stream to look for blueberries. On a whim, I asked if I could join them. They agreed, I grabbed my things, and we left.
The walk out of our neighborhood was pleasant and quick. We walked towards the university initially, but once we reached the campus we took a sharp turn and started walking through a field along the stream that runs through town. Walking through grass that isn’t a lawn in Iceland is interesting because you can never quite tell where the actual ground is. Or, at least, I can’t. A bit of grass will be bent over across the path, and when you step on it, it sinks down another six inches. This is why you need waterproof boots, kids.
Anyway, we continued to walk up a rocky ridge in the middle of town. While the immediate surroundings look completely natural, once you summit the ridge, all around you is urban; it affords some very nice views of Akureyri and the fjord beyond. However, there were no berries, so we continued down the other side of the ridge. Back down on the other side of the hill we had reached the city limits. We walked along the outermost street for a bit and then took off up a stony, dirt track. It was at this point that I realized my grave mistake in not making sure I had my inhaler or “puffer” as the Northerners apparently call it. But I kept going. Down the other side of the trail was paved and the lessened effort helped my lungs to recover, temporarily.
By now we were well out of town and hiking on a slightly inclined road. We walked into the shadow of the mountains and it got colder. I began to fall behind. The road got steeper and it got colder, and eventually I had to stop completely. The problem was that asthma, in combination with the cold, left my throat feeling swollen and achy. That coupled with shortness of breath made continuing a poor plan.
So I stopped. And considered going back. I had seen some amazing views and snapped some killer pictures. And above all I doubted I could make up the difference between myself and my companions. I took some more pictures. I tried not to think about my lungs. I checked to see how far ahead my group was. They were no longer whizzing up the mountain but off the side of the road—hunched and roving slowly. Now I had something concrete to work towards.
It took me several minutes to get to where they were, but I managed it. And it was worth it. Even though my fingers were practically numb, between my jacket and the hike I was warm. The sky was turning all the colors of sunset over the whole fjord spread out below. My throat eventually stopped hurting and my breathing evened out. And I even got to pick some blueberries.
The walk back was muuuch easier because it was all downhill and we made it home for dinner before it was completely dark.
If you ever get the chance to go wild berry picking in Iceland, I totally recommend it; just don’t forget your meds.
By the way, it’s cold.