There is a sense of spiritual awakening while watching birds wander freely in their natural habitat. This is not something I love doing but later on discovered the magic of bird watching. And while spending some time in Akureyri, the second largest city of Iceland, we’ve decided to take a day off and fly to Grimsey island. Maybe it would be fun since part of the idea was to set foot on the arctic circle.
Since the idea came up, I couldn’t be more restless as I was at that time. I started flipping some magazines and preparing myself for any eventuality. Like what apparel to wear and whether I should do three or four layers of clothes. Nearly but not quite blindfolded, I immersed myself on reading about Grimsey on the web. Some were saying how many birds the island has and how human beings are treated as the silent minority. If there were 100 fishermen, over a million birds are present on the island. That alone is something out of this world or rather, out of my world! Grimsey could be like the size of my native town in Eastern Samar and the arctic circle keeps on cutting across the island and moving away every year.
I’m no expert to explain this movement but as of press time, the Arctic Circle, 66 degrees,33”17’ runs across the island near the airstrip. And a greater part of the island lies at the south of the Arctic Circle. Too much information sometimes could ruin a trip so I decided to stop all these readings. All I remember is that it’s an island and almost 40 kilometers away from the main island of Iceland and I don’t think sleeping on the plane will be an option on a 30minute ride. Did I say ride? Forgive me, I meant flight and no ferry boat as I’ve heard how rough the waters were at that time. I love flights anyway. That would be fine.
The first thing one will notice upon stepping into the island of Grimsey is how unbelievably quiet the place is. We just landed on what I could deduce as the shortest runway I’ve seen in my life. It was surrounded with a typical metal fence just like a simple garage at the back of one’s house. I hugged myself so tight and mentally prepared my body for what could be a struggle for the next 4 hours hours or so. My lips already started breaking off and my body couldn’t even move as cold air kept on hammering us.
We were greeted by our guide who comes to the island once a week to teach some young girls and boys. I looked around and counted roughly 15 houses along the cliff. A beautiful colored lighthouse was visible on the other end and a small church too. It was a small community built along the sides of the island. Grimsey seemed to have been elevated from a ground thus forming a perfectly carved cliffs along its jagged borders. These cliffs made it possible for arctic terns and puffins to cultivate and thrive. As the island stretches further down south, the more flatter it becomes making it possible to harbor boats and small fishing vessels.
I was given a metal stick by my guide to protect myself from sudden onslaughts of arctic terns. They hated the idea that humans looked so tall from the ground and keep on testing whether it’s something they can bully around. Thus, humans need to dock every so often and this became a habit of every islanders. And just like any territory; the puffins and terns control the major part of the island and indeed birds in general control the air, land and water of Grimsey.
While standing on the cliff and taking countless of pictures of puffins, I paused for a while and looked at the distant horizon. The clouds were moving so fast and the cold mass was added to a rather uninviting horizon. I felt alone and sad. And no matter how colorful the puffins were, I wasn’t sure if I could live here even for a month. Maybe because I was alone and part of my personality is to share and am not sure if the puffins could reciprocate that tender emotion. And out of nowhere, a sudden admiration grew from my heart for all the locals here in Grimsey. For the tenacity to endure the cold weather and making a living from fishing out there on the wild, cold sea- that to me was a feat or even a life not for the faint of heart.
The island of Grimsey has taught me that life in its simplest form is indeed a touch of paradise. It’s not surprising indeed that some people go out and travel to far flung areas to find themselves. For our soul need to be aligned again with nature to find its inner voice. With all the seemingly unwelcoming traits the island has, one should really find a way to find true happiness in the most desolate of places and only then it will feel invigorated and reborn.
I can only surmise that bird watching is an activity for the soul. The human mind will not understand this placid hobby but the soul does. And bird watching couldn’t be more fitting in an island like Grimsey. For not only it’s birds’ piece of heaven but for humans too. Welcome to Grimsey! Welcome to Iceland!