WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Fresh Eyes

By on April 5, 2016

When exploring a foreign land helps you to see your own home in a new light.

Cady Cox and Kyle Fleming don traditional Icelandic aprons at the Hildibrand Hotel kitchen in Neskaupstaður, Iceland. (Photo: andrew munz)

Cady Cox and Kyle Fleming don traditional Icelandic aprons at the Hildibrand Hotel kitchen in Neskaupstaður, Iceland. (Photo: andrew munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Normally, the ever-talented Andrew Munz writes this column and I’m sure his loyal following and avid Iceland buffs enjoy it immensely. But this week, we thought it’d be fun to mix things up and offer a different perspective.

As Andy and I sit on his couch in Neskaupstadur, recalling our adventures over the last couple days and leafing through my Iceland travel journal, he thought it would be nice to offer a new perspective on the Iceland experience this week. So here it is, a different Jackson Hole local’s take on Iceland and adventures in the Eastern Fjords.

Well, This Happened!

Iceland is an incredible place, full of extremes and attractive, easy-going people. Rocky cliffs, grey oceans, snowy peaks, bubbling hot pools, hipster city life—it seemed the perfect escape for my husband Kyle and I this spring break. We were originally invited to come by Mr. Munz himself. The hotel he works for in Neskaupstadur is opening a brewery and they wanted an expert on brewing to come give them some advice, recipes, tips, etc. Andy invited us because Kyle is the Brew Master at the Roadhouse Brewing Company. After how busy Jackson winters have become, a quiet retreat to an isolated fjord town, plus a chance to explore Iceland, sounded great to us.

The drive through the high white mountain passes from Egilsstadir to Neskaupstadur, on Iceland’s far-east coast, was incredible. We were very lucky to arrive on a clear and sunny day, a fact we came to truly appreciate a couple days later. The fjords are epic, each one rising straight out of the ocean and folding in and out along the sea. The fjord towns are tiny and quaint, and smell like fish and moss.

Neskaupstadur is a small town, balanced along one sleek end of its fjord with massive, sharp mountains rising up behind it. Our arrival at Andy’s hotel was warm and welcoming as we met all his coworkers from all over the world. We took a walk to the Easter Cave, an overhang of cliffs covered in huge icicles right on the sea. The waves crashing over the black rocks invigorated all of us and the sunset on our walk back to the hotel was calm and beautiful.

“Welcome to Neskaupstadur! Now get to work,” was one of the many jokes we heard as Andy’s coworkers passed us dirty dishes in the kitchen the next morning. Here, you earn your keep and whether that’s discussing brewery details for hours, doing dishes for the restaurant, or even catering an event for 40 Icelandic government officials, we were happy to take part.

After a long day of work, we headed to the pool. It’s a simple, outdoor public pool sandwiched between the streets of the town with incredible views of the fjord and mountains. It is full of plump Icelandic children and old Icelandic men, living out their casual lives in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere.

To reiterate, Iceland is undoubtedly a land of extremes. And although the people here live very calm, gentle existences, the power of nature and its unpredictability are never out of their minds. Just yesterday our plans to drive to another town were thwarted by an insane Arctic snowstorm that forced us to return back to our town.

As I sit here overlooking the fjord at sunset I am humbled by all that surrounds me. I am grateful for adventures, and I am grateful for friends that help you push your car out of the snow. Tonight is our last night in Neskaupstadur, and it’s looking like the storm has relinquished; the clouds have cleared just in time to display the northern lights above us.

If you think you have Jackson figured out, I recommend coming to Iceland—specifically the East Fjords. Robbed of familiarity, your idea of mountain life will be challenged and your sense of adventure, rebooted. PJH

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