A June 2005 trip
to Olafsvik by MichaelJM
Quote: Whale-watching was the purpose of this visit, and Olafsvik is good only for that pastime. This journal details places to eat and sleep, the route to Olafsvik, and our fun day out on the whale-watching catamaran.
The disorganised feel of the place continued as we were shown to our bedroom, a basic room with minimal furniture just off the communal lounge. The kitchen, again on this first floor, was well-equipped, and we were soon to be informed that breakfast, included in the price, was a DIY affair. The proprietor was keen to know what we would like and then stated that the raw products would be placed in a specific part of the fridge for our exclusive use. We were booked in for two nights, and this was far more basic than either of us would like. It was clean, if cluttered, but the shared bathroom (I felt sure that we’d checked it to be ensuite) was on the ground floor, and four other rooms had use of the facilities. This was a potential nightmare, but we reclined on the bed for a while, had a read, a relax, and "regrouped". We would make the best out of it and rejoice in the freedom that the accommodation could offer us!
The bed was comfortable, and despite the flimsy curtains offering no protection from the extended daylight, we slept like logs. Our concern about being near to the communal lounge and kitchen was realised, as it was incredibly noisy on the first night, when the house was full. If we hadn’t been so tired, we would have had difficulty getting to sleep, but by midnight all was serene. The next day, we checked out breakfast, and the owner had been as good as her word. For two days' rations, we had a loaf of bread, 12 fresh eggs, butter, ham, salami, cheese, two cartons of milk, a bottle of fruit juice (not to our liking, but that was hardly her fault), cornflakes, muesli, marmalade, and jam. It was enough to feed us for breakfast and to provide pack-up lunches for two days – there were some advantages to having the "wherewithal" provided!
From our bedroom window, we had views of the harbour and the "town centre", and stretching our neck a little, the unusual church, mountains, and waterfalls. H-Hus was well situated for our pursuit of whale-watching, but if you’re looking for greater creature comforts, it’s a place to avoid. But it is very reasonably priced and offers total freedom - not quite roughing it but well down on the star ratings!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on June 30, 2005
Near to the tourist information centre
The restaurant is well signed from the main road and is on a small residential estate. Nothing special to look at, indeed it was reminiscent of an upmarket transport café. We wondered if it was the wrong place, but a check over the menu confirmed it was indeed the Krakan. The choices were limited, but we were starving, so we settled at a seat near the window opposite the bar. From here we had sight of the sea and could almost feel the presence of the mighty peaks of Grundarfjrour behind us.
This restaurant seemingly had a staff of two – a mature couple – she the cook, he the general dog’s body and front man (although his English was so poor that his wife had to attend to our order). I plumped for lamb chops in a cognac sauce, whilst my wife opted for pan-fried plaice in a sauce. And then we waited. This is not a restaurant to visit if you are in a hurry. Orders are not taken until the food can be cooked – so each table has to wait before placing their order for the previous diners to be served.
It’s an odd establishment – divided into three distinct areas – with a strange array of wall hangings. There are some religious artefacts, photos of Iceland, unrelated pictures, and pictures of cartoon chefs. A piano near to the door has references to boogie-woogie and jazz concerts and a photograph, I reckon depicting the male proprietor when he was much younger and in a band. Every other track played as background music was cool jazz, and the rest was songs of the ‘60s. Musically, this is my kind of place.
The food finally arrived, as does a jug of heavily iced water. I had a plate full - seven lamb chops, masses of piping hot chips, rice, and a good dollop of coleslaw. My wife’s plate was equally full - two decent-sized fillets of plaice, a baked potato, and a vegetable accompaniment. No sooner had she remarked about value for money when another plate was brought to the table with two larger fillets.
The lamb was incredibly succulent and "demanded" that I chew every morsel of meat off the bones, the chips somewhat salty (but very moreish), and the coleslaw unusual, as it was sweet, with the addition of fresh peaches (pleasantly refreshing and a superb contrast to the meat). I "had" to assist my wife in eating the fish, and this was beautifully flaky in a light batter. This was home cooking at its best, and who cares about waiting when the meal is plentiful and of good quality. Whilst we waited for the bill, we were offered free coffee and complimentary schnapps. What a nice touch!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 28, 2005
But there was nowhere else to go, and although the restricted menu had limited appeal, we decided to take our chance and stay. Certainly the two staff members on duty were friendly enough, and although our waitress seemed to have "limited English," she was very polite and ready with a smile. We chose to sit near the window and could survey the main street of this apparent ghost town. There was little to observe, because very little seems to happen in this quiet fishing village.
My wife opted for grilled freshly caught cod topped with cheese and tomatoes, served with saffron rice on a large bed of salad and given a liberal drizzling of a leek sauce. It looked beautiful and tasted the same – extremely well cooked. For some reason, which now escapes me, I opted for the pizza marguerite. I was instantly disappointed, as although it was very well prepared, it was only a pizza. I consumed it with enthusiasm, trying neither to show my despondency nor to cast my eyes avariciously over my wife’s fish dish.
Very few people were eating in the restaurant (other than a large party of Rotarians meeting in a curtained alcove off the main room), and we tried to imagine what things would have been like if it was full. Noisy – I’m sure because the sound would echo round the high-ceilinged hall, but I suspect that the efforts made to create an atmosphere would have had greater impact. A row of candles flickered on the edge of the ultra-modern, stainless-steel-edged bar, candles were lit on each table of diners (four to be precise!)
Two large speakers stood at the end of the bar and served the restaurant with a variety of English music. This was not too loud to stop table conversation, but we were at the farthest point, so I guess it would have been overpowering on tables nearer to the bar. This attempt at "piped music" probably confirms some of the unsophisticated elements of the hotel and the polystyrene ceiling tiles, an inadequate number of "down lights" and several other features render it an ordinary dining experience.
The food was expensive (comparing to the superb meal we had at Perlen in Reykjavik), but it was good, tasty, and well presented and the staff was helpful. Although we didn’t try it, the wine cellar seemed to be comprehensive, but like all of Iceland, alcohol is expensive. We stuck with the ice-cold water, which was readily available to us and stocks were replenished when low!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 3, 2005
Attraction | "An encounter with killer whales"
At the appointed time (11am), the boat’s engines revved and we gently eased away from the dockside. We were on our way. The first sighting was not of whales but bird life. Puffins were seen stuttering and staggering above the choppy sea whilst gulls gracefully glided before torpedoing into the icy water. A little further and what we initially thought were more puffins, on closer inspection we discovered were razorbills. What a great start as the boat paused to allow a closer and more detailed look at the antics of this superb bird-life.
A revving of the engines and we lurch off into open sea in pursuit of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Whilst watching the choppy seas through the lounge window we speculate that the great Blue Whale may not be seen, as we understood that they were currently in pay negotiations to restore their differentials with the more prolific Minke whales. And then the siren sounds and the captain announces that the Orca (killer Whale) has been spotted. There’s frantic activity in the lounge area as people put on their waterproof coats, grab videos and cameras and stagger to the open deck. The wind grabs your breath and it’s really hard walking in a straight line as the catamaran bounces across the sea, but we all make it to the front and survey the open seas. "Whale at 3 o’clock!" announces the tannoy – damn, missed it. "12 o’clock" – missed it again. I’m frantically watching the water through my camera lens and then with broad sweeps of the head. "10 o’clock," the captain calmly announces – this time I notice a splash of water as a whale once again eludes me.
I’m just beginning to think I’ll never see a whale in its natural habitat when a duo surfaces very close to the boat – this two I’ve spotted before the captain has announced it – but in a jiffy they’re submerged again. The captain points out the large "footprints" that mark the surface where the whale has been and then it’s clear that we’re in the middle of a "family" group. The Orca whales are proudly breaking through the surface, "spouting off" and returning to the deep. It’s a sensational experience as these 10-metre long 9-ton mammals swim alongside the catamaran, seemingly playing with us and each other. Magical.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 1, 2005
Killer Whale Encounters
Off the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
However, the engines revved and we took off at a fair lick in pursuit of the elusive porpoise, only to be distracted by a very active school of dolphins. We’d been told in our "educational" talk at the beginning of the trip that dolphins are fun loving and playful and would be guaranteed to "perform" for us if we managed to find a group. Initially, I was quite disappointed because they were doing nothing different to the previously encountered Orca, but then, as if they sensed our frustration, a star performance emerged. This one, the statutory show-off, leapt out of the ocean and proceeded to twist and turn. It didn’t quite achieve a reverse flip, but earned several "oohs and aahs" from those of us up on deck of the BrimRun. Encouraged by this, numerous dolphins emerged, and we were amused as they swam alongside the boat, raced towards us before diving deep under the boat, and earned our applause by jumping high into the air. They are incredibly graceful animals, and it was a real treat to view their antics on their own territory.
At one point on this boat trip, we saw in the very far distance the tale fin of the Blue Whale – too far away to pursue, but still an experience to hold in my memory. The proliferation of gulls swimming or flying near to the boat will always be in my memory, as will the tremendous views of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The sun was glinting off the ice-capped mountain, and the extent of the Snaefellsnes glacier was evident from this offshore vantage point. The small villages appear as town models in the shadow of the mountain and seem to be tottering perilously close to the water’s edge.
We had a superb outing, but as we looked around the boat, a number of people who had decided against taking the seasick tablet were having a miserable trip. You are advised to take the tablet, and from our observation, you’d be crazy to refuse the offer. Don’t spoil the trip for yourself or your friends by arrogantly believing you don’t need help with your sea legs!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 2, 2005
Dolphins and A Distant Vision
Olafsvik and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula