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When I visited the mid-Atlantic island in September last year the time difference was exactly 12 hours. Iceland's population stood at 350,000. This compared with 388,000 in Christchurch. Iceland's land area is 103,000sq km. Iceland is therefore similar in size to the North Island. Circumnavigating Iceland is an 1100km road trip.
Iceland is popular for its spectacular natural features - volcanoes, waterfalls and even active geysers (geysir is the Icelandic word).
I ask myself: why go to the other side of the world to see the "same as?" Well, I do enjoy spectacular natural landscapes and I'm not really a city person.
So Iceland was definitely my cup of tea as a travel destination. Mention of a cup of tea reminds of the first question asked of unusual holiday destinations.
"What was the food like?"
As elsewhere where whales are hunted, whaling in Iceland is controversial. Whale is not part of the Icelandic diet. Tourists, arguably unfairly, cop the blame from the International Whaling Commission for Iceland continuing to hunt minke whales. Tourist demand for whale is, however, declining.
We discovered a lobster and seafood pizza to die for in Laki cafe near the fishing port. Curiously, the woman proprietor chatting to other staff near our table did not appear to converse in Icelandic. She also sensed something different about me.
"Where are you from?" she asked.
"Christchurch, New Zealand," I replied.
"Me too," she said, smiling. "I lived in Riccarton. When travelling in Europe I met an Iceland guy and have been in Grundarfjorour for 30 years."
Our well-appointed International Hostelling apartments were overlooked by one of Iceland's most photographed mountains. Kirkjufell (Church Mountain). Merely 463m high and rising from the fiord it is certainly distinctive. Kirkjufell identifies Grundarfjorour village. It is so named owing to its steeple appearance, a sharpened top and curved sides. But, depending on the angle viewed, it is also called a witch's hat or scoop of ice cream.
Close by we dined at Bjargarsteinn House of Food Mathas restaurant in a quaint, old building on the waterfront. It is claimed as one of the best dining experiences in Iceland. The century-old very Scandinavian building was relocated 70km to its present location. The restaurant opened in 2005. We experienced excellent service in a cosy environment with a magnificent view of Mt Kirkjufell and the beautiful fiord of Grundarfjorour. The restaurant is a family-run business led by professional chef Gunnar Gardarson. The menu changes according to the season and the chef's choice. My companion chose fish of the day, while I went for a lamb dish, lamb being essential to the customary Icelandic diet. Wine was either French or Italian.
Fermented shark is an acquired taste, more likely to be savoured by devotees of strong cheese. While challenging my tastebuds, my eyes were attracted to the magnificent mountain framed by the window. The sun was setting and red streaks flowed above Kirkjufell. We have wonderful mountains in New Zealand, but I had never seen anything quite like this. Grabbing my camera I excused myself in the hope of the perfect image.