Sunday, September 7, 2008


So, in the country in Iceland, the sheep and lambs spend the summer holidaying in the mountains, eating grass and berries and getting fat and tasty. In the autumn, all the farmers in the area go out on horseback and round them all up - it's called "göngur". Ross and I had planned to go on the big long pony ride, but they ended up with too many people and not enough trained horses. Lucky for us, there's a "seinni göngur", which is much more chilled out; there's less riding like a madman and more drinking brennivín and strolling through the mountains. So next week I'll have photos of us on ponies...

Once the sheep arrive they're herded into the "rétt"... I just tried to describe it, but it's much easier in diagram form:

Basically, the sheep get herded into the brown bit in the middle and then you have to find the sheep that belong to your farm and drag them into your farm's enclosure. You recognise them by their ear tags and the markings on their ears - or if you're my uncle, you recognise them by their pretty faces.

These ones are sheep from Tunga, they are clearly more wonderful and clever and better-looking than any of the others... And they all have horns - it's always more convenient when they have handles.

This shows the first sheep coming down from the mountains. I have a video, but I don't know how to make it be here... The best part about the video is the chaos of the sound - there's horses clopping and sheep baa-ing and dogs barking and the humans making all kinds of shouty and whistly noises to scare the sheep onwards. I'll figure it out later, I promise.

I mostly like this photo because of my grandma, in blue on the left. She got tired of waiting for sheep, so she went berry picking.

Ross impressed some more of my extended family with his sheep dragging skills. It's always a bit weird at first, but it's great fun once you get into it! Once you recognise a sheep, you grab it by the horns and check the tag, then if it's yours you stand over its back and walk it into the enclosure. I kept getting crazy little rams who try to jump and twist out of your grip, and then once you stand over them, they hit you in the thighs with their horns. I have many ugly bruises.
As I said, Ross was really good at this bit, and my undemonstrative great uncle Andrés shook his hand and thanked him for his help. It's a big deal, honest.
Also of note in this photo - the grey head on the left is my great aunt Guja, who leapt into the sea of sheep and dragged them with the rest of us.
She's eighty-seven. They make them to last out here...
Okay, that's all I've got. I think this will be our last week in Sauðárkrókur, then we'll go down south and spend some time in Reykjavík before we go to London!


Maja said...

Awesome post, I love it! Please tell Andres ég bið að heilsa, he's such a lovely guy. Icelandic sheep are great. I almost missed the slaughterhouse for a second there. Almost.

Oh and if she´s still in sauðarkrokur please tell Guja ég bið að heilsa líka, and how sorry I was to hear about Friðrik.


dan said...

haha that photo of ross with a couple of sheep looking up at him fearfully is great!

Kristinn said...

Ahhh, sheeps sheeps sheeps!