It’s been a pretty wild journey up until this point.
From navigating my way through dirt roads with an 80km/h speed limit, getting lost in a landscape so baron that it shouldn’t be possible to get lost in, climbing a pseudo crater, driving through lava fields, being mesmerized by a glacier lagoon and the overwhelming glacier subtly flowing behind it, to experiencing a culture and landscape that is so different to one that I am used to. It had me at an utter loss for words.
In a good way. Actually, probably in the best way possible.
I had done so much and seen so many different things up until this point that I didn’t know it would be possible to continue to be blown away.
A lot of times when you travel you become complacent and begin to take your surroundings for granted. Similarly to what we do wherever we are from. I mentioned in Part 3 that I had never been to Niagara Falls, 2.5 hours from where I live, yet here I was chasing waterfalls in the middle of the Atlantic.
Sometimes the novelty wears off, and thats to be expected in a lot of ways. The ‘wow’ feeling starts to dissipate and you begin to get comfortable.
Thats not Iceland. Thats not what Iceland does to you. Even after 8 days in its most spectacular fashion.
I had a handful of things I wanted to see and do over the course of my last 4 days here, but the forecast was not looking promising. Either way, I wasn’t going to waste any time. I had my toque and my mittens and my jacket and my cameras – there wasn’t anything that was going to hold me back from taking in all that Iceland had left to offer.
I took off from Svinafell campsite around 9am and started my journey towards Vik, a seafront village in south Iceland. It sits in the shadow of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the Katla volcano.
Now, you may have briefly seen Katla in the news over the last few weeks, months, or even years. Why? Because its ready to erupt, literally, any day. Typically it erupts (violently) every 13-95 years, with the last major eruption in 1918. We’re in 2017.
You do the math.
Im pretty happy it didn’t go off while I was there. Yet, at the same time that would have been a pretty dang cool experience.
I arrived in Vik around lunchtime and actually had a burger and fries for the first time in a few weeks. Real food, omg.
In most other circumstances I don’t think it would have been the greatest burg (almost similar to the hot dog I talked about in Part 1) but after eating nothing but lamb sandwiches and instant noodles the past 8 days it was glorious.
Of course it was raining. I walked out to the beach and snapped a few pics and got back on the journey towards Reynisfjara beach and Dyrhólaey, a small peninsula not too far from Vik.
As you can see it was still overcast and rainy. But that didn’t stop me from doing a little hike and checking out the surroundings. The skies started to open a tad, which allowed for a great shot of the below beach and landscape from Dyrhólaey lighthouse.
Those two photos above portray an exact scenario as to how drastically, and quickly, the weather could change in Iceland. Damn, its raining again. Oh, nope, never mind, its sunny now.
Quick story. I was super anal my entire time in Iceland about making sure I had everything I needed when I got out of the car, especially making sure it was locked, and quadruple checking that I had the car keys in my pocket. Not that it was necessarily needed, as Iceland has a very low crime rate and I would like to think that people are better than some give them credit for.
I locked the car, tapped my pockets to ensure I had everything and went off exploring for a good hour or so. I got back to the parking lot, looked around quickly, saw where I was parked, and my stomach sank. I left the damn trunk open.
How do you do that? How are you so careful in locking the car doors (and even double checking them to make sure their locked) and making sure you have everything you need, only to leave the BIGGEST damn door on the car wide open. Wide. Open.
Nothing was gone, all my noodles and Special K bars were still there. But damn.
Next was something that I had at the top of my list of things to do in Iceland: check out the downed US Navy DC-3 plane on the beach. I had done some research on how to find it and the right spot to park and walk to it.
You used to be able to drive your vehicle right onto the beach near it, but as you can imagine over time the landscape was getting too damaged. So, now it was a solid 4km walk from the road to the plane.
I was jacked. I had all sorts of plans for cool vantage points and taking some cool videos with my GoPro. I really thought I would have it to myself. Rookie mistake.
As I got closer and closer to where I was supposed to be, I could see a huge parking lot in the distance, full of cars.
No, no, they gotta be for something else. Please let them be for something else.
Yup, you got it, it was the parking lot to walk to the plane. 4km is a fairly long distance, and from the parking lot to the horizon it was a steady stream of people. I still strapped my GoPro on, grabbed my camera, made sure to lock the trunk, and started walking. It took a solid 45 minutes to get to the plane, through nothing. I mean nothing. A desolate landscape.
Talk about a boring walk, but just to see and experience it was something I won’t forget.
Once I finally got there and saw the crash site and the wreckage on the beach it really was pretty damn cool. Like something right out of a sci-fi movie.
But cripes. Those dang tourists. (Remember when I told you I was not a tourist, but rather a traveller?) There were people everywhere, which was super frustrating. I got a few good pics and a decent video from inside the plane, but nothing like what I had planned for.
(There was at least 12-15 people on the other side of the plane in the below picture)
Look, let me be candid here. I love to take pictures and you love to take pictures, what better way to relive the experience later? I can be that guy that walks in front of you to snap my pic. But the difference between me and you, tourist, is that I recognize that Im not the only one there. I get in and get out, get what I need and allow everyone else to take their pictures and fully experience what it is we are looking at. Its the people that just stand in your way, fiddling with their camera taking 15-20 minutes to take a damn selfie, not even looking at the plane but in the opposite direction. Without saying anymore, and in conclusion: just have some respect for the people around you. We are all there for the same reason.
I only spent about 15 minutes at the site and started the walk back. What a journey.
Still chasing waterfalls (Iceland has SO many) the next few stops on the drive were Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, two pretty epic waterfalls right next to the ring road.
Skógafoss actually flows over the cliffs of the former coastline of Iceland.
Again, though, it was packed with tourists, so I snapped and recorded what I could and moved on.
Seljalandsfoss was the same, but also pretty damn cool. You could actually walk around behind the waterfall. It was so windy, rainy and misty that I couldn’t risk taking my camera, so I filmed the whole thing on my GoPro. Perks of an incredible waterproof camera.
I decided to head from here towards Þingvellir National Park for the night. To be honest, this was one of the only times I saw trees in Iceland. Seriously. I spent the night and headed back towards Reykjavik the next morning.
I couldn’t have asked for a worse final 3 days in Iceland. Coupled with my sore back and increasing appetite from roughing it in the land of fire and ice for 9 days, it didn’t stop raining. Like, not once. Except for at night, of course, when I couldn’t do anything anyway other than stare at the sky in hopes that the northern lights would stop playing so hard to get.
With that in mind, I spent my final 2 nights in the car at a nice little campsite just outside Reykjavik called Mosskogar. This place was great, with an indoor sitting and cooking area, greenhouse with fresh vegetables and very friendly owners. I did what I could in terms of activities and taking pictures and videos, but the rain. The rain was a huge buzzkill.
In some ways it was almost a good thing. My body was starting to tell me to get a real bed and real food. Day after day of going non-stop and a less-than-ideal diet was starting to catch up to me. I took my final few days to really soak up what it was that I had just done: a 10 day excursion around the ring road of Iceland, sleeping in my car and experiencing everything the country had to offer.
My final day I headed back to Reykjavik, dropped off my camping supplies, mailed some postcards to some family members and dropped off the vehicle. That was it. It was done. I grabbed the bus back to the airport and took a taxi from there to the hostel I was staying at for the night, called Base Hotel, in Keflavik. It was super cool. Housed in 2 of the buildings that US Navy members used to live in with their families. I had a 6am flight to London the next morning.
The ONLY (if there could actually be any) crappy part about Iceland was not seeing the northern lights. I really had no idea they would be as stubborn as they were to spot. Maybe I was just unlucky.
It was devastating. Next time, though, I will not play nice with stubbornness. I will find you, you elusive aurora.
In conclusion of a (fairly) lengthy 4 part blog post about my 12 days spent in Iceland, let me finish with this:
This country is incredible. Words and photos just don’t do it justice and can’t fully paint a vivid description of how otherworldly it is. Its one of those destinations you truly have to experience for yourself.
From Icelandic horses majestically traversing the countryside, landscapes that almost seem too surreal to actually be in front of you, waterfalls graciously flowing at every point you look, glaciers overpowering the horizon so you see nothing but a frozen blue and white solid chunk of ice, active volcanoes and dormant volcanoes and pseudo craters, icebergs casually floating in and out of lagoons, a baroness that makes you feel like you are, literally, out of this world, and a culture that is so incredibly inviting that you almost feel like you aren’t as far away from home as you actually are.
Iceland, you will forever be solidified in my memories.
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