Iceland Days 1&2

Its been a blur. Not sure where I am, but heres the gist. Camped by some unknown lake on the wild north east coast of Iceland 3 days in. Names here are incredibly hard to pronounce. an unfamiliar alphabet and a kaleidoscope of sounds for the mouth to process most makes most towns / farming villages a bit of the unknown…but then again thats their charm. Anyhow, lets rewind a few days.

I think it was two, but might have been 3…times a blur in this place where the nights are filled with lights and the days are endless drives over vistas that the dictionary doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe. I was in Edmonton airport…the only thing that can be said for that place is that its better than Calgary.. god forbid you ever have to spend h0ur layover there…let alone a 8 hour one. Despite my love for the country the Canadians really don’t know style or substance (beyond good old Timmy H) a short 5 hour flight from there after the dreadful wait, touch down on the rainy outskirts of reykjavik at Kelflavic airport. This pace is fucking hip – more so than most cities and we haven’t left the airport yet. Baggage claim, customs check, get the hire care – a small Renault french mad apiece of ass drop[pings (pardon the french) that looks top be cosy enough. Small, tight, but cosy enough. If only the guy gave us some basic instructions on how to operate as 300m after leaving the parking lot, i try a smooth fast 3 point turn to end up t-bared across the road unable to get the fucker in to reverse. Tension builds, cars re incoming. Panic alarm. Sound the alert…a helpful local helps push us out the way and shows us how to put the thing in reverse: lift the column up…(WTF – who builds cars like this.)

Downtown Reykjavik is smaller than expected. An age old fishing village where the relocated the harbour 200m further out a few hundred years back breathes life in to the quaint coloured roof tops in the centre of town – the main square and a few side streets lead in to the main walkway up the hill thats lined with shops, cafes, tourist bazaars and is the main thoroughfare up to the flight hill where a magnificent church lies overlooking the city like it’d arch angel. We make our way slowly up the street to this oddest – its built like agent organ – apparently inspired  by one of the rock formations in a nearby mountain. Inside the church is the most grand magnificent instrument I have ever witnessed – a mighty organ 3 stories tall with a hundred or more pipes and outlets. A man sits playing this monstrous instrument from the inside of the church. He reeks of an old math teacher, or crazy primary school science teacher, with a old Icelandic patterned sweater with patches on his elbows, though don’t be fooled, the sheet music in front of him is as complex as it comes and ew in the world must have the same mastery of this instrument. There are almost 50 footpads alone and 4 rows of keys his fingers dance across in a slightly delay.

We’re tired…exhausted from 48 hours since we left Banff and a comfy bed. We sort plans over one of the famous hotdogs from a downtown stall (they suck and are little more than a cheap bun, cheap faux meat sausage with some crispy opinions and some unidentifiable brown sauce that applied to be mustard. Tourist trap anyone?

We heave for a near by campground to catch a nap. its closed but we can still stay there amongst the grass fields. just no toilets. 3 hours later and some hot springs / swimming pools are in order.

Iceland being the geothermic  / volcanic island that it is is filled with hotsprings that a made into heated swimming pools – to the Icelandic these are like the local pub. A place to relax and mingle.

We decide to leg town. theres nothing else for us here…for now. Lets get out in to the wilderness asap. The rain has slightly cleared and patches of blue sky shine intermittently above as we head for the a night at the first stop – Pingvellir national park.

It’s a wild night of wind and rain after a short hour drive out from the city past rolling farms and small grassy hills. We jump out of our cosy camper to brush our pegs and HOLY FUCK.

The heavens are rent above us by a pulsating laser beam of light of the aurora borealis. We have seen this phenomena before in Banff, but not like this. There is one straight beam of green light that PULSates with energy across  the dark and cloudy sky – the movement, the shimmering energy of this entity is indescribable. We sit in awe until it fades into blackness and another storm rolls over us.

We wake up after a long night rain and wind to a bleak and dreary landscape. Its frigidly cold and wet out thats only amplified by the wind. We haul ass down the road to Pingvellir National park – a rent between the european and North American tectonic plates where they are pulling apart leaving a chasm and tears across the landscape between them. Oxararfoss waterfall is our first stop and is…well wonderful however seeing what I have after feels like barely a footnote.

A lonely church and an old graveyard where dead poets lay to rest from the years gone by grace the entrances of the of the rift that sits just beyond a lake. We see it all and once again haul ass out of there to warmer climates.

Warmer climates elude though however we manage to complete the tour of the golden circle in islands south east – the geysers (spurting jets of 30ms in to the air of superheated water  & gas) and Gullfoss waterfall – both positively enjoyable sights, however nothing for adventures of our ilk, or to write home about.

Iceland Day 3 – Chasing Rainbows & Glaciers

The day ends with us us making the stunning drive down to the south coast past some of the most fertile land in the country. Farms and horse studs dot the landscape with their white walls and red roofs. Our destination is Seljalandfoss waterfall beyond these fertile low lands where the highlands come down to a long winding range of coastal cliffs formed eons ago when the sea level was 100m odd higher than today. This creates a serenely unique vista of 100m cliffs with cascading waterfalls for the next 200kms. We spent the night at Seljalandfoss where there was 3 spectacular waterfalls down these cliffs, sun light streaking through the multitude of storm clouds and cells out to the west and the sea. There beneath us on the far edge of the campground sat a playground backlit by the stunning vista…lonely yet beautiful and happy. Beckoning to be played upon by the joyful.

We climb a waterfall and walk the cliffs for several hundred yards to explore. The main waterfall you can walk behind and is supposed glow golden in the sunset which is unfortunately hidden beyond the storm cells to the west.

Its another wild night with constant rain and winds, and a sleet rain of hail to disturb the peace. We wake up and manage a hot breakfast of eggs on toast. Standard.

A short drive along find us on our way to a secluded valley with hot springs. No doubt this place has a name, but we don’t know it and it isn’t covered on any map. From the end of a gravel road we hike 20 min into the valley where no less than 26 waterfalls among snowcapped mountains in a 180 degree panorama stand before us with some hot springs at out feet. the only  problem is its a large pool with a small inflow and as a result it is a touch cold. However we enjoy the scenery and the waters before making a swift exit to the sunshine down in the the valley whence we came in…just as a few others arrive.

Skogafoss waterfall is around the next bend – a 60m giant with a heavy flow set just beyond the picturesque town of Skogar – a larger farming village of around 25 people. Its remarkable how almost all the the farms we pass for the next hundred or so km are backed on to their own private waterfalls. We climb a staircase beyond Skogafoss to look down upon is might spray and up into the highlands beyond where the first of the icecaps are visible in the distance.

We snack a lunch and venture on the ring road – wedged

between cliffs on the left with constant cascading waterfalls and the black sands of the ragged coast on the right with the next town Vik, far in the distance.

Around 30km short of Vik, with the town sight  on the horizon we happen across a grand glacier and open a lighthouse at icelands most southern point. Perched high up on a headland that stands out from the flat surrounds and capped with a red toped lighthouse this is a panorama for the ages. 360 degree views assault our senses. On the coast side storm cells of wicked clouds and rain blot the sunshine into splotches, where back and forward the coastline ends in ragged cliffs and mountain panoramas. This is all overseen by snowcapped mountains peaking with the Myrdalsjokull icecap 50km in the distance like a grand overload. We sit, enjoy blissfully at peace in the grand world around us.

Vik is not much …another quaint seaside town with an idyllic church set aside the cliffs and the rolling green hills. We pass quickly as the sun is shining the theres along way to go.

We bomb along the south coast at a 120. the max speed limit on this island is a meager 90 even on the best stretches of road, but its clear open, traffic free and good going. as if i could slow down.

Iceland’s south coast is a wonderful geological formation of the highlands coming down to a long range of cliffs that all positively cascade with waterfalls at around 60- 100m, before they flatten to some final low lands and then a  rugged atlantic coastline.  these cliffs for formed long ago when the sea levels were much higher and as they lowered left us with this pristine wonderful wilderness.

We round the corner of vik at the very southern end of the island and just beyond the 4th largest icecap of Myrdalsjokull and enter a wasteland of lava flows. These lava deserts are created by glacial floods caused by eruptions under the icecap and it is an erie scene at parts that looks hazardous and lifeless. The weather is utterly magnificent – bathed in sunshine for the majority, there are windswept storm cells cascading to the right hand side out to sea and a gigantic glacier flowing down to the left. Beyond the first 40min we enter the lava badlands – a weird formation of lava runout covered in moss where we term the poo lands as we make a bathroom stop on the side of the road to find every crevice filled with a sneaky batch of tp. Iceland needs to better its amenities.


Beyond the horizon the weather turns as the ever changing scenery continues – the storm cell we find ourselves in the midsts of merely adds to the mystery of this land. We crest a ridge now on the corner of Vatanjokul – Europe’s largest icecap and a positively enormous terra structure that has dozens of the biggest glaciers you will ever lay eyes upon flowing out down to the south east coast. We make good time and call night fall at Jokulsarlon

Iceland Day 5 – Myvatn Geothermal Area

A new day and a long way to go – we make for the north coast and Myvatn geothermalogical area. But first the drive takes us up through the lava badlands that are an error reminiscent of some nuclear winter – black plains of mini volcanoes and the odd mountain pan the view as we drive onwards, snapping pictures as we go.

We swing right and further north to make for Husavik – a whaling town on the far north coast – not too far from the arctic circle but first stop is Detifoss – Europe’s largest waterfall which spans a chasm of a canyon 45m down and 60m across and the canyon runs for 50 odd kilometres until it where it peters out near the north seas. We sit by its crest for a few minutes, revelling and relaxing in this forbidding landscape and the power and energy of the entity roaring before us.

A windswept road and the dramatic scenery continues until we make it to Husavik beckoned by the promise of fish soup to warm ourselves – unlucky as everything is closed – its a short season from June to Sept here and beyond that most places feel like a ghost town. We roll on back inland to Myvatn where we make it an hour before dusk and explore the unique boiling mudpots that spew steam forth from the massive rent in the earth and try to find some more hot springs – unfortunatly they are either too hot, at 50 degrees, or too cold at 25 – however the hot ones were underground at a one of the most unique rock formations ever to lay eyes upon – a long rent in the earth split open that pops forth steam from the super heated ground. Im blown away at this surreal feature – its like from a video game or post apocalyptic move.

We spend the last light of the day watching the sunset from the crest of a nearby volcano over the Myvatyn lake in a glorious sweep of clouds and colour.

Iceland Day 4 – Icebergs, Rugged Eastern Fjords

Jokulsarlon is a glacier fed lagoon that has the unique feature of the glacier carving creating a lagoon filled with icebergs that run through a 100m passage to the nearby sea interspersed by a handful of playful seals who call this place home. We watch in awe as a few of these truck size icebergs crash into each other on the out flow – creating a traffic pileup as the must bed on the shallow outlet too heavy to be carried by the fierce current.

The northern lights dance again this night and we wake to a crystal clear sky with full views of the icecap, glacier and magnificent sunrise. We explore the nearby beach coffee in hand where the icebergs wash up small and eroded away but crystal clear in beauty inspiring forms. This is hands down one of the most magnificent things either of us have witnessed.

The road takes us north and we call in at horn to charge up and take a break and a bite. We get a tip off about a secluded hotsping and an hour later sees us flying up the coast road in glorious sunshine to a bathtub overlooking the sea with steaming waters just south of Djupivogur – another quaint little hamlet perched at the southern end of the reugged eastern fjords. The hotspring is  the definition of perfect – just the two of us in this wild untamed scene with a wondrous place to relax (sorry the superlatives don’t do it justice). We strip naked and bask in the warm water and sunshine. Blissful.

We’re at the southern edge of the eastern fjords – a hand full of small fishing villages and farms that thread their way around some finger inlets of fjords and a backdroped by thousand metre snowcapped cliffs and mountains – and as you guessed by now that are all teeming with waterfalls. Is this not valhalla? I wonder what the viking lords who settled here from Norway in the mid 11th century thought….

Town by town we pass as the hills roll by find our selves fatigued and in need of a coffee. We pull over on the side of the road and nap instead. One of the best naps Ive ever had as its a soothing place to rest with the sounds of gulls and waves crashing down below against the cliffs. We wake and hit some coffee before soon-finding our selves heading back inland to make nightfall just past the crossroad town of Egilsstadir to camp the night by ourselves again in a beautiful spot by Lagafljot lake. We arrive jus as the sun calls it time on the day to few wispy orange glows on the far horizon.