– Reykjavík, Iceland to Vík, Iceland –
And so begins our journey across Iceland. I say that, but I’m not sure you can go across the middle of Iceland, especially this time of year. The middle of the country is a big ball of ice in many places. I guess what we are doing is more… circling the southern and western bits. At any rate, we got in our car and actually left Reykjavík, so we are now officially driving through uncharted territory, at least for us. Luckily cars run on the right side of the road, so we’re doing alright. We got behind a couple of British university students today leaving an attraction and they got a little confused, and drifted over to the left. We are doing better than that, is all I can say.
Our morning began at 7am with some pulpy orange juice (aka: the wrong kind), skyr, and bananas. We then showered and packed up all of our stuff. It is amazing how much less stuff we have than when we’re on our regular road trips, since we had to get over here with it on an airplane. I’d say it is nice, but there are some things that I miss (namely little Ripley), even if it is nice to pack up quickly and neatly with room to spare.
We were on the road by 9am, even though we only had about a 2.5 hour drive over to Vík. We wanted to see quite a few sights in between, so we were hoping that we’d still be getting there by midafternoon, rather than ridiculously early. We did need to stop after only about 45 minutes in, because Mark needed something to drink. We were both a little sleepy, and since he was driving, he wanted something to wake him up.
We stopped at a little gas station and ran into another young American couple, who were also looking at the sodas. The man was encouraging the woman to pick something weird, and she was joking that she didn’t know what was in it since she couldn’t read the ingredients. Mark joined the man, encouraging her to get the weirdest looking one. That’s how both sets of us ended up with grapefruit soda. In fact, grapefruit soda isn’t that weird, or at least it wasn’t to me. After Mark had tried it, be passed it to me with an expectant look on his face. I told him it tasted like Fresca, which was not weird at all. He was baffled. I guess he’s never had Fresca before, back in the States. It is one of my mom’s favorite sodas, so I’ve had it many times, and our soda really tasted just like it. Sorry, Iceland. Grapefruit soda didn’t shock me.
A little while later, we drove past the first pharmacy we’ve really noticed since we got here, and since we’d been meaning to stop at one, we pulled off immediately. We are in dire need of hand lotion, since it didn’t make the toiletries cut when we were packing for the plane. We finally got some today. It was a little expensive, but now our hands are very grateful, and we got to try to read about face and foot creams in Icelandic, which was quite a bit of fun. I also learned that they sell my favorite brand of nail polish here. I can’t fault them for it. It really is delightful.
Once our hands were soft and supple, we felt ready to really brave the outdoors. We made our first sight-seeing stop at the ferry terminal to Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westman Islands, where we saw black sand beaches and the imposing-seeming islands in distance. We didn’t plan to take the ferry ourselves, but the view was stunning, and the wind was quite sharp. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but it’s pretty chilly here. I might be a bit of a hothouse flower though, considering I’ve lived my whole life in Texas. Mark doesn’t seem to be quite as fazed by cold as I have been so far. I guess Oklahoma is a little farther north.
From there, we stopped at our first set of waterfalls for the day. It was still relatively early in the morning when we stopped at Seljalandsfoss, and it was freezing, and I mean that literally. On a warm day, you can actually take photographs from behind this large waterfall, but today the path leading up to the waterfall was roped off to prevent tourists from falling to a rocky death from the ice-covered stairs. The rocks on the path that walked up next to the waterfall were even frozen, and I refused to get any closer to it. Mark went ahead to get closer for some photographs, since he’s either braver or dumber than me. I wouldn’t dare judge. I might be a coward. I like my limbs all fully intact, though, I will say.
Butts firmly parked in our heated car seats, we left the waterfall with Mark still in one piece. We stopped again not long after in the area surrounding Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that famous disrupted air travel all over Europe back in 2010. The picturesque little farm in the photograph above was completely covered in ash, though you’d never know it from what it looked like today. Today it looks like a perfect place to build a beautiful little horse farm. Unfortunately, it is not, seeing as that volcano erupts with relative frequency. I don’t need to tell you that the occasional emergency evacuation requirement does nothing for property values. I guess I can’t really talk, since we live in Tornado Alley. Everybody has something, I suppose.
Our day of waterfall adventures led us onward to Skógafoss, where Mark found the end of a rainbow, but he apparently didn’t rate his pot of gold, since we weren’t offered a single coin by the totally absent leprechaun. Maybe someday when we visit Ireland, we’ll get lucky.
Skógafoss was truly beautiful, and at 200 feet tall and 80 feet wide, it is impressively large. You can hike up an intimidating set of stairs to look over the top, but with ice forming in the shadows along one of the walls next to the falls, we elected to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground below. We’re a bit sore from our horseback riding adventure yesterday, anyway, so we were reluctant to do anything that looked like it might compound our muscle aches. We’re wusses, what can I say?
Back in the car, we finished our trip to Vík, where our hotel and the rest of our sightseeing for the day was to take place. It was nearly 2pm, and I think I could hear Mark’s stomach trying to eat his backbone, so we stopped at the local gas station/cafe to buy a sandwich. We had vegetable pitas, which Mark thought were fine, but I couldn’t eat more than a few bites of. They premixed their greens for the pitas and burgers, and the taste of red onion permeated every bite. I hate raw onions (somewhat strangely though, I love cooked onions, and could eat those by the spoonful like candy). It was an exercise in futility for me to even try to put it in my mouth. I gave up after a while. At least I had some potato chips in the car.
With lunch over with, we took off to explore Vík. Vík is an intriguing place. It only has 500 residents, but it has enough guest houses and hotels to hold at least 4 times that many tourists, I would say. We drove up to the top of a little road there that led just past a farm, and we were met with a sign that told us the road was impassable from that point forward. Mark joked that we could go ahead and give it a go, and I pulled a Gandalf and shot that plan down pretty quickly.
One of my favorite stops today was at another small waterfall that was basically on some farmer’s property. A little gravel road led back to it, and you parked just in front of his fence and climbed over the barbed wire with a stile installed just for that purpose. From the fence, a path snaked through his field over to the waterfall, which was quite adorable up close. A few little purple flowers clung to the rocks near the waterfall, which seemed crazy, considering the cold, but I guess spring is spring, and the flowers have to grow sometime, even here.
Vík is famous for its black sand beaches, so while we had been piddling around the town, looking at the lesser attractions, the sun had been getting lower in the sky. This might not mean much to everyone, but to Mark, evening sunlight is the holy grail, since everything photographs better towards dusk. It was just after 5pm, and he was finally ready.
We drove over to check out the black sand beaches first, and they are pretty cool. Powdered lava rock makes for very interesting sand. It’s quite a contrast, too- the black against the blue. I find that I rather like it, even if it does have a bit of an ominous feeling, like we might be approaching someone’s fortress of doom.
The town is also famous for its basalt columns and while I’ve seen photographs of columnar rock formations, I’ve never seen any in person. It is so strange! It is difficult to imagine how they managed to form that way, even if I know they were made by the fracturing of a cooling lava flow. It sounds too crazy to contemplate.
The Reynisdrangar, which are visible from the same beach, are a set of basalt sea stacks that legend holds were once a three masted ship, dragged to the beach by a set of mountain trolls. The mountain trolls were caught by the sun, and since folklore tells us that trolls turn to stone in the daylight, the ship was turned as well. An interesting tale, no?
Behind the first set of basalt columns is a cave, where you can see similar patterns in the rock. I felt a little nervous under all of that unstable-looking rock, but I did manage to pose for a photograph for Mark before I scurried back out of the cave. I think the cave was probably cooler than the columns, though all of it is worth seeing. We picked up a smallish rock from the beach here for Mark’s Uncle David, since he collects them from interesting places around the world. I think you’ve been reading along, so Hi David! We’ve found your rock. We will have to bring you your bit of Iceland basalt the next time we visit Oklahoma.
Mark kept collecting rocks after we’d chosen David’s, and I tried (valiantly, I might add) to make him stop. The beach was full of interesting stones, and Mark kept stuffing rocks into his jacket pockets to take along. I reminded him more than once that we still had to fly home, and rocks added weight to our luggage. I’m not paying extra for our bags just because he couldn’t choose which rock he actually wanted to take home. He only needs one of his own. Maybe I’ll get him to make a decision on the matter tomorrow, and toss the others back.
Another tiny road led us up to a towering cliff looking over the beaches below, and we found ourselves looking down at a beautiful view of the Reynisdrangar and the ocean. None of those roads are really labeled, so we were really just driving around and taking it on faith that something must be out along these little gravel roads, since they have to exist for a reason.
We also stumbled across a road that went up to an old lighthouse. At Mark’s conference last week, they told him that all of the lighthouses are operated automatically now, so the lighthouses no longer house a keeper. Still, the little house stands on a cliff overlooking an arch, which reminded me of the one where you see the dead pirates hanging in the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I kept expecting to see a sign that said, “Dead men tell no tales.”
Our evening wrapped up with a few more photographs as we climbed back down the cliff. The road was gravel, of course, and I did not like going back down one bit. Mark thought it made for neat pictures though, so he kept pointing out the view and stopping to snap a few shots of the road below. I was not impressed. Pretty heights are the bane of my existence. Sure, it’s lovely to look at, but nothing is worth the sheer terror of looking out towards the spot where your crushed car will land when you fall off of the edge. Ugh. I get sick just thinking about it.
We stopped at the supermarket just before it closed to see if they had anything we wanted for dinner, but we didn’t really see much that we hadn’t seen before (namely those prepack egg and avocado sandwiches that seem to exist everywhere here), so we drove back over to the cafe that had so disappointed me at lunchtime for a veggie burger. All of their lettuce mix has onion, so our veggie burgers were doomed to be nothing more than bean patties with a flat piece of iceberg lettuce when we asked for them without raw onions. We survived. Tomorrow we’ll probably just have the avocado and egg, assuming we make it back to Vík in time for dinner.
We’re going to drive east from here down the coast tomorrow, and we aren’t sure how far out we will make it before we have to turn around. Our goal is pretty far away, so we will see what the day has in store. We don’t have a refrigerator tonight, so we will have to find our breakfast skyr on the go. We might even get the drinkable kind. It sounds like a crazy morning, right?
– Trip Total : 4,410 miles –