Ring Road: Day 1

Knowing that I would be seeing way too much stuff to catalogue and remember in the five days that I have spent driving alone around the entirety of Iceland, I kept a journal for posting later. It’s by no means all-inclusive, so I’m putting anything added afterward in brackets. It was a long time to be alone on the road, so forgive me if some of it gets a little loopy. Enjoy my craziness!



Day -1 (the night before): Tomorrow morning I am setting off on a five day road trip around Iceland, completely by myself. I am ridiculously excited, the introvert part of me for the solitude and the wanderlust part of me for the change in territory. I’ve driven alone for distances technically longer than this (if you drove the Ring Road without stopping, it would only take about 18 hours – a length I’ve driven from Dallas to Orlando several times), but I’ve never spent a full five days alone in a car. The fact that I’m in a foreign country and have no form of communication unless I find wifi at a café or gas station makes it a little scarier. Yet I have few expectations or requirements of myself or my trip. As long as I am at the Keflavik Airport in time for my flight to Scotland, I don’t really care much what happens between now and then. Of course, I’m hoping for fabulous adventures…



Day 1:

6:30 – Alarm goes off. Ugh. I dislike my body being forced out of sleep before it’s ready. How did I wake up at 4:30 everyday for eight months?? Not even waterfalls sound exciting right now.

7:12 – Step one complete! I’m on the 7:15 bus to Selfoss and feeling much more awake. It’s supposed to rain all day (thanks, Iceland), but so far there’s just a foggy mist. It’s very quiet outside, even with birds screeching incessantly and the bus idling. Off we go!

9:31 – On the second bus from Selfoss to Reykjavik now after an hour stop. I was hoping to get groceries at Bonus [Iceland’s cheapest food store], but apparently, they don’t open until 11:00. No 24-hour Walmarts here! Got some Skyr and juice for breakfast at the gas station instead. I’m sleepy again. Bus rides make me sleepy.

13:54 – [Iceland runs on military time – good thing Disney made me very used to that!] I took the road less traveled (big surprise), and here I am: in a wide fissure between two cliff faces, nothing in front, nothing behind, except broken chunks of rock, short trees and shrubs, and buzzing flies. No one else is down here. The view is spectacular. I feel as though I’ve stepped into a mystical world and a group of short, bearded men bearing axes and shields will suddenly march by.

I’m in Thingvellir National Park. It’s famous as the place where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet, allowing you to cross continents on foot – technically. I haven’t gotten that far yet. My attention was stolen by a small side path, and I haven’t looked back. Now I face the question of whether I should continue on, considering that even from my perch high on a boulder I can see no end.

It’s a glorious day though, so I don’t mind sitting a spell to think about it while I munch on dried apples I picked up from the Bonus in Reykjavik. The forecast of rain all day has been shunned, and in it’s place there is bright sun, puffy clouds, and gentle breezes. I must admit, I’m shocked.

Time presses though and there is the promise of a waterfall, so…

15:27 – This morning I was wearing a sweater and my heaviest coat, and I was still cold. Now I’m wearing capris and a tank top, and I’m still sweating. Iceland, ya’ll. They don’t call it the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing.

I’ve now made the tour of Thingvellir, and I’m staked out in front of the promised waterfall: Oxarafoss [there should be some accents in there]. It’s quite lovely, with lots of bright green moss and crumbling rock and eager tourists. Getting a picture without the tropical birds wasn’t easy – it’s all about the angle.

Flosagja (the crack between the continents) turned out to be, in spite of all the hype, pretty awesome. The water is bright teal and turquoise, and you can see straight through to the bottom… or to the murky black where it’s extremely deep. And all over the rocky floor is treasure! It looks like a mermaid’s paradise, glittering in the sun.

I’ve got a long uphill trek back to the car now, but the promise of food when I get there shall keep me going!


18:06 – I just found heaven.

18:48 – And now I have left heaven. It wasn’t easy to do – I had to promise myself dessert to get me to come down from the mountain and that magnificent view (of which no picture will ever do justice). Ice cream gave way to an apple tart and coffee, and now I am putting my feet up for a moment.

The wonderful weather doesn’t help. The benefit of cold is that even when you find the most amazing view of all time, you will be driven on in a few minutes by a need to move. It’s gotten chilly again, but it was still nice enough that I could have sat there for hours. If you go to see Geysir (or let’s face it – Stokkur; no one actually cares about a geyser that doesn’t go off anymore), then you must climb the mountain behind it and look down the other side. You won’t regret it.

On the note of Geysir (which, although the name of one particular geyser, is generally used to refer to the whole geyser field) – this may be the weirdest and coolest thing I’ve ever seen in nature. I mean, the concept of water reaching boiling point of its own accord and then spurting out of the earth in a giant cloud of steam is crazy enough. But there’s a whole field of them – some steaming, some just constantly boiling, some clear, some teal, one was perfect baby blue. How do you get those colors in water? And the rocks around them – rust red, cream, yellow. The lupines (whose blooms are already receding for the year) stood out sharply against the red rock. And then every four minutes or so, POW! Strokkur blows its top. The most fascinating part of the eruption for me was the slight moment before, when the water would form one giant bubble, expanding at the surface in brilliant teal before bursting upward.

This place is cool. It’s a hot tourist spot, I know. You won’t get pictures that aren’t full of people [and it’s closed at night, so no use trying that]. But it doesn’t really matter cause it’s freaking awesome!

19:37 – I’m standing at the top of the world.

20:18 – I am wet. And I am stuck. Stuck at Gulfoss. The conundrum is this: it’s pouring outside, I don’t feel like getting soaked to the bone, and I refuse to leave without actually seeing the biggest waterfall in Iceland. (That may be an incorrect fact… oh, fact-checker! I need to hire a fact-checker.)

Okay, technically, I’ve seen it [Gulfoss]. But not from close up and not from the landing and not from every angle, and it’s beautiful, and I want to see more! We shall see who wins this round… Weather vs. Charlie!

I’m pretty content to chill in the car for a while thankfully, so who knows – a lot of Icelandic rainstorms are short-lived. As is the sunshine, as we have seen today. I’m grateful for most of a day of sun though – I even got a tan!

So by the time I walked out of the Geysir Café, the ominous clouds had rolled in, but that didn’t stop me from making a pit stop on the way to Gulfoss upon noticing a deep canyon out my right window. I pulled into a tiny viewing lot, left the keys in the car, and jogged down to the edge with just my phone to take a look.

Turns out, it was the canyon containing the river that glows away from Gulfoss, and it was stunning. I kept hiking further along the edge, taking pictures every five feet because it always had more beauty, trying to see the waterfall in the distance. And then suddenly, I’m at the waterfall, and the rain is coming thicker, and my car is still unlocked somewhere back on the road.

Okay, first of all, if you get the chance, then totally take this hike. You can’t (or shouldn’t) go from Gulfoss away because everything is roped off, but when you start away and go towards the waterfall, there are trails all along the edge.

It’s stunning. I climbed to the tallest rock on the edge, and you feel like you are flying because the ground is so far below. I think what struck me the most was the color of the water. It was so blue – like sky blue and slate mixed together – and it really stands out along the creamy, gray canyon walls. Absolutely lovely.

Anyway, I trekked my way back to the car, getting quite wet all the way (thank heavens I wore my rain coat), and then drove down to the actual parking lot for Gulfoss. Now I wait.

I wouldn’t really even mind getting wet, but in rain like this, I don’t think I’ll be able to see, making it seem pointless to make the effort.

But what’s this?? Just in the time it took me to write this, the rain has already faded drastically! Mwahaha! You shall not win, weather.

00:32 – You know what will mess with your body and inner clock? When it’s darker at 8:00 than it is at 11:00.

I am quite tired, but not as much as I would expect after my day. All this hiking is going to get to me fast.

I ended up striking a compromise with the weather. It kept raining, and I got wet. Worth it though: Gulfoss is definitely spectacular. I would love to see it on a sunny day… reasons to return to Iceland someday!

On a more upsetting note, I opened my laptop to find that the track pad has sunk down and will not click on anything… frustrating for many reasons, namely because I just paid $500 to fix my laptop, and they evidently caused new problems. Now my whole plan has changed, as I have to return to Reykjavik tomorrow morning to see if I can get it fixed. Now I’ll be taking the road clockwise instead of counter. Ah well, as long as my laptop gets fixed and returned to me before I fly out, I’ll be satisfied.

The clouds were pink and fluffy like cotton candy as I finally cleared the rain and made it back to my host home. I’ll be spending one last night here, then packing up my stuff in the morning and heading out for good! Fingers crossed for better luck – at least when it comes to technology.

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