Iceland

Aside from a trip to Montreal, by the time 2011 rolled around I hadn’t traveled outside the US since living in Australia in 2007. It was time. Iceland had been on my radar for quite some time. A friend had traveled there in high school and little teenage Devin thought it sounded so cool. I wasn’t wrong.

From Boston, Iceland is both cheaper and quicker to get to than California. My (ex)boyfriend and I paid $350 each for our round trip tickets and hopped on the short five hour flight. We had a lot of luggage because we brought a tent and sleeping bags, having planned one night at the base of a glacier. Our hostel, Kex, was amazing, but was also my first experience in hostels since the South Pacific and it was a completely different world. This hostel wasn’t cheap. It had a barber shop, a library and a bar on the first floor. I’m pretty sure it was nicer and more expensive than name-brand hotel down the road. We lucked out though. We took a chance and booked a stay there even though it was technically still being renovated (the building was an old biscuit factory, hence the name, or I assume so, given that this exists). We rented a car and left the city after a good night’s sleep. Iceland has one road, the Ring Road, that goes around the whole island and is only a little more than 800 miles long. We took our time traveling around the island and landed back in Reykjavik for a few nights in the city. Because of the reno, the hostel was a little cheaper than normal and when we returned at the end of our trip, we got upgraded to a suite for free.

We started with the popular things closest to the city, the geyser and Gullfoss waterfall. Driving around we quickly realized Iceland is the land of rainbows and waterfalls. They’re everywhere. Anyway, we were coming up on our camping night. We had planned to sleep at a campground near the base of the Skaftafell Glacier. It was early summer and the sun was out 23 hours of the day, it should have been fine. Unfortunately for us, a volcano had erupted a few weeks earlier and the weather was colder than it normally would have been. No, it wasn’t the eruption everyone always talks about (that one was in 2010), but it was a big one and it happened at Skaftafell. It was so cold that we ended up ditching the tent halfway through the night and sleeping in the car. I didn’t sleep well and the hike up the glacier the next day was pretty painful. We made it though and proceeded to Jökulsárlón, the iceberg lagoon. We went out on a boat and drank beer made from the icebergs. It was pretty cool.

Taken before our whale watching adventure in Hüsavík. 2011.

The rest of our road trip was filled with more rainbows and waterfalls, plus an accidental drive up and over a mountain because we read a sign wrong. Driving in Iceland is quite the adventure. We were there during tourist season and we were pretty much the only car on the road at all times. Bridges are one lane, so you have to look far down the road to make sure another car isn’t about to try and drive across the bridge at the same time as you. Because the sun never set completely, we had a weird concept of time. We drove all night once just because we never really got tired. We decided not to find a place to say and just slept in the car for a few hours and started driving again. In the middle of that weird night we found a staircase that went up a giant hill that seemed to just end. We went up and found ourselves standing on the edge of a giant crater. We visited the second and third biggest towns. We went whale watching. We ate whale. And puffin. And shark. The shark, that gross fermented shark you always hear about, it really is gross. We had quite a bit to drink beforehand and that helps. It also helped that the place that served it to us gave us a shot of Brennivín, aka Black Death, after.

Iceland did not disappoint my expectations. We unknowingly stumbled upon the most powerful waterfall in Europe (Detifoss) because there was a sign for it off a random dirt road. It should be noted that getting to Detifoss is hard, sometimes impossible, without the right car. Luckily for us, we got a beast of a car even though it wasn’t winter. Maybe there’s a real road to Detifoss now, but when we went, it was basically driving over the surface of the moon. In general, Iceland is a place where you can feel like you’re the only person in the country if you just drive out of the city a little. I’d like to return soon. Reykjavík has a reputation as having the best New Years party around and I’d like to find out for myself.

I had told my (ex)boyfriend when we left that I had bad luck on planes and he should expect something weird to happen. My luck did not let us down. On our last day we treated ourselves with a trip to the Blue Lagoon before we went to the airport. When we rolled up to check in our luggage, the lady looked at us and said, “Oh, didn’t you hear? The airline is on strike.” Excuse me? She quickly followed up with, “But we don’t expect it to last long. Maybe a few hours.” So there we sat, I really have no idea for how long. But the lady was not wrong, eventually the matter at hand came to a conclusion and we boarded a plane back to the US.

An abandoned house on the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula. 2011.
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