Day two Iceland.
I like to take my time waking up. I call it my morning meditation, others call it lazy. I wiggled my way out of the tight, mummy shaped sleeping bag I was snuggled inside of and stretched my way out of the tiny tent. I was ready to explore more of Iceland’s dramatic landscapes.
We took off fairly early in the morning after making some breakfast sandwiches consisting of ham, dijonaise and havarti. One thing to be aware of is how pricey everything in Iceland is. Everything is imported; I guess I never even realized that until I was here. Expenses to consider: car, gas, sleeping and eating arrangements. I tried my very best to make the living and eating situation as cheap as possible. Resourceful doesn’t even begin to describe my trip to South America so this was a great opportunity to use my skills for this trip. If it was left up to Jeff, for sure he would have been in a five-star hotels every night, eating rich, exotic foods in fancy restaurants. We would have been left broke after this trip.
We did a little bit of groceries almost everyday. Keeping it simple to make sure nothing would spill or go bad in the Jeep. The roads have personalities; they can be really rough so I avoided buying anything that couldn’t be sealed. After one of our trips to the grocery store I looked at the bill and realized the sliced cheese was about 20.00$ CAN. We laughed and agreed to part ways with it. In hindsight, it would have been helpful to have a few containers; a laundry basket to separate food from dishes and other items. This was a new experience for the both of us and we made due with what we had -plastic bags. We had a bag for garbage, dirty dishes, clean dishes and separated the food so it was easier to keep things organized.
Weeks prior to this big adventure, Jeff and I would get together and talk about the things we wanted to see and do in Iceland. There is so much and we wanted to make sure we really made the most of our time. Jeff and I were mostly compatible in our desire to jam pack as much adventure and fun as possible into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were both on board with seeing a beautiful spot, taking in the absolutely breathtaking moment and moving on to the next spot.
I heard from a few friends, as well from reading online forums that Ring Road took about 10 days to complete. This involved driving on average two hours per day. For day three in Iceland, we managed to drive from Ólafsvík to Látrabjarg. What started as a horrifying adventure, slowly transformed itself into a peaceful, pleasurable and unforgettable experience. I honestly can’t think of a time I’ve been stressed out for that length of time in my entire life.
Caution signs in Iceland are few and far between or at least they have a uniquely different idea of danger. The Jeep itself took a while to get used to, it bounces, it's big, if you try and control it too much you get this sensation that you're going to lose ALL control. We split the driving for the most part in half. I've got plenty of video footage of the drives but none of them do justice to the extreme circumstances. I don't even know how many times we would be driving on a dirt road where the speed limit was surprisingly 80 km/hr, where out of nowhere comes a sharp, virtually 90 degree turn WITH NO WARNING. I could feel the knots in my back growing and I knew I was going to have control issues from this day forward.
I was absolutely terrified of driving the slender, winding roads through the mountains in Westjfords. What terrified me even more than driving myself? Giving what little illusion of control I had over to my travel partner. With a need for speed and carefree attitude, he was overly confident driving, especially on dirt roads. Growing up in the country will do that to you. He likes to slide around and “play” on the roads. I imagine a real life version of Mario Kart enters his mind as he grips the steering wheel, heavy feet on the pedals.
Hugging the Cliffside, I couldn't bring myself to turn the steering wheel to the right, trembling closer to edge of the eroded pavement. I was basically in the on-coming traffic lane, which wasn’t hard to get to if you took into consideration that the roads were about three-quarters the size of a normal strip leaving little to no room for passing other cars.
We found a beautiful spot by a waterfall on the mountainside where we pulled over and enjoyed a couple of delicious ham sandwiches. Break time was up and I finally handed the driving power over to Jeff as my body reached its peak for managing the stress I felt. My back, arms and my mind were tense and exhausted from our 6-hour drive. I explained to him how important it was to stay focused to avoid pulling any Mission Impossible stunts, which would likely be called Mission-Not-Possible stunts for us.
With the intention of satisfying my appetite for gorgeous landscapes, I came to Iceland and quickly discovered it would do more than satisfy my hunger. It would take my perceptions on beauty and blow them out of the water, as the natural, desolate, and untouched beauty surrounded every inch of my being.
When we arrived in Látrabjarg, I had one of those jaw dropping, take your breath away kind of moments; it was the first of many to come. The most western point in Iceland unfortunately said goodbye to their puffins only one short week before we arrived. We had been told this at the beginning of our trip and yet somehow still managed to drive 8 hours to track them down. I wasn’t keen to waste time, heading to spots with the specific purpose of bird watching. I wanted all the action. After seeing where this unplanned destination brought us, I took comfort in knowing that anywhere we would venture from this moment on, would reveal a site I’d forever treasure in my memories.
From Reykjavik, we headed North on HWY 1, (Ring Road) until hitting HWY 60 on your left. This took us through the mountains for quite some time. Keep your eyes on the road and watch for dirt roads, cliff edges and aggressive passes. HWY 60 turns into 62, which you will lead you to take a left on HWY 612. Look for the name Örlygshafnarvegur as you near Látrabjarg.
There was a campsite at the bottom of the cliff, right in front of the ocean. It had the basic necessities – a toilet and toilet paper. We set up our tent right away, incase poor weather washed us out. Finally, on foot, we headed for the cliffs.
The best thing about Iceland? No matter where you go, there are never enough people to intrude on your intimate moments. You get to keep those to yourself. I’d suggest heading to these bird site locations in the off seasons as the chances are even better that you get to enjoy the curvy, bold, endless silhouette of the mountains in the horizon as you watch the sunsets and sunrises in peace, in quiet and in your own fantastical world.
I walked the luscious green fields as the burning, red sun rocked its way off the edges of the earth. It created a hazy purple glow to the fields. At least that is certainly what it looked like from where I stood. The feeling of connectedness to the earth was strong in these moments. I felt free, lifted and alive.
In all of my traveling experiences it has been incredibly difficult to absorb such isolated beauty without being distracted by other tourists clicking their cameras, chattering away or simply filling the air with noise. I would recommend renting a car in Iceland to discover these remote locations, which will undoubtedly take your breath away, leaving you to reflect on your life, your experiences and what bright future is ahead of you.