Iceland

  • Reykjavik, South Coast, Hofn, Blue Lagoon
  • 27,699 miles flown + 2,023 miles driven
  • 64°13’N 21°82’W
  • Temp: 42 deg
  • 9 books read, 11 massages + 2 hot stone + 3 geothermal baths in the books
  • Day 53-57

Ok people, I have officially left planet earth. The only way to describe Iceland is otherworldly. If you think it looks like the moon, you wouldn’t be far off — NASA practiced the first moon landing here. For real. I’ve seen some incredible, indescribable places these past two months, but nothing, NOTHING, like Iceland. When before I’ve been at a loss of words to share my experiences as my fingers hit the keyboard, here there are too many words to describe Iceland.

Here’s what a typical 5 minutes looks like in Iceland: It’s raining! It’s sunny! It’s hailing! It’s snowing! It’s raining again. The weather rolls in with such force and speed, it’s completely unpredictable. I’d be surprised if anyone in Iceland has made their career as a weatherman. And as you look out the car window: look at the emerald mossy green! Snow! Ooooh, black sand! More snow! Ahhhhh, lava rocks! Oh my, glowing blue glaciers! The landscape changes as rapidly as the weather, so driving ten hours along the single south coast road never gets boring, unless you’re the type of person who gets bored going to the moon.

My cousin Kelly joined me for this leg of the trip (yay!) and arrived the day after me, so before we took off on our 2-day trek along the south coast, we decided to squeeze in half a day of adventure riding Icelandic horses. First, they stuffed us into what can only be described as puffalump suits — full-body, insulated, waterproof jumpsuits that make you walk like an Oompa Loompa, but promised to keep us dry and warm, because ya know, rain, snow, sun, hail, rain. If you go to Iceland, you MUST do this, even if you’ve never ridden a horse before. These short-legged, gentle creatures were the sweetest companions to lead the way through the snowy back-country of Iceland. We climbed hills, trotted through a few rivers (surreal) and tried to take photos of the stunning snow-covered mountainscape without falling off our four-legged friends. No one needed to smile for photos, the entire group (including horses) had permanent grins on their faces for two hours — it was the most thrilling and breathtaking start to our time away from planet earth.

The next morning, 13 of our new best friends piled in a small sprinter van to drive the entire south coast over the next two days. As we set out, the clouds started to roll in and get progressively darker. A massive storm was brewing and Maria, our badass guide/driver/seeker of adventure, was determined to outrun as much of it as possible, but we didn’t make it too far before rain, hail, wind put a damper on our outdoor agenda. We paid a quick visit to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in 2010 halting most northern air traffic and covered this entire area in volcanic ash.

We walked at a 45 degree angle against the wind trying to snap a few shots before jumping back in the van and getting used to this view for the rest of the day:

The only way to get over the rainy day blues was to get a famous (if the wrapper says so, it must be true) Icelandic hot dog at our next gas station stop.

And that’s a wrap for day 1 of our road trip. No, not really, but what more is there to do after chowing on a famous gas station hot dog? From hot dogs to diamonds, we elevated the tour a bit at Diamond Beach, a beach covered in broken glacial ice that shines like a girl’s best friend against the stunning black sand. What a surreal beach to stroll — the photos look like they were taken in black in white, but they’re in full color. We didn’t see any proposals out there, but we did see a bride capturing a few shots in her dress, totally unbothered by the torrential downpour.

Because we had to skip most of our agenda for the day, we arrived on the east coast in Hofn hours earlier than planned. What to do with extra time on our hands? Go in search of hot thermal baths for a quick swim, naturally. There were only four of us up for the adventure with Maria, but we found them down a dark, unlit gravel road. The wind was howling, the air was frigid, but we sprinted from the van to the small changing room to the tiny pools thrilled to be out in the middle of no where. I’d like to tell you we sat there for hours warm and snug and melting the chill of the rainy day away, but there had been so much rain that the small tub of “hot” natural water had cooled to a lukewarm bath. Our adventure didn’t last long, but it was one for the books, regardless. Let’s go back on a clear night and watch the northern lights in the middle of nowhere, soaking in nature’s hot tub, shall we?

The only way to cap off that day was with a plate of fresh Icelandic lobster caught off the coast of Hofn, followed by some fermented shark and shots of Brennivin for a little group bonding. I was terrified of the shark — I’ve seen the YouTube videos of cans being opened and its unsuspecting victims’ violent stomach response (you should google it.) But…I liked it. Truly, I did. It was a bit like a cross between Swordfish and canned tuna. And the Brennivin was like an herbal vodka. I’d do it again and you wouldn’t have to twist my arm.

So the bad news: there has been so much rain over the past week, that the Breidmrkurjokull Ice Caves we were meant to explore the next day were completely flooded. That rushing river is coming OUT of the cave we were supposed to go caving in. Time for plan B.

The good news: the rain stopped and we still got to pile in a monster truck, drive across the most moon-like surface we had seen yet, through rushing rivers and onto the largest glacier in all of Europe to do a little glacier walk and climb down into a moulin, a vertical well in a glacier formed when water enters from the surface. Icelandic glacial ice is like a perfect, clear cocktail ice cube. While most glacial ice has 20% air in it, Icelandic glaciers have been compacted so much there is only 5%, making it seem like you’re walking on clear glass. This was not a bad plan B.

And because you can never get enough glacier, we went to the Joklsarlon lagoon where the glacial melt is collecting and showing off its baby blue majestic self. Pictures do not do this this justice, but as always, I tried.

And when you have 10% of your country covered in glaciers and introduce global warming, you get massive rushing rivers and lots of waterfalls that are worth a stop too. I guess as a homeowner you hope insurance covers a waterfall gone wild — look at how strong the wind must be to blow the water sideways. Eeep. We got slightly soaked all in the name of a good photo. Also, hello new landscape.

We also couldn’t get enough of the Icelandic horses, so stopped to give them a nuzzle. They look pretty happy to see us too, except for that teenager who wouldn’t get her bangs out of her face.

From dry, grassy fields to moss-covered troll land in a blink of an eye.

And moments later, more black sand beach. More moon. More majestic photo ops. And killer “sneaky waves.” This place is totally wild, eh. I don’t think I’ll be learning to surf here.

After two long 10-hour days driving across Iceland (and two months around the world,) the only way to relax and celebrate the end of an epic journey, is by paying a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Any local will tell you this place is for tourists, but I don’t care, it was MAGICAL. We spent three hours floating around in the 100 degree, salty geothermal baths, slathering our faces in silica and algae masks. It was raining, hailing and gusting, which kept a lot of people away, and even left one of the lagoons totally deserted to ourselves. We couldn’t stop giggling when big gusts of winds came, creating ocean-like waves and blowing the steam like a graveyard movie set. I unintentionally drank my fair share of blue lagoon water. This was just what the travel doctor ordered. I was completely pruned and relaxed. How do I bring one of these home with me in my suitcase?

It’s hard to believe this is the end of the road. I’ve run out of runway and it’s time to return to planet earth. I’m not sure how I’ll digest all this and reenter reality without a shock to the system, but I’m sure I’ll have some thoughts about it after a good night’s rest in MY bed, with pajamas I haven’t worn for two months straight. I know one thing for sure, this was THE place to end the most unbelievable spin around the globe.

Xo, xt

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