I think I had been resisting a photography trip to Iceland. It certainly was the “hot” place to go. Photographers in a steady stream went and came back with spectacular images. Instead, I went off and did the Everest Base Camp Trek in February and visited Banff in June. I was certainly more than than happy with the shots I came back with. A non-photographer friend of mine did the layover in Reykjavik recently and reminded me how impressed he thought I would be with the country.
So I got a call from a client needing my services in London and requesting that I set up my own air and travel arrangements with about a week’s notice. At that point the Iceland stopover option came up again. I did some research and looked into renting a camper to go exploring for 5 days. I gave myself 5 days, considering this a preliminary visit of sorts. People pointed out to me that I needed weeks or a month even. I went with 5 days and it felt right. And at the end of those 5 days I knew I would be back soon.
Arrived in Keflavik and gocampers.is, the rental company I had chosen, picked me up at the airport and took me to their office in Reykjavik. They had a range of vehicles available, and I went with one of the most basic. A panel van, 2wd, manual trans and a mattress in the back. My new home for a few days also included cooking utensils, pots/pans, etc for camping. They also had a nice collection of camping chairs, larger stoves, sleeping bags etc for rent. I had brought my own bag, a 10 degree down bag I use regularly. I signed all the paperwork and off I went. I had brought quite the pile of snacks from home but was pleased to find a market around the corner for some fresh fruit and juice. An hour later I discovered my van had heated seats!
Driving out of town was easy, just find Highway 1 and head east. Drivers were polite and courteous, something I found throughout the trip. I decided my goal was to get to Jokulsarlon, the Ice Lagoon and then sleep.
The scenery down Highway 1 was a revelation. I was struck by the broad expanse of it all. The peaks, the coastline, the highway off into infinity. The sheep! Everywhere! Along the side of the road, far off on the hillside. They were a constant companion on my horizon.
I continued driving, and eventually stopped at two well-known falls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. You can see both coming up from the highway so they are hard to miss. I felt these were very well photographed by others so I didn’t stay long. In between them on the highway is the parking lot for the crashed DC3 airplane site. No signage, just a full parking lot and lots of people heading off to the beach. I decided to catch that on the way back.
Continuing towards my goal, there was this long stretch of road, lined with lupine and volcanic remnants. The vastness of it struck me. The wind struck me too as I opened to the van door to take a look having pulled off at one point. I recalled the warning at the rental office about the wind being able to take your doors off. They weren’t kidding. On the road you see a lot of cyclists riding around the country. Its on these windy days, and the car wash rainy ones that would come, that you really get a sense of their dedication.
I reached Jokularlon later that evening. Sunset wouldn’t happen until 1130pm and even after that it never got dark. Sunrise was at 330am. There are two main parking lots at the lagoon. The northern one has bathrooms but no camping is allowed. Across the road and next to the beach is where you can sleep. I parked my camper and pulled out my bag and crashed hard. The beauty created by chunks of glacier falling into the lagoon and washing out to sea and onto the beach would wait until morning.