I always knew I’d someday return
My colleagues and I went on a study-trip to Iceland back in September of 2015. We spent our first days In Reykjavik and then a close colleague and I went to explore more in a camper-van from Rent.is. Back home I awed everybody with stories of mountains that looked like enormous beasts and trolls turned to stone, our breakfast at the foot of Vatnajökull and hot springs in mist filled valleys. A few years passed and suddenly the opportunity to once again visit Iceland emerged. This time I was going to see everything, I was going everywhere. My boyfriend and I landed at Keflavik Airport in early July of 2017. After enjoying 24 hours in Reykjavik we picked up our camper, once again from Rent.is and took off.
The hours flew by as we crossed over the plains heading east. I started to recognize the strong sensation of freedom. Here we were, two souls struck with wanderlust on the road to wherever, with nothing ahead of us but an endless road of natural wonders. We spotted the famed Geysir area from afar and stopped for coffee. The rawness of this landscape bewilders me still. Here, you can really feel the landscape come alive as the geyser erupts. The Icelandic summer sun was shining bright in the afternoon sky as we continued our journey. The rainbow stretched far into the air before we even got close to the waterfall Gullfoss. I remember the roar. If Iceland was a sound, it would have been a merciless roar, terrifying and ancient like legends straight out of Valhalla itself. Iceland is a roaring shard of an ancient world, that can be touched – and we wanted to touch.
Many sights can be entered, almost like attractions at an amusement park, but at Seljalandfoss we decided to go further. We ventured beyond the picture-perfect facade of this enormous waterfall to find ourselves alone above it, on a meadow resting on a far up plateau. With the setting sun turning the hills golden, we walked along the ridge above the ever-stretching landscape beneath us. Soon, we found the silent stream above the sight of Seljalandfoss. The sound was almost as a whisper when compared to the roar it made hundreds of feet below us. Standing there gazing out as the sun set behind far away mountains, I knew this was turning out everything as much of an adventure as I hoped it would be. That night, we slept in a field of Lupins. The full moon rose in the far east as we fell asleep to the sound of midnight birds in the distance.
Unknowingly we spent that night in Skógar. Early still we took to the empty road to find the mighty Skógafoss waterfall just around the river bend. Having paid a visit here before I already knew of its jaw dropping beauty. Birds flocked the soaking hillside as we entered the open mountain gash in which this monster was lurking. It felt like we were standing in the mouth of the world, and to us through the deafening roar, it was speaking.
How does one define the perfect adventure? An adventure is being thrown in a different direction, it is surrendering to curiosity at whatever cost, and our rewards were great. We spent that day visiting some of Iceland’s most famous places. We walked around for hours on Reynisfjara beach, mesmerized by the rocky formations and the volcanic sand. At the Ice Lagoon we heard a thousand ton iceberg tumble over in the distance. The shock wave traveled through water and rock, and sent a flood of floating ice towards the sea. Icebergs crashed into each other and fell apart. Scattered on the black beach nearby lay their remains glimmering like ancient diamonds.
Even though it was late when we left the Ice Lagoon, we decided to push forward in search of a secluded place to stop over the night. We drove on a high road looking over the far stretching sea to the east. If we were to set sail and head outwards, we’d pass north of the Faeroe Islands and after countless days in the stormy Norwegian Sea we’d hit the shores of desolate Norway. Approaching a headland overlooking a deserted beach, the sky cleared up and turned midnight blue. The waves washed over the beach below and crashed into a lone rock monolith rising from the sand. We stopped and stepped out of the car and climbed out on a rocky ridge. The world was sleeping, and we got to wander into it all alone for a while. The stars were out as we fell asleep by this beach at the end of the world.
The camper had now become our home and me being the only driver, I was now confident it could take the more unconventional road. As we passed over the mountains, the hills were steep. Unnamed waterfalls passed by on each side of the road. We stopped for a drink on a spot next to a crystal-clear stream overlooking the sunny valley from where we came. A few minutes more on this road would take us into the clouds, surrounding the snowy mountain summit. The icy landscape looked like a frozen mirror, reflecting the cloudy sky and after a while we closed up on our next stop, Dettifoss. We were heading into a rough, unpolished and unapologetic part of Iceland. The rocky roads took us far into the wild. Dettifoss is a true giant, the largest waterfall one on this island to amount of water and sheer size. This sight is a result of nature changing over myriads of years, the result of the breaking of the crust of the earth and the eroding power of water exploding into each other; a manifest of collision, a glimpse into the behavioral consequences of nature at it’s purest and most unforgiving.
In awe, we rushed onward. The hours passed by and another golden evening came. The sun was shining through a small rim of clouds surrounding the mountains by Akureyri. To a classical symphony for strings we drove swiftly into the light. Through the valleys and beyond, we truly were flying. It all flashed before our eyes and then it was gone, the peaks, the rivers, the clouds, the farm houses on the mountainside. A sight so beautiful it can only live on in my memory. We shot out of the valley like a bullet out of a smoking gun and onto a far stretching plain. We were chasing the sun to the east. Our cabin shook as though we were on a mission to another world, and then the light disappeared revealing a deep and star-filled night sky turning everything in to a different shade of blue. We drove late that night and when we finally stepped out of the car, we sat foot on a deserted beach. We had reached Hvítserkur, a rock rising from the sea bed shaped by time and the sea into a lone wandering creature. A thin rim of orange and yellow lit up the horizon behind it as if to say you made it, but now it’s time for bed! We went back to our car and took off. Soon we found a silent pocket next to the road, and finally we were going to adhere to the wishes of the sun, it was duly time for some much needed rest.
The next morning, we woke up in a daze, had coffee in the city of Hvammstangi, and went looking for seal along the shoreline. Soon we approached Reykjavik again. We drove into the tunnel stretching underneath the sound and came up on the other side. We made it. We completed the full circle. I just had one last wish. I made a left turn on to road 1, and once again left Reykjavik fading in the distance behind us. We were going to the springs of Reykjadalur.
The valley beneath the springs was filled with people wanting to see this natural wonder. Here among the mountains of southern Iceland, fate made us stumble upon friends. We decided to go out for dinner as soon as we got back to Reykjavik the following day. They left, and so did everyone else. The clock hit 23, 00, 01, 02, 03 – our time had now come. In the darkness, we ventured into the mountains. After a short hike, behind pillars of hot steam, we found the valley above Reykjadalur completely empty. With nobody watching but the mountains, the sky and the silent hot stream, we sank into the water and fell into a dreamlike slumber. The sky above was ever changing and grey. Rain started to fall. I gazed up into the sky and contemplated on my life such as it had been. I was turning 30 soon and I remember I made peace. All was calm. I let the stream take my thoughts away and I fell asleep again, my mind rising and disappearing with the passing mist filled wind.
A perfect end to our journey in the Camper. We drove back to Reykjavik and said goodbye to our trusted van and later that day we had dinner with our friends we met in the Valley. They were only starting their journey – ours had now come to an end. We had a couple of beers, hugged our goodbyes and took the bus to the airport. – What a surreal trip!, I thought with my memories still bathing in smoke and fog and midnight light. Sometimes I still feel like I haven’t woken up from that silent hot stream.
Iceland is a haunting of beauty for those who have been to this lonely island in the North Atlantic – a dream carved in celestial light. For all who are yet to go, Iceland is the promise of an adventure waiting to be lived.
Read more: Claire & Mathilde’s Iceland trip
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