Camping for the first time
Camping is not for the light at heart in general. Camping for your first time can be an exciting experience but also has a lot of unknowns. Compound that with camping for your first time in Iceland, and you create an unnerving environment for even the strongest of souls. Well this was our situation when me and a friend, both Canadian guys in our 30s decided to do a trip to Iceland and experience the wonderful world of camping. We initially had aspirations of gathering a bunch of camping equipment from a number of experienced camper friends, bringing all of this equipment in checked luggage to Iceland, renting a car, and then driving around the island to find places to camp from night-to-night.
About three weeks prior to the trip and after scrambling around and trying to figure out details, we felt like we still had more questions than answers. Can we bring propane on a plane (to cook) and if so, how much? What if it gets extremely cold? If it rains a lot, are we looking at a bunch of wet camping equipment to slug around for a number of days? A little unsure of what we signed ourselves up for, thankfully my friend did a bit more Googling and came across the camper van site! We initially thought it was just the convenience of the van, but after we realized it included pots and pans, plates, bowls, spatula, cooking spoons and cutlery (oh yea! We completely forgot about cutlery when we were planning to bring our own stuff– eating noodles with our hands would have been ‘interesting’ to say the least – haha), the convenience factor was too strong to resist. Not to mention the hot plate, propane tanks, table, chairs, bed and most importantly – peace of mind and convenience! We were sold.
We arrived early on a Tuesday morning and had a smooth pickup at the airport and got our camper van shortly afterwards. The roads in Iceland we learned from our trip can be unpredictable depending on where you are going and the time of year. We had a number of unpaved roads to drive, and generally some rough terrain, but one thing that gave us a lot of peace of mind was they offered us vehicle insurance (optional additional cost). For somewhere like Iceland with so much unpredictability on the roads, we drove a lot more comfortably knowing that we wouldn’t be stuck with a huge bill if something unexpected and beyond our control happened.
Our journey started on the western portion of the island as we decided to go and hike Glýmur as our first stop. We drove to Glýmur, started our hike and saw a lot of people walking back and they kept mentioning that they had stopped at ‘the log’. We weren’t quite sure what log they were talking about but heard the water was just a little too unsettling for a number of hikers so they turned back. We eventually got to the log and saw two hikers there who had just crossed back over. They told us it wasn’t too bad and gave us tips to cross over so we decided to give it a shot. We crossed with no problems whatsoever, and aren’t we ever glad that we did decide to cross because the views we got on that hike afterwards were breathtaking. The hike was very tiring and at moments – unbelievably scary (walking within a metre of a cliff that you can barely see how far the bottom is I think has that kind of effect on people). But we did it. We hiked it, I was way too nervous to go back down some of the very steep slopes we just came up, so we decided to take what seemed like an easier path down on the other side of the mountain. The only catch was walking across a FRIGID river about 30 metres wide to get to the other side. I swore I almost lost feeling in my feet!
When we got back down, little did we know that the camper van would play a huge part in a future part of our trip. If we didn’t have the camper van, we were so exhausted when we came back to the van, that we probably would have got in the car, drove to our camping spot, and then camped for the night. But because we had the van and it was super easy to unpack and repack everything afterwards. So we decided to get food started in the parking lot of Glýmur, and to throw around a football while we waited for our food to finish. We ended up in a few different conversations with other campers/hikers in that parking lot and one of those conversations was an American couple telling us about this ‘burning river’. They said you had to hike a bit to get there, but at the end was a river where people sat and geothermal warm water came streaming down. Well, were we ever thankful for having that convo in that parking lot because we ended up going to the Hot/Burning River (at Hveragerði in case you’re wondering) and it was undoubtedly our favorite part of the trip. So good that we went back twice in back-to-back days!
That simple conversation summarizes one of the hidden benefits we didn’t anticipate throughout the entire trip that was huge in having the van. It being so convenient allowed us to set-up anywhere very quickly and easily and that alone was a huge benefit that we enjoyed that allowed us to have conversations with other campers, to stop on the side of the road to take a quick rest and eat, to play cards, or just relax a bit in the back. We met people from all parts of the world who struck up a conversation as they saw us trying to make instant noodles on the hot plate or just hanging out.
Take the test: Iceland Quiz
I can’t finish this post without mentioning the convenience of sleep. On two nights, the wind and rain were overwhelmingly strong! To the point where we felt the van rocking back and forth! Fortunately, we could turn up the heat, get in our sleeping bag and just wait for the bad conditions to pass without freezing. Truly a lifesaver and made our trip far more enjoyable not walking around wet and cold (not fun!).
Overall, our trip in Iceland was great and in hindsight, we had a more enjoyable trip we think because the camper van saved the day, especially as first time campers in an unknown land.
Read more: My Iceland Experience
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