On the 7th of November, an exciting group from all over Europe arrived in Iceland. We knew each other through an exchange program in Bergen, Norway, where we were all flat mates. To be honest, we were not prepared at all for this trip. We’d booked the flights because they were cheap and we all fancied seeing Iceland. Not because we knew anything about Iceland, but we had seen a few nice photos. Did we have any other plans? Not at all. We’d not even decided whether we wanted to do the entire Ring road or stay only in the West. It was a recipe for getting stuck in the middle of nowhere or freezing to death. But not with our system! That is what we called our amazing camper van. It was love at first sight, especially since we saw how much better it was compared to the other camper in our group. Our favorite thing was the pop-up tent, which gave us the option to sleep comfortably with four people. It doesn’t look too bad either! It is pretty cozy in there, with the best of both worlds; you feel like your camping but you have the warmth and security of the van below. We affectionately called this comfort, ‘the system’. Not a very imaginative name given that it is in fact a heating system but we liked it and it stuck. You can start the system from a distance using the car key, and you can even set a timer for the night! The system gave us a feeling of comfort and security, whenever the weather and landscape were quite the contrary. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without it and we wouldn’t have been the same without it as we would have frozen! No matter where we went, the system was there for us.
The first thing we did, was to go to the Blue Lagoon, which also happened to be the only place we’d heard off. Who would have guessed that the most touristy thing in Iceland would require a booking in advance? Not us. Luckily, our van was so good we didn’t mind. We just stopped along the road, unpacked our chairs and prepared our dinner on the gas cooker and enjoyed our first Icelandic sunset.
We headed back to the blue lagoon that evening and saw our first Northern Lights. What we thought were amazing would actually turn out to be the warm up for the main event. When we walked back from the Blue Lagoon it was absolutely freezing so we started the system for the first time with the key. Thankfully we had sleeping bags designed to withstand -10ºC, so we could fall asleep cuddled up in our cozy camper van. That night, we set the timer for the system for 2 hours, but for the following nights we kept the system on all night as it was just too cold. As much as I enjoy waking up to the elements, finding ice in your tent isn’t ideal. The following day, since we all loved driving, we decided to do the whole ring road. Some of us would later regret this decision. We only had 6 days left, so we knew we were going to be spending a lot of time in the car but we were fine with that. We did the Golden Circle in the south, seeing impressive Hot Springs, wonderful Waterfalls, phenomenal landscapes and a lot of sheep. The two Catalonian members of the group had to ask for direction to the hot springs, despite their steam being visible miles away. That was probably the first and last time the staff in the visitor center were asked that question. Then we saw some of the famous Icelandic horses as well, which according to our resident biologist we weren’t allowed to feed with carrots. The roads were sometimes icy, but nothing compared to what was waiting for us in the North.
Our camper van was equipped with studs, so there was no problem driving in these conditions at first. In the south east of Iceland, we did a Ice Caving tour, which we thought would be ‘a once in a lifetime experience’, therefore we spent a lot of money on it. It was a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ but not the kind that we expected. We learned the importance of reading descriptions. We left thoroughly unimpressed at the singular ice cave, which we thought would be a marvelous interconnected network of caves. Our wallets were still feeling the pain of the 200 euros we had spent on this ‘adventure’. Our anger was short-lived, as not long after we hit the road again, we stumbled upon another stunning part of Iceland, and a new landscape for all of us, icebergs. There as a beautiful contrast between the icebergs and the black sand beaches. At this point we were so happy that we had chosen the campervan, instead of a pre-booked bus tour or something similar. It gave us flexibility. As with most places in Iceland, you can’t admire the beauty for too long as it is bloody cold, so we quickly hopped back into the van again and turned up the system.
Another downfall of our group was that we weren’t checking the weather forecast, which our medicine student started doing halfway into the trip. So we had to discuss again whether we wanted do the whole Ring Road or turn back, because a big storm was due to hit the North, beyond the wall. We considered turning back, because of unpredictable weather, lack of daylight, snowy roads, strong winds and the wish to see everything. In the end, we decided to continue on our quest, so we headed further North. Surprise surprise, for the 2nd day in a row we couldn’t reach our destination because of the weather. This time because of a snow storm and previously due to strong winds.
Luckily we found a nice woman, who recommend a lesser known lagoon to us and a nice campground, where we saw the most amazing Northern Lights. They produced a dazzling display with waves of green and purple dancing in the bitterly cold starry night sky.
The north was very mountainous and at this time of year, was covered in snow. The sun was so low in the sky that sunlight only reached the peaks. When we finally arrived in Reykjavik, before the storm hit the west coast, we were glad to be safe but on the other hand really sad, to say goodbye to our new home, the system! But our heads were brimming with amazing memories and great spirit filled our hearts! Iceland taught us, you can never know what to expect, but that is the adventure and most amazing thing about exploring.
Read more: Pre-honeymoon in a camper in Iceland
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