The Camper Van Sigurður
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sigurður and I am a Renault Trafic 3 Camper Van. I was assembled in France in 2016, then shipped to the gorgeous island of Iceland to do the bidding of adventurous visitors from all over the world! During the early days of my career as a motor-home, roaming around Iceland through sunshine and rain had become business as usual. I had come to expect that my next adventure would be a journey to remember, but this one ended up a story worth telling…
As soon as Valerie turned the key in the ignition, I knew that I was in for a treat. Valerie and her friend Rosine were two thrill-seeking Canadian girls in their late twenties. They had briefly escaped their daily routine as physiotherapists in Montreal and wanted to make the most of a well-earned 2-week holiday – just in time to celebrate Valerie’s 26th birthday. I liked them from the first sight and sure was not going to let them down!
At first the girls settled with anxious excitement in what would be their home for the next fourteen days. They began unpacking their belongings in my numerous storage compartments, while humming old-fashioned Icelandic folk music at the top of their lungs – I couldn’t help but make fun of their horrible Icelandic accent and of what they had brought with them! While Rosine began to unpack a ridiculous amount of winter gear – “This is Iceland, girl, not the North Pole…” –, I realized that Valerie had brought enough snacks and nutritional shakes to feed an army, as well as a 2-week supply of dehydrated food that she intended to cook between my own four walls. Chili, ramen noodle soup, mac & cheese, mac ‘n chili… a proper astronaut’s feast!
Early on that day, we hit the road under clear blue skies. The horizon was bright and full of endless promising possibilities. The girls shared their plans with me, and my motor was humming cheerfully at the prospect of driving through the four regions of Iceland along the famous Ring Road. Dramatic landscapes, impressive tunnels carved into majestic mountains, gorgeous waterfalls and breathtaking glacier lagoons, powerful geysers and endless black sand beaches – they did not know it yet, but every morning would bring a new day full of surprises for my energetic passengers. The animated streets of Reykjavik would be long forgotten once they started hiking snow-peaked mountains, exploring secret caves and seeking hidden thermal sources. And no matter how far away they would venture during their quests, they would be able to count on me to provide a warm and cozy shelter at the end of the day – oftentimes soaked, covered in mud, or frozen to the bone.
In addition to my primary purpose as a means of transportation, Val and Rosine soon found out that I could fulfill a wide variety of purposes as their home away from home. Even Rosine’s tiny quarters in Montreal were not nearly so versatile! Indeed, they started using me as their kitchen, dining room and lounge, their bedroom and their changing room, their linen cupboard, their laundry room, their movie theater, their Wi-Fi hot spot, their dance studio, their mobile discotheque and their observatory for Northern lights, all in one!
Thankfully, the girls also quickly learned to locate the closest N1 and they made sure that I was kept well fed. Carrying our small crew along the winding roads of Iceland required more energy than a bowl of fish soup or a Skýr! I remember the girls’ sighs at the thought of the spent Kronas when the time first came to feed my thirsty belly with gallons of black gold. Nevertheless, those frowns were quickly forgotten at the thought of the adventures that were still awaiting us along the road!
Soon, a daily routine started to emerge in my Canadian guests’ schedule. The girls would slowly emerge from a restful sleep when the first rays of sunlight started streaming through my curtains, which would promptly be drawn to allow Valerie and Rosine to gaze through my windows at the landscape before their eye, invariably a sight to behold. Then, after several minutes of silent contemplation, my enthusiastic passengers would get on their feet and start looking for a stream of water to fill up their water tank. They did not usually need to wander off very far before finding a river or a waterfall coming directly from the glaciers and providing them with fresh natural spring water, with which they could prepare their morning tea and breakfast. Then, the bedroom instantly turned into a functional kitchen as the bed was conveniently lifted up to become the dining table. Once my guests were ready for the new day ahead, we would get back on the Ring Road without skipping a beat.
Whenever they found an attraction deemed worthy of interest, whether it be a natural wonder or a new backpacker friend, Valerie and Rosine would go out in the wild for several hours at a time while I chatted with my fellow vehicles in crowded parking lots. They usually came back around sunset, red cheeks and gleaming eyes, sore feet and exhausted muscles, but always starving and smiling broadly. After removing some of the mud on their hiking boots and hanging their wet clothes on an improvised clothesline, they immersed themselves into the preparation of the evening (dehydrated) meal, looking at their pictures and reliving the highlights of the day.
However, with the sun setting earlier with every passing day, as the evenings stretched into the nights, my passengers took advantage of every minute of their trip, filling their time with entertaining evening activities. They kept busy planning their next day’s itinerary, playing cards, visiting the local pub with other travelers, keeping in touch with their loved ones and making funny videos of themselves, which always ended up in explosions of giggles and blasts of laughter. Finally, utterly exhausted, the girls would get ready for bed and fall asleep rocked by the sound of the heating system and gazing in the comfort of their beds at the northern lights in a cloudless sky.
Indeed, even after a day’s relentless activities, Rosine and Val oftentimes forced themselves to stay awake late into the night to witness the bright dancing lights of the aurora, and their wait was always rewarded magnificently. As they gazed outside though my rear window, great swirling bands of ever-changing colors were dancing like a living organism before their amazed and insatiable eyes. The girls would describe to one another what they saw in the perpetual motion and the changing shades of the lights illuminating the silent night. On some night, their imagination led them to see respectively the outlines of a gigantic dragon setting fire to the sky, a stream of water flowing through the starry firmament and the landing lights of a UFO preparing its descent on Earth.
On and on we journeyed as a united team, discovering the four unique regions of Iceland and travelling back and forth across two different tectonic plates. My brand-new studded tires took us from paved to gravel roads, through puddles of water and mud, over patches of ice and mounds of snow, but always making sure we reached our destinations safely.
After leaving beautiful Reykjavik, our first destination was the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where our path crossed the footsteps of a young Australian backpacker who gladly hopped in and was instantly contaminated by our good vibes. Then, we made our way to the northernmost location on Earth either of us had ever set foot (or wheel) in, where we explored charming fishing villages and witnessed astonishing Northern lights.
Our journey north continued through imposing tunnels built into the very heart of treeless mountain chains, rising like immense and impregnable fortresses overlooking the Arctic sea. Then, we reached the Mývatn region and its already familiar sulphurous smells. My crafty passengers immediately started coming up with crazy plans to expose their skin to the fumes of Sulphur to make away with a few skin imperfections, the last remnants of their teenage years.
At this point of the trip, all the playlists Val and Rosine had carefully prepared had already been heard more than once through my Bluetooth devise, and I was beginning to long for the good old Icelandic folk songs from the beginning of the journey! By the time we headed due east, the clear skies we had enjoyed so far were replaced by a heavy fog, denying us the privilege of witnessing the dramatic landscapes of the eastern fjords. With a visibility of about 10 meters, I had to exercise additional caution on the winding and slippery roads along the coast. All my senses were alert to avoid the herds of sheep inconveniently napping in the middle of the Ring Road.
As we reached the Southern region of the island, the sun reappeared and so did the girls’ upbeat mood. For the grand finale, I led them to their first ever “waterfall crawl”, a few legendary picnics on steep cliffs and sunsets to die for. We finally closed the loop and headed back to the capital, following the footsteps of Iceland’s historical characters along the banks of Þingvallavatn. We were preparing our goodbyes.
The next day, our last together, was a teary affair. I was emotional driving Rosine and Valérie back to Keflavik, but apparently not nearly as emotional as they were at the prospect of leaving Iceland. I will always remember (as I am sure they will too) the exhilarating feeling of liberty that we had while discovering Iceland together and I will look back over our adventures, the stuff of legends.
Now, as I sit in the Keflavik airport parking lot, I am surrounded by my fellow camper vans, patiently awaiting for my next adventure to begin. Who will seize this opportunity of a lifetime?
Read more: Growing intimate with Iceland
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
Iceland Travel Guides
If you like what you see, please subscribe to our YouTube channel!