The Ring road counter clockwise
27th March – 3rd April
upon a time, there were a Beauty and a Campingvirgin who were going to travel around Iceland in a campervan. I’m the Campingvirgin and my boyfriend considers himself the Beauty. Anyway, his parents always took him camping when he was younger: hiking for days with a tent on your back. My parents on the other hand, just booked two weeks at an all-inclusive hotel. You can see where this is going. So, our first few holidays together were city tripping and staying in hostels and I kept him telling him that he could go camping and hiking with his next girlfriend. Last Fall, however I did my exchange in Calgary (Canada, next to the Rocky Mountains) and I discovered the beauty of nature after all and so we decided to go to Iceland and to hire a campervan where we would sleep in!! I kept telling people we were going camping, while the Beauty shook his head (it’s not camping if you’re not in a tent). So let’s just say that we have a different perspective on holidays. Here it goes…
Our very first trip in the campervan was to Krýsuvík. The beauty jumped out of the car and ran down the hill to touch the warm water. Luckily, I was out of the car just in time to see him slide down in the mud. The whole back of his pants was dirty (and his back for that matter). After laughing for a while, I said: ‘Well, good thing you’ve got another pair of pants.’ ‘No, why would I bring two pair of pants?’ he responded, not realizing he had given me the best answer to that question. I have to admit that the laughing turned against me and I lost my balance too (although I caught myself on my hands, so it was not that bad). Our first night we spent at a campsite next to a hostel where they served great pizza (Skjól camping, in between Geysir and Gulfoss; the perfect location).
Next day we saw the big highlights of the Golden circle and started chasing waterfalls – and like the Beauty phrases it ‘Waterfalls turn her on’. At Seljalandsfoss there was a sign that you were not allowed to go behind the falls, although it stopped no one. My first response always is when I see a sign: ‘No, we are not allowed to go there,’ and then the Beauty convinces me to do it anyway. It was very cool to stand behind the waterfall. He wanted to take another way back, I could not see that happening, so I said: ‘I can’t do that!’ and then he responded: ‘We left ‘I can’t do it’ at home.’ I really am very thankful to have him as a boyfriend, because of course he was right and I could do it.
At some point on our trip we passed a sign that indicated that the hill would have an increase 10%. I know the sign from my car theory lessons, but we’re from a country that lies under sea level and we do not have hills. So I know what it meant but not really what to do. So, I made sure I was driving fast enough but halfway up I saw the speed slowly dropping although I was still pushing my foot on the pedal. ‘BEAUTY, WHAT DO I DO?’ I yelled at him. But the whole point of me driving is that he does not have his driving license yet, so it wasn’t like he knew what to do. The best thing about traveling in Iceland in off season: no one on the road. So I could figure out to just shift down without anything going wrong. You would probably think that with me driving all the time because he doesn’t have his license, means no jokes about women driving. Unfortunately, you are very wrong. Because he knows how it drives me crazy.
That night we spend at the parking lot at Skaftafell and cooked our dinner with the included cooking facilities. I have to say, it was the best pasta I have had in a while, mostly because I was starving and freezing. It felt very good, because I have wanted to cut down on the luxury I am used to for a while now. The beauty was proud too and sent my family a pic of me cooking, saying that I’m a natural at camping. We were very thankful for the few campsites that were closed during the winter, but kept their bathroom facilities open 24/7 for the people who camp during winter. What a great service!
A few other things we were wondering while on the road: Why are some parts of the road gravel? Why? Especially the road from Tröllaskagi to Sauðárkrókur where it changed from a paved road to gravel and back every 5 kilometers (that might be a bit extreme, but I’m trying to make a point). At some point, we thought that maybe the asphalt was finished and importing is too expensive or maybe they are trying to scare off the touring buses loaded with tourists. Another thing, I was wondering is whether the locals really just drive 90 km/h on the Ring Road. I was taken over so many times by other cars and after we figured out how cruise control works (I’m usually wondering about something on the road and then the Beauty googles it and fills me in – now we know how cruise control works, after my foot was hurting of just doing the same for miles and miles. And it is great!) I really was driving 90 km/h on a steady speed. And where could they possibly hide the speeding camera?!
After we had arrived in Egilsstaðir (we usually just named the first 2 letters of the city (EG), because they are impossible to pronounce, let alone remember! Did they pick Reykjavik to be the capital, because that is the only name non-Icelandic people can pronounce? OR is it the only name we can pronounce, because it is the capital? Those are the kinds of things you discuss when you have been living in a campervan for a week and have nothing else to talk about. That was a long detour. But so was the anecdote I was going to share.), we took the road to Seydisfjördur because the Beauty had read that that was supposed to be a picturesque village and I always just do as he says (well, when I’m driving). I soon regretted that, because the road turned out to be horrific (needlessly to say, I’m always a bit exaggerating, according to the Beauty). There was so much fog and ice on the road! But no way turning back, after we had conquered the roads, we arrived in Sey.
It was not that spectacular and freezing! Thankfully, the lady of the café that wasn’t even open yet, let us have a drink. Hot chocolate had never tasted better. The Beauty wanted a craft beer that cost us more than 10 euro’s!! But I try not to complain too much about that, because he always eats vegetarian for me when we’re cooking. After our drinks, we had to take the same road back, because that is the beauty of Iceland some towns are so remote that there is just one way that leads to Rome (that proverb was definitely not thought of by Romans who had visited Iceland). Talking about vegetarianism by the way, Lonely Planet had warned me that the only dish on the menu would probably be pasta or pizza (I adore Italian food, so I was okay with that). In the end, we ended up cooking almost every night and guess what we ate 5 times: pasta! The first time we ate out, we ate pizza (at Skjól camping). And the second time was in Höfn, in a restaurant called Pakkhús and they had the best dessert ever – Skýr volcano – we still fantasize about it.
The next day we learned not to listen too much to Lonely Planet without using common sense. After another challenging trip to this time Borgarfjörður Eystri, passing a gravel road with huge rocks on the road, I asked him what there was to see in this place. Puffins. In this time of the year? Well, according to the website www.puffins.is they arrive in April. We were there March 31st – no April fools. But maybe the puffins would be confused by global warming and show up early. On the top of the hill, we saw a lot of seagulls and another birdlike animal far away. Even with optimal zoom, there was no way telling if it were puffins. But we pretended that they were and we put on Facebook that we had seen those exotic creatures. And as we all know, everything that is on Facebook is true. So we have seen puffins. And they were so cute!
We were doubting very much in the beginning whether we wanted to go to Blue Lagoon. Luckily, that doubting made the choice for us, because our first day in Iceland was fully booked when I checked the website two days before. And lucky we were, because we ended up going to the nature baths in Mývatn. Not only was it a lot cheaper (even student discount!!), but it was nice and quiet. The staff was very friendly, you could just order a beer while you were in the water and they would bring it to you – best service ever. I was so stupid to forget to take off my ring, so it started turning blue and green. I was a bit sad about it, because of the emotional value, but decided to let it go. One of the staff members saw my ring however and suggested to take it to the reception. When we picked it up after, they had cleaned it for me!!
Although I had stated that we had learned not to listen to Lonely Planet too much, we made the very same mistake the next day. I do want to point out here, that I was not too convinced that we needed to go to Tröllaskagi, but the Beauty said that there were beautiful vistas >>.
At some point on our trip, I began to lose my virginity, suggesting to walk the bigger hike and to just not take a shower (that was not a smart suggestion though, because we ended up not having access to a shower for 2 days). We had a beautiful vacation in Iceland and I’d like to give a special thanks to our campervan, who we gave the nickname ‘The Coonmobile’. Really, just everything we needed was included in it. Also small details, like a clip to hold the curtains together, or a lighting strip, really made it the perfect way to travel around Iceland. And we lived happily ever after. Maybe next time, we’ll even go camping with a tent on our backs!
Read more: A guide to South Iceland
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