I woke up once in the night to stumble to the bathroom which I found warm, clean and crammed into a building about the size of a shipping container. I wandered about in the dark for a little while before heading back to my tent and reading until I fell asleep again.
The next morning I was rearing to go. I was eager to make up for the embarrassment of my one activity the day before—and also make up for my lack of total adventure. So, I packed up my car as quickly as I could, headed to a gas station to pick up a fuel canister for my next camping spot, and opted to eat breakfast—a cliff bar and a piece of chocolate—on the road.
It was only a 30-minute drive until my first stop, the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Iceland’s scenery is incredible, and if I haven’t said it before I’ll probably say it 6 more times before I finish my story. A lot of the landscape is flat and sprawling, quite different from what I’m used to in Western Washington. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, giant cliffs will sprout up and give way to majestic waterfalls. The sheep don’t seem to care, though, and the small houses juxtaposed against these grand sights make me think the locals have gotten used to it, too.
Seljalandsfoss is a relatively skinny waterfall, but it falls close to 200 feet and gives visitors the opportunity to walk behind it. It was cold and wet, but woke me up for the day and made me excited to see more.
After taking pictures and trying to avoid the waves tourists that had been shuttled in, I headed back to my car and continued onward toward the next waterfall.
Skogafoss was much more massive than my previous destination, also falling around 200 feet but boasting several times Seljalandsfoss’s width. Though going behind the waterfall proved to be impossible, there was a staircase that ran alongside it, and I mounted with a racing heart to get to the top.
At times, I can be a fairly competitive person, and my intention when coming to Iceland was not only to have an awesome time and take really neat pictures, but also push myself physically and kick off an era to get in better shape. This goal also helped me push past my mental and physical fatigue to do more during my trip. However, in my beginning-of-the-trip excitement, my competitiveness was probably a little overkill.
But it was fun to try to take the stairs two at a time, to keep up a good pace until I’d gotten to the top (or got stuck behind other people along the way). And it was nice to be warm, even a little sweaty, once I’d reached my goal.
Skogafoss is the typical entry point to the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, a 25km hike that runs between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers in Iceland. I didn’t know about this trail, and unfortunately, didn’t follow it for too long before heading back toward my car. I did stop to snap a few more photographs, collect some “authentic Icelandic spring water” for my brother, and talk to a couple from New York for a bit. It’s strange, but every American accent made me feel less alone. More at home. It’s funny how something as simple as a voice can make you feel comfortable.
I stopped off at the Skogafoss Bistro to get a sandwich and a beer and reflect on my day thus far:
“I’m learning I like people better than places. Or maybe it’s just this place. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but… barren, I guess is the best way to describe it. There are few trees. Very little snow. Even the mountains appear to be mostly choss… everything is covered with light green. Moss on grass, it tinges everything.”
I traveled to the Dyrhólaey Nature Reserve next, but not without taking a few pictures along the road first.
I stuck to the lower section of the nature reserve because I didn’t think my car could make it to the top of the massive dirt hill and I didn’t want to take any chances. I joined the throng of other photographers—most with cameras much more impressive than mine—to take shots of the sea, the Dyrhólaey arch, and the puffins. I was absolutely thrilled.
Making sure to grab a rock for a friend from home, I knocked out my second souvenir of the trip and loaded myself and my gear back into the car.
Iceland is home to some very scenic abandoned buildings and, spotting one on my way out of the reserve, I decided to pull over and check it out. Not only did I find a rather intact structure, I also discovered a small path that led up a steep hill to a cave. From there, I followed along and topped out on a small hill to take in more views of the land and sea.
My next stop was one of the most anticipated points of my journey: Vik. A small village lying on the southernmost tip of Iceland, its Black Sand Beach was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world sometime in the 90s and I’m assuming this still holds true today. I immediately drove to a small gravel parking lot and picked my way through the tall grasses and onto the beach to take some pictures. Out came the journal once more, to keep my memories intact.
“The waves are nice, regular. Like a deep chant from the Earth. The sun is out, too, but the wind is blowing enough to keep it from getting too hot. For the first time since my trip started, I’ve felt utterly at peace…I’m learning things. I cant name the latest one specifically, but it’s there, in the back of my mind. A concept, unexplained. I’m glad I did this. I knew I would be. But I’m very, very happy I’m here. And I’m happy I’m alone.”
On the Black Sand Beach outside of Vik, I also found my third souvenir—the one for myself. As an amateur sand collector (what does that even mean?), sand from Vik has become my prized possession. Unfortunately, I forgot to save a special bottle for it, and I was “forced” to chug a nip on the beach to make room for more solid contents. Move over Jack Daniels, I had more important things to carry around.
I sat for a while longer, shut my eyes and listened to the roar of the ocean, taking deep breaths and counting the inhales and exhales. Another goal: getting better at meditation. I tried my hand at it for the first time in forever on that beach. Then, feeling elated, I turned and headed back to my car.
I stopped for a brief moment at a small building selling felted wool products but left empty-handed after seeing the prices.
At the campground just outside the Village, I set up my tent on top of a hill at one of the most picturesque campsites on my trip.
The Campground Vik is home to a large multi-tiered lawn that butts up against a cliff on one side and offers distant views of the ocean on the other. The night that I camped there was a windy one, and I’d made the mistake of setting myself up at the top of the hill without using any guy-lines to secure it against the wind. Needless to say, half the night was spent battling to keep my tent upright and the other half trying to slip outside to catch a view of the lightning over the ocean, which I sadly missed.