Ten days in Iceland
Last November five crazy friends rented a van to spend ten days driving and camping on Iceland. This was one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever had. I meet two of the five people at the van in Reykjavik itself. The day I arrived me and friend Gabriel were picked up by the others at the airport and from there we started to drive. We circulated the entire island, from north to south. Seeing almost everything of this fairytale country.
In real life, the van looked smaller than on the website. Throughout the trip, all of us learned how to appreciate every single centimeter of it: how to put our socks to dry under the seats where the heater was. How to stay calm when dealing with the hopeless refrigerator, that did not work at all; how to cover the back door near to the beds with reflective heating paper because we nearly froze on the first nights. Every morning that we didn’t hit our heads on the ceiling was a victory. We learned how to fit five people around the dining table with a gas cooker in the middle of the van. We learned that wet shoes bring humidity inside, and humidity in Iceland means cold. Our noses stopped working and we were very thankful about that so we wouldn’t smell the people sleeping aside us, especially when we all were in need of a shower. In the ten days of driving we took two showers, and only because we went to spend the day at thermal baths. We learned how to pee in plastic bags and water bottles while driving and how to poop in nature. Most importantly, one of us learned that yellow liquid in bottles is not always ice-tea.
The first days were the hardest ones. I felt that my packing wasn’t as efficient for the cold as I had imagined. Also, coming from South America snow is something I am not used to. It was my second time seeing it, and believe me, there was too much of it! My Dr. Martens’ couldn’t handle the snow and were not warming my feet. The two pants I brought were not waterproof and when raining I would just stay cold the entire time. I did not bring gloves (that was me being dumb), and I hadn’t brought nearly as much moisturizer as needed for the trip. Hands, face, nose, feet, everything was dry to the bone and cracking.
While there, we met two other vans. Their passengers were friends with people in our van, so at some points we were 15 people in total. We did our separate trips but tried to sleep at the same point every day. It was quite fun to be immersed in a different environment with a bunch of young people who were struggling with the same stuff we were. We tried to cook lunch or dinner together but it was always too cold or too windy to do so. And believe me, you have to cook for yourself, Iceland is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been to. We survived the whole ten days eating ham & cheese sandwiches.
As a group, we visited a few pretty impressive landmarks. Sincerely, I didn’t do much research before going. So everything was twice as impressive for me. I am the “lost type” of traveler who just waits until the last minute and hopes things will happen because they always do. We went to several waterfalls, including Skaftafell, Dettifoss, and Gullfoss, all giant and quite impressive. Skaftafell, though not the prettiest certainly was the most magical. It was the first one we visited, while we hiked to get close to the waterfall a small snow storm came along. It felt like a blessing, almost as if the sky was embracing our adventure and giving their permission so we could enjoy the sight.
In several moments of this trip, I felt like I was 12 years old and back in Mr. Anderson’s geography class. Everything I learned almost ten years ago came right back. Every beach and rock that had weird lines and shapes reminded me of him explaining erosion, friction, wind and water forces. Every stalactite I saw reminded me of class discussions about how water falling out of the ceiling would just fall to the ground. My argument was that there wasn’t such extreme cold weather that could freeze it in the middle of the way. How silly I was. The thing that most impressed me was the Geysir. We went to the most famous one in southwestern Iceland, where the water can go up to 70 meters in the air. The bubble the Geyser makes before exploding is just the thing that makes every kid wanna pop it. However, that Geyser made me really mad with Mr Anderson as he never mentioned that natural gas stunk that much.
Another smelly, but very relaxing experience, were the natural baths. I went to Mývatn Nature Baths and the famous Blue Lagoon. unlike most people, I think the Blue Lagoon is a scam. I paid almost 75 euro to go to this famous bath house and I was quite disappointed. I felt like going to a public pool. The face mask included in the price is not amazing. They offer a towel, showers and shampoos, that is it. The staff are not nice, the shower rooms and toilets are very messy because there are too many visitors for the facilities. On the other hand, Mývatn Nature Baths was half the price and would have been less expensive if I hadn’t forgotten my student ID. It has an amazing view of a mountain just in front of it. The floor of the shower room is heated. The staff are friendly and let you know everything that you can get for free. The organization of the spa and clean shower room were quite impressive. When in Iceland, know that going to other natural baths spots other than the Blue Lagoon might be more relaxing, organized and cheaper.
Iceland is amazing, but it is still a Nordic country and the cold it can be hard to deal with. Our van got stuck in the snow when we were going up a mountain. It took us two hours to dig it out of the hole. It was in the middle of nowhere, no one around, no signal, no internet, and desperate people thinking we were just gonna have to camp at a hole in the middle of a road. Luckily, a car passed by, the driver didn’t help us to take the car out of the hole. I don’t blame him, it was too cold to get out of the car, but he did explain that we could take another road to go to the place we aimed to. So we didn’t have to keep our journey up the mountain when the snow and wind kept bringing us down and off the road. Knowing that there was another way to our destination, we let the other vans know. At night, we discovered that our message had not reached them. Due to this, they had got stuck at the same place we did. Perks of millennials believing in technology.
After a whole lot of stress, we were all ready to go home. We were driving quite quietly now. We got close one to another, the trip had proved very good at turning us into friends but we did have a little acidity going around, only to be expected after a whole ten days together in less than 40 square meters. The day before going back to Reykjavik we were driving at night to get to our next camp area. I was sick to the stomach and probably very annoying to the others. The road had so many curves, it felt as if we were driving in a giant circle. We had been checking out the Iceland lights prevision online. It always indicated great chances of seeing it but we never did, until that day. Eric, who was sitting in the passenger seat saw brown clouds in the sky. We were the last of the three vans on the road. The van in front of us stopped because someone was also sick. So I and the other person were kicked to the side of the road. To wait for us all the vans turned the lights off and BAM. There it was. The brown cloud Eric saw, was actually green when the lights were out. I changed from being sick to perfectly well in a second. That night I lived the best night of my life. The Nordic lights can fill adults with the naive happiness that only children feel. The simplicity and pureness of it are impossible to describe. We stayed there, in the middle of the road (of course with all the necessary signals on) for a good two hours. This vision was the perfect end for this adventure.
Coming home though wasn’t as magical as the Nordic lights. My return journey turned into a whole other experience worth telling. My van friends and I took flight from Reykjavik to Amsterdam, From there we were to take a bus to Paris. The bus got canceled when we were already on board because the driver punched a passenger. The situation was a bit more complicated than what I’m describing, but not worth telling. There were no busses to Paris that we all could get on together. My friends left as soon as they could. I stayed behind because my debit card stopped working so I couldn’t buy a ticket home. Luckily mom helped. I meet three guys from Lyon who were on the same canceled bus as I was who were going to Lille. I took the same bus as them and in that five hours ride we talked to friends of friends and found several houses/Student dorms where we could stay for the night. I slept at the house of someone whose name I don’t really remember. The next day I took a bus to Paris at 7 am. At that moment I learned that you can search for adventure as much as you want but nothing will be more fun than the challenges life puts on your plate.