Iceland: Flying by the Seat of Our Pants
I like to think that as long as things don’t go horribly wrong, mishaps can soon turn to funny stories, particularly regarding amusing travel antics. This trip is apparently trying to test that belief.
We started the whole adventure 2 days ago now, driving from Asheville to Baltimore to catch our fight (WOW Air was running a 50% off sale from this airport so we had to take advantage.) Though we left with several hours’ wiggle room, that all came to a screeching halt a few hours in when we hit construction traffic…something like 5 separate times. One hour down, we were undeterred until we hit Baltimore traffic whereupon our last bit of wiggle room quickly slipped away as we sweltered in dead-stopped traffic.
At long last and after several detours, we arrived at the airport, ran through the parking lot in search of a walkway that wasn’t there, hopped on a shuttle that went to our stop last, begged our way through 5 lines of security and finally made it to the gate right as boarding was supposedly done only to find that there were plenty of people still in line. A little shaky, a lot stressed, we happily slumped into our seats and attempted to catch up on sleep.
Once we arrived in the fair country of Iceland, we were greeting with a balmy layer of May snow blanketing everything in sight. We picked up our rental car – thankfully 4-wheel drive – and pulled right out onto the snowy highway with zero plans on the horizon.
As the title says, our plan for this trip was to have no plan, to simply travel to and how we felt in order to enjoy every minute possible. So, naturally, our quest for pleasure first led us to food. We trekked up to Reykjavik after plugging only “coffee” into the GPS and enjoyed our first meal in over half a day, particularly as it was really only dessert. Unfortunately, this café didn’t have outlets to charge our electronics, so upon finishing our meal, we walked down the street to a neighboring café, ordered still more coffee, and sat down for a few minutes to work. Funny enough, we’d inadvertently walked into the same café my family and I had visited 2 years ago; I must have really liked it.
Work complete, caffeine mainlined, we hopped back into the car in search of any and all Icelandic beauty. Again, we had no real plan, so we took a jaunt along the coastline, stopping at almost every pull-off to capture the landscape or photograph each other. One of the main purposes of this trip for me was to location scout in order to provide future clients with good suggestions for their elopement and engagement photoshoots, so it was not at all a coincidence that my beautiful best friend joined me as she’s one of my favorite people to photograph. Well, and to explore with.
After driving around for a few hours, we decided it was time to see one of the iconic waterfalls so we made chase for Gullfoss a couple hours away. Unfortunately, my utter lack of sleep overcame me soon after and I had to pull over beside a stream for a small nap. I fell asleep as soon as I pulled the key from the ignition. When I awoke, Erin and I both decided that while exploring more would be fun, the luxury of having no plans is that you can change direction at a moment’s notice, so we went to our hotel to nap.
We were originally going to car camp (when we booked the trip in December) but as it was 35 degrees and intermittently snowing, we thought it best to sleep in warm beds. And sleep we did. I woke up 4 hours later completely rested, but completely too late to go anywhere. As Erin was still dead to the world, I grabbed my film camera, put in my earbuds and headed out for some evening street photography. I finished off my roll of film just as the sun set (at 10pm) enjoy capturing the fading light, but the highlight of the excursion naturally featured a cat. As I’d crouched down to re-tie my shoe, a little black and brown cat trotted up to me, immediately head butting my hand to pet him for a few minutes. I have no idea where he came from, but I definitely felt #blessed.
Not thinking clearly, we missed dinner as most places stopped serving food at 10pm, so we had to settle for grocery store sandwiches. This wasn’t exactly my idea of local fare, but after hot showers and hotter tea, we were too tired to care.
In order to get our waterfall fix, we woke up at 7:30 this morning (3:30 to our not-yet-adjusted bodies!) and set off once again for Gullfoss. Iceland is apparently having an Asheville-like weather as every 20 minutes a sudden snowstorm slammed into us. More than once along the way did we question how badly we actually wanted to see the waterfall. We rationalized that since we’d already seen several hours’ of countryside we could just turn back around, but something kept us going through the slush. That is, until we got to the entrance to the parking lot and it was blocked off. As it turns out, only the ravine side was blocked off and we could easily enter the other, but from our vantage point we were doomed. Because I needed to turn around, I drove 100 meters more, right into what turned out to be a parking lot. We parked and set off. Not knowing that we could easily access the falls via the far side wooden stairs, we bounded our way through the snowy grass to the edge of the ravine, photographing each other all the while. Only after we’d filled our boots with snow did we realized there was an easier way
The falls were as advertised: breathtaking, terrifying and otherworldly. We’d remarked several times along the way that the snow-covered mountains looming upwards into the crystal blue sky looked like scenes from a fantasy movie, but the waterfall took mythological landscape to a whole new level. Clear blue water hurling headlong over the deeply creviced volcanic rock so violently it created a mist of renegade droplets not yet ready to reach the lower river: I was instantly mesmerized.
I broke the spell only to attain sustenance, and because we didn’t want to have to rush to the airport like the day before. To save time, we ate at the visitor center’s cafeteria enjoying a piping hot bowl of Icelandic meat (lamb) stew which soothed our souls if not thawed our numb toes.
However, it was not in the cards for us to have an easy time at the airport. A missed turn (one of only 2 in the same number of days) lead to an extensive detour, the shuttle driver took his sweet time preparing to drive the 5 minutes to the airport, and suddenly we were returning to Keflavík after our flight was supposed to start boarding. As you can imagine, we got a good workout in sprinting to our gate. However, there was little need to worry since there was still a large line when we arrived. So we were 2 for 2!
Once we arrived in London we realized that the British must still hold a grudge against he States because some force was certainly not working in our favor. Of all things, we had the most difficultly orienting ourselves in the country that actually spoke English.
Restaurants were closing by the time we stepped off the train, so we suffered through some fast food which I refuse to name for fear of besmirching my reputation. 4 hours after stepping onto British soil, we finally got to our hostel, had a glass of wine and settled in.
Tomorrow we once again have no plans except to sleep in, so it’s already shaping up to be a lovely day.