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Photo Credits: Rachel

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Please see the "Map" tab for a map of our road trip.
Day 1

Rachel and I flew out of Baltimore on a budget flight to Iceland around 7pm in the evening, arriving in KEF at 5am. We ate some chicken fingers and alerted our credit card companies that we would be travelling before taking off. After landing, we bought breakfast and a Map and walked across the parking lot to get our very expensive rental car. A dense fog blanketed the airfield.

We got underway around 8am, and by chance passed a sign for the Blue Lagoon, a touristy geothermal bath, twenty minutes toward Reykjavik. Feeling in need of rejuvenation, we turned in, arriving just after opening. The bath is usually very crowded and we did not have a reservation, but arriving so early in the morning allowed us to get into the baths and avoid the crowds. After an hour-long soak, we showered and got back in the car.

By pure coincidence, the car's license plate was 'ROB15'. Our itinerary instructed us to drive along the golden circle. After stopping for groceries, and making a wrong turn, we found Rt. 1 again. We arrived at Thingvellir, an igneous rock formation where the first parliament of Iceland met, only after stopping and photographing sheep. I did not take us very long to realize that sheep are not a rare site in Iceland (there are 3x more sheep than people on the island). After Thingvellir, we drove onward to the geysers, and the Gulffoss, a giant two-tiered waterfall. The waterfalls in Iceland are so massive you can get wet from them standing 50 yards away. We ate ice cream at Geysir (Rachel loves ice cream).

We stopped for gas in Hella and after filling up, the car would not start. This is very odd since we had been driving all day and battery should have a full charge. A local gave us a jump, and we continued on a short distance to Seljalandsfoss as it started to rain. Rachel kindly stayed in the running car while I took pictures. That night we were scheduled to camp in Þórsmörk (pronounced with Þ=th) at the lava huts and do some hiking the next day. As we drove up the F-road (unimproved roads in Iceland are REALLY unimproved) we came across a small stream crossing the road. We got out and checked the depth. After discussing for a few minutes, we decided to give it a shot in the rental car. I hit the gas and we sped through the stream, tossing water on each side of the car. Not even a quarter mile later we encountered another small river and again checked its depth and braved that one as well in our mid-sized SUV. It has been an especially wet spring in Iceland and all of the rivers were very high. As we drove, the rivers continued to get wider until we could no longer could tell what the water depth was in the middle. At each ford, we followed our process of getting out of the car, determining the most shallow portion of the river, and then maintaining speed to carry us through that section.

Eventually, we got to a river that was so wide there was very little change we could ford it without flooding the engine. Keep in mind, this is a mid-size SUV with no scuba and maybe 16" of ground clearance. We decided to not cross the final river and camp at Badger camp, which had a really amazing rock gorge. There was also another car in case we needed a jump. We set-up the tent as it started to rain again. It was midnight, still rather light out, and we had been up since the morning the previous day. Rachel was surprisingly calm as we navigated the increasingly chancy rivers, especially given that her name was on the car rental and we were in the middle of nowhere in Iceland.

Day 2

On Day 2, we drove to the Skógafoss, checked e-mail and did some more trip planning since we were not able to stay at the lava huts. We did a great 3 mile hike up the Skógafoss trail. We stopped in Vik to buy more groceries and jumper cables - the car starting had at this point become a reoccurring issue and a stressor on the trip. That evening, we arrived in Skaftafell where we set-up camp and met Mike, a friend of Allison's who is a glacier guide in Iceland in the summer. He gave us a private tour of Skaftafell glacier which Rachel thought was the coolest thing. We asked Mike about his love life and finished the last of our chocolate. Mike showed us the technique to drink glacier water like a dinosaur. We we tired and decided the hike to the waterfall the region is known for would be a bit much.

Day 3

Day 3 was a crucial day. It involved over 500 miles and 12 hours of driving excluding stops. We woke up early and took a Zodiak boat tour of a glacial lagoon with beautiful floating blue icebergs. Some seals were playing in the water and laying sibylline on the smaller, table-top icebergs. The tour office also had donuts and hot coco. I left Colin's camera on land for safekeeping and we used Rachel's camera. On the boat ride, we also met an older couple from Italy who Rachel was able to converse a bit with in Italian.

Next, we stopped in Höfn, considered a city by Iceland's standards (it has a gas station and grocery store) where we used the bathroom and started the long drive from the south South coast of the country to the North. By the time we left Rt.1 to bypass the East Fjords, Rachel was asleep. The sun came out as we passed Egilsstaðir, a town on a scenic lake that looks not so different from upstate New York. This was a welcome break from the bleak rainy weather in Iceland's South East.

I drove onward, rejoining Rt.1 and turning east. I stopped once to take pictures and felt bad waking her up. The landscape turned volcanic and we negotiated around road bikers on a race through a significant portion of Iceland. Biking around Iceland takes longer, but a fair number of people attempt it. By the time we reached the Dettifoss intersection, it was already evening. After a mile of deliberation we decided that we should just take the extra hour and see it. The Dettifoss is one of the widest/highest volume waterfalls in the world. A huge rainbow encircled (yes, a full circle) the waterfall due to the magnitude of the mist and the low angle of the Sun. Again, Rachel was very patient about deviating from the plan.

Next, we stopped in Hverarond for 15 minutes to see the sulfurous geothermal vents and ended up in the geothermal baths in Reykjahlíð around 11pm. The baths are open very late in the summer since the sun never sets. The baths have a sulfurous smell and milky hue and have wooden seats and booths on the perimeter for people to sit. We had some fun in the natural baths and then relaxed after 10 hours on the road. Still not at our destination yet, we drove past the picturesque city of Akureyri (filling up with gas and getting a jump), and arrived at our airbnb cabin in Skagavegur around 3am. The constant daylight has a way of shifting your sleep schedule by an hour or so every day. Most of the locals have blackout curtains to deal with it. Our solution was just not to sleep

Day 4

Day 4 we slept in and did laundry in the cabin and visited a lighthouse north of the cottage. Rachel loves touring lighthouses with me. I don't think we ever found the beautiful rock our nice hosts tried to tell us about. On the road toward the western Fjords we skipped over the arctic fox research center, having seen one cross Rt.1 in the south a few days earlier. Instead, we shared a lamb dinner and a lobster pizza in Holmavik. Eventually, we reached Ísafjörður in the western Fjords. The town is nestled between two steep hills and is a regular destination for small cruise ships from Europe. We got out and walked around and ate gas station hot dogs for lunch, which are actually very delicious in Iceland. Most of the organized kayak tours for the next day were booked.

Day 5

Today was the best day because Puffins. After breakfast, we hiked up to the bowl over looking the town and took photographs. There was snow and the trail was not clear, so we did not make it up the entire ridge, but it was fun watching the smaller boats ferry passengers to and from the small German cruise shipped docked in deeper waters. After our hike, we continued to the road trip in and out and in and out and in and out of the west Fjords. A 5km tunnel allowed us to skip the most dangerous Fjord roads.

At one point, a rock got caught in the break calipers and made a horrendous screaming sound. I tried to remove it by taking off the wheel and looking into the caliper, but it would not budge. Would we ever make it to the Puffins? Was our trip over? We had come so far, but the nearest auto shop was hours away. Eventually, we worked the rock loose by driving the car despite the horrendous sound.


The sun eventually reached the horizons edge, but did not dare go farther. We reached the most south western point of the Western Fjords while there were still people in the parking lot - amazingly though, we did not need a jump when we restarted the car (the dead battery was still stressing us out, but we did not dare stop to fix it). The steep cliff were covered in Puffins and other sea birds just chilling. It took both of us about an hour to get over the birds and another 1.5 hours to become tired of photographing them.

Declaring our trip to Iceland successful, we notch three hours of the trip to Reykjavik and go to bed at 3am. Rachel stayed awake the entire time and helped me stay awake. At one point, I pulled off the side of the road to rearrange something in the trunk. A trash bag managed to get loose and the wind started pulling it along. Not wanting to disturb the pristine Icelandic environment, I chased it. I failed once, then twice to catch the bag in a quarter-mile dead sprint much to the enjoyment of Rachel and the the passengers in the passing cars. That night we dreamed about puffins.

Day 6

"Hello" said the thick Icelandic accent through the tent wall. "mhmgmgg" I moaned back. Yes, we'll come pay for the campsite. We filled up the tank and drove to our airbnb in Reykjavik. I hadn't arranged to meet the host ahead of time and we didn't have internet access, so that caused some friction. Eventually we overcame said friction and went out for dinner and ice cream and a walk through the quaint capitol. A hot shower felt nice before another trans-oceanic flight.

Day 7

We woke up early and Rachel drove me to the airport (I was off to Glasgow). She topped of the tank and killed some time before her afternoon flight. Iceland: 10/10 would go back in a heartbeat.