Beautiful Iceland Showed us its Windy and Rainy Side

Adventure is out there

Our group consisted of eight friends, and we wanted to experience Iceland and its nature as directly as possible: drive mostly on narrow mountain roads, hike a lot, camp wild and survive on a diet of cereals, spaghetti and milk rice.

Since we wanted to see polar lights, we chose to travel in Aug/Sep instead of during the “high summer months.” So we booked the plane tickets and split up the important topics amongst the eight of us: finances, rental cars, route and sightseeing, camping, cooking.

We chose a rental company, booked and then confirmed and reconfirmed everything. All we wanted was a pickup for 8 people, two 4x4s large enough to hold our backpacks, camping equipment and a gas stove. Not that complicated, is it? Well, GoIceland managed to get it all wrong. At KEF — Reykjavik’s International Airport – we were “warmly” greeted by pouring rain and an astonished and confused look: “How come you are eight? We cannot transport 8 people to our office!”

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So we decided that only the drivers will go to the office, get the cars, then pick up the rest of the group from the airport. On the way to the office they told us that they don’t have enough cars, but that we’ll get ‘something.’ In the office they told us we are getting ‘an upgrade’ to a Durango and a Ford Escape. The Durango seemed OK, but the Escape is tiny compared to the Cherokee that we’d booked. ‘No problem’ they said, in two days we’ll drive to you with a Cherokee and we’ll switch cars. Then they were surprised by us expecting to pick up a gas cooker. The first one that they found was a tiny thing suitable for tea and coffee only, but the second one was OK. They gave us a small gas bottle and said that we can refill it at any gas station. And off we went … except we had to go back immediately, because the Durango was out of gas. ‘Oh, just fill it up, they said, then bring it back empty.’ It was 2 am, mind you, and everything was closed, but luckily there are automatic gas stations in Iceland, so we tanked, drove back to the airport and picked up everybody.

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A great beginning of a holiday that we were looking forward to for months!

So we drove to a hostel in Reykjavik, had a good night’s sleep and next morning went shopping for food: two hours later and 600 EUR poorer we were ready for the road!

We had fabulous days to come. Despite being a tourist attraction the golden circle southeast of Reykjavik was a first taste. The Great Geysir (which gave its name to all other geysers in the world) is now dormant, but nearby Strokkur impressed us by erupting every 3–5 minutes 15–25 m high.

In the meantime we’d found out that no gas station was able to fill up or replace our gas bottle, so we called GoIceland. They assured us, the’ll bring us gas when they meet us two days later for swapping the Escape for a Cherokee. We entered the Highlands with mixed feelings…

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Two days later no one called or came. Also not after 3, 4 or 12 days. They made all kinds of excuses and promises on the phone, but nothing happened. After three days we were forced to cut the hose of the gas cooker, buy and install a new adapter and buy a standard gas bottle. We never got reimbursed by GoIceland for this, but at least we could cook as much as we wanted to!

Also in terms of the weather our luck had its limits. We knew it rains quite a lot in Iceland, but having 11.5 days rain out of 14 and a maximum temperature of 10 degrees can be quite frustrating. Especially for photographers. But as one of us said, this rain and wind are the reason for this unique lush-green landscape and for Iceland being Iceland.

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We even had to change our plans because of a snowstorm. One Icelander told us that last year such a storm had killed 10 000 sheep (they were blown into the Atlantic Ocean), so we decided to board a ferry instead and go further south. The ride with the ferry was extremely shaky, but we are still alive and that’s all that matters.

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You might ask yourself if there is anything good to be told about our trip.

Well, of course there is! Iceland impressed us with its superb nature consisting of endless highlands, massive glaciers, deep fjords, widespread moss-covered lava fields, countless waterfalls (each more beautiful than the other), steep coasts, interesting rock formations, stunning volcanic cones, deep canyons, beaches with fine black sand, a million sheep, cute Icelandic horses and the most beautiful rainbows we ever saw.

For more images see our Iceland 2013 portfolio.

Camping in the Icelandic wilderness

We crossed the lava and stone deserts of the highlands on quite adventurous dirt roads, hiked beautiful mountains (e.g. Jules Vernes’ Snæfellsjokull), made a snowball fight on the second biggest glacier Langjokull, watched geysers erupting and thermal springs steaming (and stinking like rotten eggs), took a bath in a hot pot, explored two wild caves, bridged the gap between two contintens (there is a bridge joining the Eurasian and the North American continental plates, see the second-to-last image in this posting), saw the famous Aurora Borealis (just once, unfortunately) and met only a handful of people, which is the cornerstone of a proper outdoor experience.

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During our stay we had even more car problems: a flat tire, the engine of the Durango died unexpectedly a few times every day, the starter of the Escape was getting progressively worse, and the Durango was using about 25 liters of gas per 100 km. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be boring without such unforeseen adventures? They made our trip more exciting and memorable.

All in all, we fell in love with Iceland, and despite the bad experience with the car rental company, Iceland is once again on our list of future destinations.

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Polar lights (finally!!!)

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