Written by the Warrior
We travelled along Iceland’s Ring Road in the clockwise direction from the West, to the North, then to the East and finally to the South.
Along the way, we met many people who were travelling in the counter clockwise direction, who universally went at lengths about the unparallelled beauty of the South.
However, by the time we arrived in the South, we were blanketed by a storm system of heavy rains and gale force winds. Even with all our layers on, we were chilled to the bone within minutes. This is certainly not travel at its funnest.
Luckily, I figured out how to use the incredibly useful weather app veður, available from Apple’s app store (yes, it took me most of the trip), I discovered that Skaftfell (136 km to the west/2 hours away) appeared to be the only sunny place in all of South Iceland.
Not wanting to squander away precious time, That Guy agreed to drive the two hours each way for our quest for sunshine.
We drove for 2 hours with rain bucketing down on us. It was so windy that one of the waterfalls that we saw en route became the 8th wonder of the world – a horizontal waterfall! Aside from sheep grazing right next to the road, we could not see anything on either side of the Ring Road, only occasional faint lines of mountains.
And then, there it was, in the far distance, blue skies!
We have arrived at Skaftafell!
The gateway to Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Europe, home to the great Vatnajökull ice cap, the largest ice cap outside the poles.
The rangers told me that many of the hiking routes were closed that day due to the extreme windy conditions, but that we could try the “Skaftafellsjökull trail”, an easy 15 minute trail designed that even the mobility challenged can do. It is also well marked and leads to the Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue.
The hike ended up being super challenging that day. The wind was so fierce that the Dragon and the Tiger Princess were literally blown down to the ground on more than one occasion.
Even with wrap around sun glasses on, we all ended up getting gravel bits in our eyes. And after several face plants due to the wind, both the Dragon and the Tiger Princess whined the whole rest of the way.
But it was all worth it. We were lucky enough that day, to find the only strip of clear sky, to have the rare opportunity to come face to face with a true wonder of the world – a 10,000 year old glacier face.
On the drive back to Hofn, where we were staying, a beautiful rainbow appeared toward the mountain side.
We stopped the car to take some photos, and the wind almost took the doors off. I am not exaggerating! According to Budget Car Rental’s brochure, car door damage due to wind is really really common in Iceland. They also provided step by step procedures to avoid such damage, which I read, word for word, after the trip.
During this time, I thought about how unique Iceland is and the Icelandic spirit, so to say. Until recent decades, Iceland was in fact, one of the poorest countries in Europe and one of the hardest places in the world to eke out a living. There is no forest, not much fertile land, many famous geological catastrophies (remember the volcano that no one can pronounce, Eyjafjallajökull’s 2010 eruption that interrupted air travel in Europe for something like 10 days?), long winter nights, a colder climate year round, severe weather conditions, in addition to centuries of foreign oppression and more recently the 2008 economic meltdown where the whole country went bankrupt.
Looking at how prosperous the country is today, a mere 8 years after bankruptcy, I realized that from all the hardships, emerged a truly resilient nation, for whom, there is always a rainbow at the end of a crazy storm.
And for us, somewhere over that double rainbow… (yes, it was a double rainbow!)
After driving for hours in search of sun and after tackling an easy 15 minute hike in exactly 4 hours flat, there is really yummy (albeit, really expensive) dessert…
Really great pictures…
A crazy adventure… And priceless memories…