“I need help setting up my tent, I haven’t even opened it since I bought it.”
It was a wet night in October, we were about to set up camp at Atlavik on the shores of Lagarfljt, a glacial lake reportedly home to a giant worm monster, and I had no idea if anything was even inside the carry case I had brought from home. Right now I felt more prepared in dealing with a water beast than I was to pitch a tent for the first time in the dark.
The plan I had made, was to drive the ring road around Iceland and camp for five nights. I didn’t own a tent and I had never camped. But I agreed with gusto, as I said “adventuring”!
Camping in Iceland, in October, had seemed a bit of a gamble but at the end of the season it meant quiet roads and empty camp sites. The facilities, in most cases, were locked but it was a small hurdle to put up with.
My adventure began when I landed at Reykavik airport. After picking up my rental car I started my 6 hour drive to Olafsjordur in the north, to meet friends who were completing artists residencies there. A lovely small town, which I only spent one night in.
Over the next few days we drove east and explored waterfalls and the lava structures of Dimmuborgir, the home of the ‘Yule Lads’. They are the sons of trolls who sleep in caves during summer but wake up in winter to prepare for Christmas. The lava has made extraordinary sculptures, including a ‘church’ that can be seen in the bottom left picture.
We spent time soaking in Myvatn Nature Baths and walked the edges of Krafla caldera before exploring the bubbling mud pools of Namafjall Hverir. I soon learned that the smell of sulphur goes hand in hand with a trip to Iceland.
Next up it was the turn of the waterfalls; Dettifoss and Selfoss. Visiting this landscape, shaped by such huge masses of water, was like visiting another world. Just remember your waterproof and hood.
After the waterfalls, night three was spent at Atlavik, a beautiful spot on the edge of Lagarfljt lake. As I mentioned, it’s the rumoured home of a giant water beast, but we were lucky and didn’t encounter it during our evening or on our walk around the forest the following day. We found a small area dedicated to Icelandic poet þorsteinn Valdimarsson in the middle of the woods.
We moved on to Vatnajökull National Park so my Canadian friend could see reindeer for the first time, the disappointment hard to hide from her face when she found out they were just caribou, an animal she has seen hundreds of times. But the compact and excellent visitor centre made up for any feelings of dismay. As did Hengifoss, a hanging waterfall.
Next up we drove to village of Djupivogur to see The Eggs of Merry Bay, an outdoor art installation by Icelandic Sigurður Guðmundsson. The artwork consists of 34 eggs, one representing each of the species of local birds. The eggs are all similar in size except for one, which is the largest one and belongs to the red – throated diver, the characteristic bird of Djupivogur. On our way to the next campsite we passed through some beautiful scenery before bedding down for the evening and preparing our meals for the following day.
Next, and last, on the list of attractions to visit as a group, was Jökulsárlón – a glacial river lagoon in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. We floated around the lake on an amphibious boat and held ice that was 1000 years old before parting ways on the black sand beaches of the lake.
I then drove west, making my way to Reykjavik where I attended the Iceland Film Festival for five days and slept in a bed.