We picked up our hire car this morning. The plan for the next week or so is to drive around Iceland, check out some sites and wild camp along the way.
▣ Highly recommend ▣ Boring but safe ▣ Shit. Boring, strenuous & dangerous ▣ Incomplete
What I thought’d happen
A relaxing day road tripping, la la la
What actually happened
Got pissed off at tourists, ate what I can only explain as death and camped by the side of the road in a ditch.
We picked up our rental car in Reykjavik and drove in a south easterly direction. We had a rough self-drive itinerary that we were following but we weren’t too concerned with following it on point.
Our first stop was the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal pool of silica mud with a strange milky blue appearance. Due to it’s high concentrations of minerals such as silica and sulfur, the pool is said to cure various medical ailments and skin conditions.
I’d seen a bunch of photos of the Blue Lagoon before flying to Iceland and it looked so ungodly cool that I had high expectations. But the solitude and peace of being surrounded by untouched wilderness over the past few days has changed my perception of things. When we arrived at the blue lagoon I was repulsed.
It wasn’t the serene place I’d imagined. It was a giant pond, of yes beautiful colour, that had been partially fenced off by a high concrete wall. Water that due to the build up of minerals over time has become impermeable, and is now cold and redundant, has been fenced off with rope and ‘do not touch’ signs. The only entrance to the lagoon was through the immaculate spa entrance, now total pandemonium with the hoards of tourist buses arriving.
It’s 35E entry, but if you upgrade to a 165E ‘luxury pass’ and add another 250E for a hotel room, you can spend an entire day sitting content in a pool of mud, like a pig in shit, distracting yourself from real adventures in Iceland, which by the way you did pay a lot of money to fly to.
I’m not opposed to making money from tourist attractions, it’s how the world works. But this place doesn’t belong in Iceland. Iceland is all about letting you teeter on the very edge of the biggest waterfall in Europe, letting the spray wet your face and the wind wobble you precariously. You could dive in if you wanted! Death is your responsibility. Life is to be lived and left alone.
This place is a sham and all the locals know it. If you don’t believe me ask a few. Oh and the best part? The slogan, ‘One of the 25 wonders of the world’. This pool was literally formed from the waste water of a geothermal power plant. AND it’s not the only one in Iceland. There’s a much cheaper one up north near Myrvatn.
Dinner of champions
We stopped off for dinner at a restaurant in Vik. I was in a shit mood so we ordered a starter of rotten shark and dried fish to cheer me up.
The first thing to hit you is the acrid smell wafting, even before the bloody plate has left the waiters hands. Then, scooping up a small chewy, salty, smelly cube, raise it closer to your mouth. The smell explodes in a mixture of blue cheese and fish, punching you in the face before you’ve even taken a goddam bite. Now make your move. Place it between your teeth and slowly slide it off the fork.
I’ve got an idea. Visit your local fish shop, ask to go out the back and take one big lick of their concrete floor. Real slow like. Years of dead fish ground into the cement in one delicious mouthful of flavour. But we’re not done. Now sip a cap of nail polish remover. Savour the combination of flavours. SAVOUR THEM. That’s what rotten shark tastes like.
After this we drove on to Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Go on say it. SAY IT OUT LOUD I DARE YOU.
On the way we pulled over by the side of the road to admire the sunset. The beautiful wild purple flowers bathing in the soft light. Everything was a beautiful shade of lilac.
Of course, everything beautiful comes at a price. Our’s was stupidity. Thinking we could pull off the side of an Icelandic road. Laughable. Roads in Iceland are made for a reason, unless you have a monster truck – stick to them.
I got out and pushed while Rick reversed. Our car was bogged and all we managed to do was rev ourselves a deeper hole. It was comedic. Eventually we paused, hands on hips and deliberated what to do next. Fortunately at that moment an Icelandic couple pulled up next to us and offered us a shovel (and a hand). They cheerfully joined in, pushing, pulling and digging around our car until it freed and zipped up to the asphalt. Yay Icelandic people, you seem to be the only nation on earth that doesn’t hate tourists yet!
The one Icelandic guy that does hate tourists
So we made it to Kirkjubæjarklaustur and set about trying to find a place to wild camp. By this stage it was 11pm and the sun had finally gone down, well as much as it can do in the height of summer. I was busting for the toilet so we pulled down a long gravel driveway into a campsite to see if I could use the bathroom. A long, lean figure rushed out to meet us in the car, wildly wielding an Eftpos machine, and in a rushed voice, words tumbling over each other, he told us the price and to pay immediately. I was caught a little off guard by his demeanour, it was rude and impatient and I scrambled for the most polite way of saying ‘I just wanted to use your toilet’. I couldn’t bear to admit my cheekiness, so instead I said ‘uhhh no that’s ok’. His voice rose accusingly and his pace increased. ‘So you’re trying to stay at my campsite for free? It’s only 15E a night, and you’re trying to use it for free?!’ He went on and on. We cut him short, said ‘OK mate, we’re leaving’ and reversed back down the driveway leaving him ranting in the distance.
The thing is, I know I’m guilty of being a prick. I just wanted to use the bathroom. Jerk move. But if for example he had of asked in a kindly voice ‘do you want to stay here?’, I would have immediately felt I probably should. Why not give some money to the locals. I’m childish sometimes, I said no purely out of principle.
Anyway, we drove on. About five minutes down the road we noticed a burgundy sedan following our car closely. In the front window we could see the menacing silhouette of the camp owner, staring determinedly in our direction. A little unnerved, we pulled over to the side of the road to see if we could camp there and to let him pass. The car drove on.
Deciding the ground was too uneven to set up our tent, we drove a little further before settling on a ditch by the side of the road. It wasn’t the best place to camp, trucks zoomed past well into the night, but we were so tired and confused whether other Icelanders would care as much as that maniac seemed to, that we just settled.
The burgundy sedan did a loop and drove back, slowing down as it passed us. Content that we had sufficiently unpacked our tent not to bother sneaking into his campsite, he zoomed off. That poor asshole.
What I learned today:
- Look for campsites before sunset
- The best things in life are free