Day 6: Auyreki
Check out Part One of Pete's Icelandic road trip here!
I had another late rise this morning and woke up at around 10 a.m. Breakfast consisted of this trip’s staples: potatoes, avocado, and the omnipresent spinach. I’m comin’ for your brand, Popeye.
First up on today’s game show: the renowned Goðafoss waterfall! Famous for its massive stature, at over 30 feet tall and 90 feet wide, this waterfall isn’t playing around. I took a detour while en route to the falls to check out Grjótagjá cave and geek out over the natural phenomenon. The small lava cave near Lake Mývatn is filled with steaming blue water and has even been featured in Game of Thrones!
I enjoyed a sandwich and a soak in the water before returning to the road. I was taken aback by the sulfur springs that I passed along the way; the desolate landscape of contrasting red and tan stone took me by surprise. Or rather, they took my nose by surprise (you can smell the springs before you can see them).
My next stop was Dettifoss waterfall, renowned as the biggest waterfall in Europe! The sound coming from the fall was nearly deafening and I was amazed by the sheer power of the water. Just when I thought that the view couldn’t get more impressive, a rainbow appeared and I stood corrected.
I have no idea what TLC was talking about when they told people “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” This was one of the most awe-inspiring days of my life.
Before I knew it, night and hunger had crept up on me. I hadn’t had much to eat since breakfast and my stomach was keen to remind me that it was runnin’ on empty. I returned to my car and began the long drive to Glacier Lagoon. I made two quick pit stops along the way. The first was at a Subway to grab a $15 sub (so much for the five dollar footlong), and the second was at a grocery store to pick up some burgers to cook for dinner.
After the grocery store, I stopped in a cafe to enjoy a latte and get in some work for the evening. The latte was as strong as Dettifoss! I crushed a couple hours of work and hit the road with eyes wide open at 11 p.m. The nice thing about Iceland at this time of year is that it never gets completely dark outside since the sun doesn’t ever set entirely. The paved road I traveled on turned to a path of dirt and gravel as I sought my resting place for the night.
I decided to pull off at a picnic area and settled right by yet another beautiful waterfall (not complaining) and was taken over by the spirit of the night. I opened all the doors on my RAV4, cranked my music up, and grilled to my heart’s content. I quickly realized that you don’t need to cross borders to keep the party alive. A jam session with good beer and even better food is an international good time.
I think it’s safe to say that no sleep will be had tonight. The views and vibes were too good and the sun is already rising!
Day 7: Jökulsárlón
Since last night kind of rolled right into this morning, I was able to leave for Glacier Lagoon pretty early. My drive to Glacier Lagoon blew California’s coastal scenery out of the water. The view of the sun rising up over the ocean was insane! I was able to safely pull off to the side of the road and capture a few incredible shots with the DJI Mavic Air drone. (PSA: Don’t just randomly pull over on the side of the road in Iceland, it’s inconvenient and unsafe for other drivers and yourself!).
It was cloudy when I arrived at Glacier Lagoon but, luckily, the sun soon came out shortly after I got there. I started the hike to the coastal beach area and headed over the bridge to the lagoon to see the massive icebergs in the crystal blue waters. The trek took me a little over two hours in total.
The sun was blazing down during my hike and I was really feeling the heat midway through my journey. I stopped to take a break on the shore next to the water and take in the view. With the feeling of the warm sun on my face, I began to think that maybe the water would feel good.
I saw a couple big ice cubes (see also: icebergs) and reconsidered my thought for just a nanosecond. But, in the end, the temptation was too great and I decided to jump in.
Skinny dipping was my really my only option since I didn’t have a bathing suit. Before I dove in, I said a quick prayer that no other hikers would pass by and get more of a view than they were looking for.
I stripped down, got a running start, and dove in headfirst!
Let’s just say that I’ve felt warmer water before.
Day 8: Vík
It rained cats and dogs all day today! A local couple I met at Glacier Lagoon told me that this has been one of the rainiest summer seasons in the South. I feel fortunate to have had such good timing with the weather for a majority of this trip.
I spent the morning waiting to see if the weather would chill out, but eventually decided that nothing would rain on my parade. I found a sick running route nearby and hit the trail. Since I didn’t really have a set destination for my run, I figured I would just run until I had run enough. Fast forward to a cool 10 miles later and I’m even more obsessed with Iceland than before. The views were so amazing during my run that I’m sure I could have easily run another 10 if not for my stomach reminding me that I was hungry.
After my run, I worked in IceCave cafe in Vík and recharged with some much-needed coffee and snacks. Today’s adventure ended up being one of the most enjoyable workouts I’ve had in a long time, and I feel like I have a new understanding of the terrain of this beautiful country. No bad days.
Day 9: Vík
I woke up in Vik to the sun shining into my car. I whipped up one of my world famous PB&Js before I took to the road. My first stop for the day was the iconic Sólheimasandur Beach to visit a historic airplane crash site. The plane is a United States Navy DC airplane that crashed after a fuel crisis in 1973. Fortunately, everyone on board at the time of the crash survived.
The hike from the road to the airplane was about 7km (4.3mi), so I decided to throw on my running shoes and make a workout out of it. The crash site was surrounded by black sands and the plane itself was remarkably intact after all these years.
Surprisingly, I had cell service near the plane so I seized the opportunity to check my phone notifications. While I was shooting the plane, my phone started buzzing and I checked the message. It was from Hella Drop Zone to notify me that they would be skydiving today! I looked up from my phone at the remnants of a plane crash and somehow knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump.
My speedy run back to the car was fueled by sheer excitement at the prospect of today’s adrenaline fix! I drove for 45 minutes to the drop zone and was stoked to see open canopies and floating skydivers in the blue sky above. I’m sure at this point I was grinning like an idiot.
I went to the front office and geared up in the shed. After a quick and dirty gear check, I was in the plane and set for takeoff. Once we hit proper altitude (10,000 ft) we were given the green light to blast off. I jumped out of the plane and into the breezy Iceland air!
I’ve been lucky to experience some pretty epic adventures in my day, but none of them compare to this day of skydiving in Iceland.
After a crazy day of jumping, I cooked a bowl of pasta in the back of the Rav and headed into the city center of Reykjavik. I met up with my friend Jon, whom I met while skydiving, for a night on the town. Our night out ended up being us swapping trip stories alongside a delicious Mediterranean dinner. Jon and I made plans to cross paths on our next greatest adventure before we went our separate ways.
I ended up at a campsite in the city center and took a hot shower to freshen up in preparation for tomorrow’s trip back home.
Day 10: Reykjavik
I woke up a bit somber knowing that I would have to say goodbye to this magical place today . I made it my breakfast mission to get rid of any perishable food I had left. I had eggs cooked in garlic olive oil, spinach (my go-to), pita bread, an egg sandwich on toasted bread, and a breakfast beer. Mission accomplished.
I had quite the gear to repack into my luggage before my flight this evening. The deflated Luno Life Air Mattress rolled up with ease and packed away perfectly with the pump. I separated my dirty and clean clothes and organized items to be ready for takeoff. After checking that my battery packs were all fully juiced, I hit the Icelandic road one last time to head to the airport.
I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude as I soaked up every last drop of Iceland’s beauty. This trip was greater than I could have ever planned. The weather worked out, I got the skydiving experience of a lifetime, and made new friends on the road. It was an unforgettable experience. It’s crazy to me that none of this would have happened if I hadn’t made that fateful, albeit impulsive, decision to come here.
Life is funny that way.
Until next time,