Anniversary trip - Day 3: Southern Coast
29 April 2017
On our last full day in Iceland I decided to take our rental car and drive it all the way to Vik and then back to Reykjavik. It was, by far, the one thing that I was looking forward to when we were there. So then we get to the day when we're supposed to go out and it starts snowing. Then blizzard conditions hit ... well, maybe not for the Icelandic people, but it was bad. Good thing I had an awesome rental car to get us through it!
Before we headed out we had an amazing breakfast by picking up pastries for the drive from Braud & Co. Maybe one of the best bakeries that either of us had ever been to (yes, this includes even after our trip to Paris). Now rewind a few days when we arrived in Iceland and the first thing we did after getting our luggage was picking up our rental car. Since I'm cheap and realized we would only be using it for 1.5 days I went with the "VW Golf or similar" option. When we arrive we were asked if wanted a free upgrade to an SUV. Obviously we said yes. I mean, who turns down free upgrades? The guy behind the counter gives me the keys and tells us to do a walk-around to make sure there were no additional dents, dings, etc. All he says is "it's the Duster out there." Was that some Icelandic slang for a sweet car or is it a car brand I've never heard of before? It was the latter (and maybe a bit of the former). After Christi had a good idea to look at the license plate, we found our sweet upgrade and hopped inside. To my amazement/enjoyment/surprise .. it's a manual! Apparently the Duster comes in a 6-speed. Now let's fast forward back to the day of this post. Knowing the weather is going to be crappy, we head out anyways. Maybe it was my sticktoitiveness or our tour guide Gummi the day before telling us "the only way to experience Iceland is to explore" we were determined to go out. At first, the roads weren't horrible.
Driving around the country was pretty easy. The one thing I had to get accustomed to was the yellow light before the green. I slowed it down in the video above and you can easily tell who the tourists are, like myself, as other cars speed ahead of you waiting for the green. With this, and pedestrians scared to cross the road when cars were driving by, it seems like a complete opposite of the states where cars yield for people.
Knowing we would be driving through some weather, we had no clue what we would be getting into. In 10-15 minutes our two lane road quickly narrowed to one due to snow and ice covering it and visibility dropped to almost nothing as I was having trouble just seeing the car which was directly ahead of me. After white-knuckling it for what felt like a few hours, as much as I didn't want to, I told Christi that we should probably turn around. This extremely pained me to say out loud, even to my wife, since this was the one day I was eagerly awaiting. After missing a u-turn spot, we agreed that we would turn around at the next roundabout in ~15km. No more than 2km away from the roundabout and the skies suddenly open. We both look at each other and know that is our chance and decide to move forward.
While the rest of the drive wasn't all sunshines and rainbows we plugged on to make it to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Go figure ... we park right next to a Duster when we arrived. Seljalandsfoss was a much needed view after driving through snowy conditions all morning. One of the cool things we were able to see here was all of the ice formations on the rocks because of the earlier blizzard.
The best part about Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk behind it. The worst part, only when it snows, is that it's extremely slippery on a one-way path to get there. The good people of Iceland don't believe in railings in most places, Christi thinks it is to keep the scenery more pure/beautiful, and it makes it a little more risky to do things like this. We even saw a guy slip twice trying to traverse the rocks. Once we got behind there, it was absolutely amazing. Maybe even more so since there were less than a handful of people with us due to the conditions.
Just a short drive away we arrived at Skogafoss, where, go figure, we end up parking right next to another Duster. The same height as Seljalandsfoss, however it's much wider and feels more grand. The cool part about Skogafoss is that you can walk to the top and even walk very close to the base. Four hundred and twenty-seven (427!) steps later and you have an absolutely amazing view to see the water flowing above the waterfall. While it would've been nice to spend more time at the top since it was absolutely exhausting, the weather was coming for us and our windows were closing.
The last main stop on our drive was to Reynisfjara, the black sand beach outside of Vik. The wind was really starting to pick up but it didn't matter at all. The basalt columns and the black "sand" created from ground up volcanic rock made it seem like it was a perfectly sunny day outside.
Probably because of the weather, but when we turned the corner on the beach to two hidden caves, there was only a few other people out there with us. Even with the wind and rain whipping at us from what seemed like every direction it was great to have unobstructed views of the sand and the trolls, at the least the myth of two of them turning to stone in the sunlight, sticking up in the ocean.
While we could've turned around there and headed back, there were a few pictures of a church overlooking the town of Vik that I really wanted to see. After what we went through, a couple of extra minutes to get to the church didn't seem like that bad of a deal. I snapped some pictures at the top and then we were on our way back home.
Skipping lunch, or forgetting to eat since we were petrified of the drive, might've been our best move of the day. When we arrived back at Reykjavik we headed over to Reykjavik Chips for some of the most amazing grab-and-go fries we've ever had and then ended our day at the Pizza With No Name restaurant. Then for some much needed sleep for out flight the next morning.