Flying parallel to the country’s south shores, we caught our first glimpse of what was to come; the late September landscape looked drained of colour and every contour was enveloped in an eerie bleakness. Ominous patches of rain cloud hung silently in otherwise clear skies, sinisterly blackening anything that lay beneath them.
After the usual faffing that one does upon arrival in any airport (including buying a litre of Bombay Sapphire from the nearest duty free), we set down to wait for our car rental company of choice; Icerental 4×4, to pick us up and take us to their depot.
A Romanian man sporting the company logo on his t-shirt casually made an appearance after what felt like an eternity, piled us, and a group of Dutch guys into an old mini bus and jolted us around the streets of Keflavík until we found ourselves at a small warehouse on an quiet industrial estate.
We were taken through the usual car rental checks and procedures; conjuring a fleeting pang of anxiousness from deep within my non-committal being, and before we knew it, we were driving our creaky old Suzuki Jimny up the 41 in search of a supermarket to buy supplies.
Bearing in mind that I had never driven on the right-hand side of the road before, I thought that I got the knack of it surprisingly fast (a chorus of expletives and shrieks combined with Jim’s frantic gestures to GO LEFT, as we occasionally veered uncomfortably close to the road’s edge, certainly helped speed up the learning process).
It was already around 4pm by the time we had stocked up on camp-worthy meals from Bónus, and our overly optimistic/severely miscalculated plan to drive over 200km to Ólafsvík was fading with the daylight. Instead, we agreed to take our eagerness down a notch and settle for the port town of Akranes, under an hour away.
Our itinerary was obnoxiously straightforward and very little thought had been put into the following days’ plans. All we really knew at that moment in time was that we wanted to spend the next two weeks heading clockwise around the country; in a bid to avoid the tourist bubble that generally migrates in the opposite direction and lingers on the south coast. To do so, we would follow Route 1, famously known as the Ring Road, and deviate off course for added (mis)adventures where necessary.
As we pushed our unwieldy trolley across the supermarket car park, the heavens opened, the temperature plummeted and my optimism sputtered to a temporary halt. This would become a regular occurrence over the next fortnight.
. . .
Located west off the Ring Road, not too far from the Hvalfjörður tunnel, Akranes camping site was a lovely spot overlooking the ocean. By this point, the weather had cleared up and the sun was contemplating its lazy decent behind the distant mountains.
We set up camp, tucked into a packet of flavoured couscous each and perched in the boot of the car in an attempt to shield ourselves from the cold wind.
As darkness set in, bringing to life the twinkling lights of distant towns on the horizon, we toasted our survival with a stiff G&T and got into our tents. I snuggled deep into my sleeping bag, falling asleep to the sounds of the waves washing over the jagged rocks, just a stones throw away.
Akranes Camping Site
Gear List: Camping in Iceland in September