I awoke stiff as a board. My whole body had tensed up from a night of relentless shivering. My feet, which were wrapped in three utterly useless pairs of socks, and the tip of my nose, stung in protest to the cold. I was going to have to get used to this.
As my eyes came into focus, I realised that the sides of my tent were sagging just a few inches from my face. Condensation streaked across its inner lining, but luckily, nothing important seemed to be damp. I stuck my head outside and looked around to assess the damage.
The ground was covered in a thin layer of frost, as was Jim’s tent; it too, gently sagging inwards. The frigid breeze, which had somewhat died down since last night, brought with it tiny flecks of snow and as I gazed up at the ocean, Grímsey Island was almost completely masked by a swirling, grey mist.
Across the campsite, there was no stir from the Spanish motorcyclist, who had pitched his tent next to his bike. I shuddered at the thought of riding in such conditions.
I attempted to dry my wet, icy tent, by hanging it across some chairs next to a radiator in the amenities block. Jim rustled up some beans and mushrooms on toast for breakfast and we sat down to discuss our plan for the day.
Once again, the weather was dire, but we are a stubborn pair of gingers and wanted to see more of the West Fjords. We decided we would drive north along the coast, aiming to reach the tiny town of Djúpavik.
This, of course, never materialised. We made it about half way, along unpaved, iced-over roads, with sheer drops into the ocean to one side and barren wilderness to the other. Visibility was bordering the ridiculous, as were the pot holes, which were becoming increasingly disguised by layers of slush and kept catching me out when I went to take a swig from my water bottle.
We passed numerous waterfalls and smallholdings – I was baffled that people chose to live out here; it felt like we were at the end of the Earth.
Defeated and exhausted from the difficult driving conditions, we threw in the towel and turned around. With no solid plan in place, we decided to see how far we could get going in the other direction. We drove in silence; Jim at the wheel, me buried in a packet of double stuffed Oreos, eating my feelings, until somewhere along the 643, Jim suddenly yelled, “SEALS?”
I cranked my head around; half strangling myself with my seatbelt, an Oreo hanging out of my mouth, just in time to see a couple of shiny rocks in the shallows of the fjord disappearing into the distance.
I squinted. Then, one of the rocks moved, I was sure of it.
A muffled squeal of glee and cloud of chocolate crumbs burst from my lips. We found somewhere to turn the car around and raced back. Indeed they were seals, lazing in the shallow water amongst clumps of seaweed and actual rocks (well done Jim)! Our glum moods dissolved instantly. It’s amazing what a mere seal can do for one’s morale.
We stood in the cold and watched them lethargically roll around for as long as we could bear. We then proceeded to drive a really, really long way. From the 643, we joined Route 61, followed by Route 68, both of which follow the contours of land and water along the neck of the western peninsular.
We travelled for what felt like hours upon end, before rejoining the famous Ring Road and continuing our clockwise journey once more. When we finally pulled up for lunch, we couldn’t quite believe the amount of dirt that we had collected along the way, most of which would have come from our unfortunate misadventure through no man’s land that morning.
We made it to the town of Blönduós in the late afternoon. The weather had calmed down a lot since leaving the West Fjords region, but it was still grey, damp and breezy. The thought of setting up my tent and spending another night in the cold made me want to cry, so with a huge amount of persuasion (Jim can be a tight arse, and genuinely does not understand the concept of feeling cold), I managed to get us into a cabin for the evening.
We hung our wet tents, organised our food supply and spread Jim’s enormous map of Iceland out across the table, devising at least some form of strategy for the upcoming week. This made us feel much more relaxed after a haphazard couple of days. We then celebrated by cooking veggie burgers, playing cards and getting wonderfully tipsy on G&T.
I slept like a goddamn baby.
Glaðheimar Cottages and Camping