Vík – Hella
I awoke before sunrise in the passenger seat, twisted helplessly in my sleeping bag. My neck was stiff from being lodged in an awkward upright position all night, my throat sore, and as my eyes adjusted to the dim morning light, I realised that the entire car was steamed up and dripping with condensation from the heat of our own bodies.
Water was dribbling down the passenger window and onto my right-hand side, and a pool of it glistened on the dashboard; disgusting, I thought to myself, imagining it to be made up purely of our own exhales and sweat. I checked my appearance in the rear-view mirror and groaned at the sight my puffy face, complete with a dried patch of saliva below my lips.
The ferocious wind practically rocked us to sleep in the car overnight, but had calmed down considerably as we set off for Reynisfjara Beach. We agreed to skip breakfast in favour of catching the sunrise and avoiding as many tourists as possible.
The black sand beach is famous for its magnificent basalt columns, raging ‘sneaker’ waves (that have dragged many an unsuspecting tourist out to their watery deaths) and eerie sea stacks.
The wind on the beach ripped at my hair and clothes, numbed my gloved hands and drew tears from my eyes and nose. The waves were both mesmerising and frightening. They were large and fast; breaking at what felt like a safe distance away, but then shooting a shallow but deadly swathe of foamy water up the beach; like clawing hands looking for feeble bodies to claim.
The driving wind carried their roars, rendering me deaf to anything Jim was saying, though I’d put my money on it being something based around geology.
We marvelled at the basalt columns along the cliff until the wind chill got the better of us, and then headed back to the car for a bite to eat.
Our next stop along the South Coast was Dyrhólaey, a small peninsular home to an old lighthouse, a number of sea stacks and arches and staggering views that appeared to stretch on forever across the swirling ocean, along the black sand beaches and over to the distant Mýrdalsjökull glacier. We also saw some blubber boys sloshing around in the choppy waves, putting a smile on our wind beaten faces.
On we drove to Skógafoss, a waterfall I had seen countless times online, adored by all for its sheer size and beauty. The falls is so large in fact, that it is clearly visible from the Ring Road and almost looks man made as you approach the car park.
The spray coming off the plummeting water was blinding, and me and my camera were soon drenched; but it didn’t stop me from edging as close as I could and staring in awe at the incredible spectacle.
We decided to take advantage of the sunshine and hike up the steep steps to the observational platform above the falls for a different perspective. Then, realising that there was a path following the Skógá river, we ambled on further.
The river and its surrounds were beautiful. We passed lots of smaller waterfalls and were gifted with the most stunning mountainous backdrop; their jagged, snowy caps contrasting with the lush green land beneath our feet.
After a few hours of strolling in the sunshine, we jumped back in the car and set off for Hella, a small town perched on the shores of the river Ytri-Rangá. We found a campsite called Árhús, and opted for a night in one of their basic cabins overlooking the water.
We had some time to kill before we could retrieve our keys, so we ventured off to buy some groceries from a nearby Krónan supermarket and took a spontaneous, bumpy detour to Keldur, a medieval turf-roofed farm nestled deep in the countryside.
The farm dates back almost a thousand years, although the settlement itself is much older. We soon realised that we had the place to ourselves when we read the sign telling us that it was closed for the winter, but we were still able to wander around, peer in through the old windows of Keldur Hall and explore the small, neat grounds.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day.