Iceland Finale: The Golden Circle, Hell in Hella & Reykjavík

The following days are lumped together for a combination of reasons, but mostly for my own sanity. From days 11 – 15, we were underwhelmed by Iceland’s most popular tourist route, confined to our cabin for the better part of 24 hours due to a ferocious storm, and spent two days straight doing nothing but eating and experiencing pure anxiety over the prices of said food in Reykjavík. Oh, and we spent a morning surveying a room full of floating penises. Intrigued? Read on.

Day 11 – Hella | The Golden Circle

On the morning of the 11th day in Iceland, we decided to make our lives a touch easier and use our little cabin in Hella as a base for our last few days of exploring. The location was fairly central to the remaining spots we wanted to visit and it took the pressure off finding new accommodation for the next two nights, after which we had to drive to Reykjavík and return our beloved car.

It also meant that we could keep our plans a little looser and make decisions based more around the weather, which was looking to become pretty gnarly over the next 48 hours.

The Golden Circle is a sightseeing route in Southern Iceland, encompassing the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Þingvellir National Park. It’s particularly popular with people short of time or on stopover flights, as it can be done within a day from the capital. With this in mind, I already hated the idea of it.

We began by making our way to Gullfoss Waterfall, another of Iceland’s iconic sights. I was absolutely desperate for a wee as we pulled up in the car park, and was left feeling particularly disgruntled after having to pay 200 króna to empty my bladder.

The waterfall was undeniably spectacular, but having come from a clock-wise direction and experiencing the likes of Skógafoss, Dettifoss and everything in-between, I couldn’t help but feel a bit numb by this point.

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Next up was the Geysir, which definitely lifted my spirits. Waiting for it to bubble up and shoot a jet of steam and water into the air felt surprisingly exhilarating, and this was only heightened by the cheers and whistles of the crowd each time. We’re all children at heart.

We hung around and watched it from different angles, finding each whoosh as thrilling as the last, and explored the surrounding geothermal area, which was like a scaled down, less eggy version of Hverir.

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I don’t remember much about our final stop of the day, Þingvellir National Park, other than the car parking fee and my overwhelming exhaustion; I didn’t even get my camera out by this point. Jim was a lot more keen, so I focused all my energy on keeping up with him, as he bounded along enthusiastically, coming more alive with every mention of tectonic plates and fault lines.

That night, as predicted, a storm rolled in and battered our little cabin, so we decided we would sleep in and figure things out in the morning.

Day 12 – Hell in Hella

Below, is the only photo I took all day. The lonesome fungus (which I stumbled upon whilst out in gale force winds on a mission to shake the feeling of guilt, which loves to creep up on me when I feel like I should be doing something), was nestled in the grass somewhere along the Ytri-Rangá.

Driving in such conditions was out of the question and by the afternoon, cabin fever had firmly set in and I was restless. I’d organised my backpack, gone through my photos, snacked on anything I could get my hands on, annoyed Jim to some degree and even napped.

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The wind was howling through the trees and rippling violently across the river, but the rain had eased somewhat, so in a mad dash, I shoved on all my rain gear and dragged myself and Jim out of the cabin and along a path that lead to Ægissíðufoss waterfall a few miles away. We proceeded to get drenched, coated in mud and Jim fell on his ass; again. And that was day 12, in a nutshell.

Overnight:
Árhús, Hella

Day 13 – Hella – Reykjavík via Sólheimasandur

To our delight, the bad weather had moved on by the next morning. Our alarms woke us up at a time that some would consider appropriate for getting in after a night out, and we sleepily packed everything up, leaving bits of unused food and camping equipment that we no longer required in a neat pile on the table, in the hope that the cleaners would pass it on to other travellers later that day.

We wouldn’t be coming back to the cabin. Today we would drive to Reykjavík for the last leg of our trip, but we had something else in mind first.

During our cabin fevered delerium the previous day, we realised that we weren’t too far away from Iceland’s famous plane crash site, Sólheimasandur. It was only an hour drive back along the Ring Road from where we had come. Instinct told me that we needed to get there early; I wanted to avoid all the other hungry Instagrammers like the plague, so off we set, before the sun had even considered it’s daily ascent.

The car park wasn’t marked with any obvious signs, but as we pulled off the Ring Road and across its uneven surface, we found that a few other cars were already parked up and I could see the faint outline of a couple disappearing across the vast and gloomy land beyond, into what looked like the abyss.

The walk to the plane crash site took an unexpectedly long time, and this was only amplified by the monotonousness of our surroundings, which stretched into nothingness in every direction, as far as the eye could see. We didn’t really know where we were going; there were no signs, no people; only a straight track carved out by vehicles from the past, that we trudged along in silence and anticipation.

The US Navy DC plane crashed on this desolate black beach back in the 1970’s, after a palaver with its fuel tanks. Thankfully, everyone on board walked away alive. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of this twisted hunk of metal and explored every inch of it.

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My favourite photo of the whole trip. Thank you Jim.

Its shredded nose was ripped open and draped with a jungle of dangling wires; graffiti etched and scrawled across its corpse. It felt colossal, yet insignificant amidst its surroundings; quiet, yet deafening, as I imagined the final moments before it met its own doom.

I hauled myself up its side, lodging my feet into its battle scars like a ladder and walked along its precariously thin roof, which buckled and groaned under my weight. The wind did its best to unbalance my every hesitant step. It was both thrilling and nerve-racking.

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It wasn’t long until we could see a steady stream of people; some in couples, some in groups, making their way towards us across the black moonscape. It took us an hour to get back to the car, and another two until we got into Reykjavík.

The car was to be dropped off on the outskirts of the city, meaning that we had to walk into the centre donning our backpacks and carrying handfuls of whatever we had collected over the last two weeks between us. It was a long slog that neither of us had anticipated, but we were rewarded with a self-contained apartment located just off the main drag.

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Reykjavík was cool, arty and had a small-town feel to it. We spent the next two days wandering its streets, sampling its many vegan offerings and celebrating Jim’s birthday; which involved a night where we accidentally became spectators of Icelandic rap battle, and a morning at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, perusing almost 300 glass jars containing severed penises.

If you ever want to be put off your breakfast, I highly recommend visiting a dick museum.

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In the wee hours of the 15th day, we caught the Flybus to Keflavík and boarded our flight back to Manchester.

. . .

In two weeks, we mastered driving on the other side of the road for the first time, trundled obliviously around western Iceland in a severe weather warning, camped in the bitter cold, were humbled by the vastness and beauty of the natural world, unknowingly ventured into a complete whiteout, inhaled enough sulphur to last a lifetime, annoyed the hell out of each other and laughed every 5 minutes. Thank you Jim for sharing this fun, crazy, wild ride with me and being an awesome adventure buddy.

Overnight: 
Apartment K

What we spent:
How Much Does a 2 Week Road Trip Around Iceland’s Ring Road Cost?

Our camping gear:
Gear List: Camping in Iceland in September

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