A while back, my friend Sam gave me a call and asked if I wanted to join for a short trip to Iceland – a small volcanic island on the edge of the Arctic circle. I’ve been fascinated by Iceland for a while. It produces 100% of its electricity from renewable resources – geothermal (heating water into steam by pumping it into the hot ground) and hydropower (using flowing water to spin the generator). Iceland has the second highest quality of life in the world, with lowest rates of income inequality, highest gender equality, first female prime minister… the list just keeps rolling.
The idea was to rent a 4×4 vehicle and drive around the country on the single ring road that circles the island. 8 days, 4 blokes, 4 cameras, 3 tents, a bottle of Malibu and a shoe string budget. I’ll keep writing to a minimum
as it was a mind-blowingly photogenic country. I’ll be using some incredible photos taken by professional photographers – Sam and Barry, but will also include a few taken by myself.
The glacial melt water dip. The coldest water I’ve ever swam in and one of the most beautiful. Glaciers are disappearing rapidly with global warming and my future grandchildren may only experience this through a photograph. Alfie, if you’re reading this, next time you get an urge to jump into a dirty pond, go find a better one.
And I’ve never seen so many rainbows. We’ve lost count, but only two double rainbows during the trip. I doubt I’ll see another this clear in my life again.
Every corner we turn, there was a scene to behold. To watch the light play with the primeval landscape. To be mesmerised by shimmering crystal clear water and barren mountain ranges scarred by ravaging lava flows.
On the eastern side of the island, the landscape became completely barren. Miles and miles of endless dark grey volcanic wasteland akin to a lunar surface with wind speeds I have never experienced in my life. I’m leaning into the wind here comfortably. We some how managed to cook a decent spaghetti bolognese and pitched our tent in a somewhat sheltered space behind the vehicle. But our tents battered and bent so much under gale force winds that we were sure one of us would fly off during the night. We didn’t sleep very well.
But it was worth it, as the next morning treated us with this enormous water fall, which was used for the opening scene of the film Prometheus. You can just about see the tiny figure in the bottom right of the picture.
And enter the North Western peninsula where Icelandic horses and Barry roams wild amongst rugged mountains and vast plains.
On our last leg of the journey, we spent a day hiking in search of a hot spring river.
And here I am in a warm river of about 40 degrees, blissfully enjoying the nature bath. While we bathed, we talked about how much we’ve seen in such a short space of time, but so unlucky with Norther Lights. We’ve been searching for it every night but it didn’t show up. This was going to be the last night here in Iceland.
And so concluded our short 8 days trip. Apart from the ridiculously expensive prices of every day items, and an annual average temperature of just 7 degrees, I was in love with the country. A return flight from the UK cost less than £100, car rental was about £150 each with 4 of us, petrol, eating local cuisine from time to time, drinks and a couple of nights in AirBnB- all in all just shy of £500 from what I can remember. Not a bad expenditure for such a gorgeous experience. It does mean sleeping in tents in freezing temperatures, and cooking your own food as much as possible. If you don’t want to sacrifice your comfort, then you’d probably have to triple the cost for the same journey.
September is the start of the aurora season, and the end of the tourist season. Just barely warm enough to camp out, and some sites were free as it’s entered off season. So I think we’ve hit the sweet spot in terms of timing. Highly recommend visiting if you’ve not been there before.
And last but not least, thanks to Michael, Barry and Sam (behind the camera on the picture below) for the amazing company. Let’s do it again some time soon. Also thanks Sam for letting me use the photos. Check out http://www.samspicerphotography.com/ or you can also check him out on Instagram – Samspicerphoto. Barry’s is – parisgillespie, and Michael’s is happyhammer1980.