So, this one is a biggy! Not only am I about to show you images from one of the most interesting countries in the world but I'm also letting you into my personal life because this trip is a celebration in two ways. Firstly, it celebrates my marriage anniversary of 10 years with my husband. Secondly, it is our combined 40th Birthday present to each other. We are quite good at remaining true to ourselves and we first considered the romantic spots of Paris or Rome to celebrate these milestones. However, no sooner had we considered these locations we quickly thought "Why are we going to cities that will be nice but nothing extraordinary?" and we felt like 10 years married was well worth more effort than that. We both love the outdoors, me a bit more than my husband but let's not go there now. So it became a no brainer that we should think big and stop going down the normal route. As a couple we like adventure and fun, why are we following the norm for such a big celebration.
Enter Iceland! Yep, we went big then went home and cried about the price tag, then paid the bill and accepted that life experiences and fantastic memories are priceless. What is money when you are dead and gone anyway? So the land of the Gods, thermal rivers, glaciers and waterfalls called to us and we answered. This was an experience we wanted to feel in full force so we made sure we crammed as much in our 5 days as possible.
Let us start at the beginning because unlike the other blog posts for the 'One Planet One Life' photo project, this is more than just an interview and a few action shots.
The Magic Begins
The magical day arrived and we kissed the kids goodbye and jumped on a plane from Copenhagen to Reykjavik. On arrival, we collected our wheels for the journey, a small campervan with just enough room for a rucksack and a packet of chewing gum. We drove straight out of the city south on the one and only circular road on the island, Route 1. This route literally navigates in one giant loop around the edge of the island, perfect, no getting lost for us.
The guys at the van hire centre had recommended a natural thermal river that was worth a visit so we headed straight for it as our first nature bathing encounter. After a 3.5km hike (mainly uphill) to the bathing point of the river, we were happy to get our kit off and chill out. It was the most bizarre and surreal experience to undress in the cold summer air and hop into a hot river. All my life I've only ever experienced that rivers are cold. Much to say, I didn't want to get out the water into that cool air and could have happily stayed there all night until I pruned to max limit and shrivelled away.
After a cold uncomfortable night in the camper, an exciting day awaited us. Note, if you ever camp in Iceland always accept extra blankets from the hire companies. A non-insulated vehicle is bloody cold to sleep in even in their summer! But let's move on because this next adventure was going to be epic, it was our much awaited All Day 4-wheel drive adventure in Thorsmork with Midgard Adventure. If you ever go to Southern Iceland, go on a tour with these guys, they are awesome. The building you meet in has a very calm atmosphere and offers a restaurant and bar as well as accommodation with a rooftop jacuzzi.
However, we were there for a big day of adventure and big it was. Big wheels, big waterfalls, big mountains, big rivers and lots of fun. Our guide was humorous and up for showing us everything Thorsmork had to offer. It often felt like we were stepping onto a film set from Jurassic World or Game of Thrones. We certainly experienced the dwarfing effect of the mountains and boulders from eruptions and land movement. I'll let the pictures do the talking here.
With that amazing day in Thorsmork in the bag, we continued our journey east along Route 1, camping overnight at Kirkjubæjarklaustur (don't even expect me to be able to say that). It was another cold night, too cold for my husband (René) to stand and was the catalyst to him making the decision that we would be staying in hotels from now on! We packed up and continued our journey East to our next big adventure.
Iceland was an opportunity for us to try many 'first experiences' and today was no exception, Glacier Walking. We booked this tour with Local Guide, another fantastic company with happy knowledgable staff that make you feel welcome and safe. Again, I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves here because the short story is, we drove to Vatnajokull Glacier and walked on it.
Not only did we walk on the glacier but we also took a peek inside an ice cave. These caves look amazing in the winter with their bright blue tunnels of ice. In summer though, not so shiny and definitely a lot more black and drippy. We had to be careful entering and exiting because there is a high chance pieces of ice will break off, so our guide kept a close eye on it for us.
It was only a half-day hike so we still had plenty of time to head to Jökulsárlón, also known as Diamond Beach. It is an area where the glacier we had just walked on, falls off in chunks to a large lake that flows out to the sea. Because the mouth of the lake to the ocean is small, the large chunks of ice get trapped and float around making for picture moments for the tourists and a habitat for wildlife like seals and birds.
With yet another tourist attraction ticked off, we drove west all the way back to Vik where stayed overnight at the Icelandair Hotel. It felt like pure luxury to get a hot shower and a comfortable warm bed for the night. Refreshed after the best nights sleep so far on the trip, we took in some sights around Vik.
What a magnificent town it was too, breathtaking coastal walks on black sand, mountain and cliff hikes, a well-positioned church in a field of Lupins (if you are a photographer) and it isn't a very big town so everything feels in close proximity. Again, the pictures will demonstrate the beauty of the place best.
As we continued our journey west we stopped off at Seljalandsfoss waterfall one more time (we had seen it on the Thorsmork adventure), this time walking all the way around getting some nice pictures that we didn't have time for on the tour.
Then we squeezed in a hike to see the US Navy plane that crashed in 1973 on the beach at Sólheimasandur. The rough rocky beach creates a fantastic movie setting paired with the damaged metal of the plane, it feels like you stepped into a Hollywood blockbuster.
Back in the van, we stayed our westerly coarse on Route 1 until we got to the Golden Circle area. The tourist attractions for us here were to see a geyser explode and to witness the scene of Gullfoss Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Iceland based on the amount of water that passes through, not based on the height of the fall. Pictures below outline the amazing spectacle we saw.
The jaw-dropping scene you see above is an active geyser called Strokkur, in a town, funny enough, named Geysir. As you walk along the short path to reach this spot there are some bubbling pools but this geyser is the main show.
It was only a short drive to reach the magnificent Gullfoss and this is well worth the time to stand in awe as the fast-flowing water thunders past you and dives into a misty ravine.
We had one more night left in this magical country of alien terrain and jaw-dropping nature. So we stayed in a gorgeous hotel located right on the river. We seemed to be tired every night by 9 pm because we were constantly busy adventuring in the fresh air. Because it was June, the sun never really set and the light during the day was incredibly bright with clear skies and a sun that bounced its light off every surface available. I had actually forgotten my sunglasses and that was a big mistake, I often felt I was squinting during the day, so take note, remember those sunnies.
Our last stop on the tour after dropping off the campervan was the famous Blue Lagoon. Wow, what a way to end this phenomenal trip, with a dip in the thermal spa, glass of wine and beauty clay mask on! Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined that combination to be something I would one day experience! After a few hours of indulging in the warm milky water, it was time to say goodbye to Iceland. It had been a truly remarkable trip and we were both beaming with joy that we had gone with our gut instinct and chosen this amazing gem of an island to visit for our joint 10 year anniversary and 40th Birthdays.
As I have gotten older I have come to learn that experiences in life are priceless compared to material objects. It is the adventures we take that leave a mark on us, the experiences we have and can share with others that remain in our memories forever, or at least until we have Alzheimer's or amnesia. What is life if we do not live?
If I didn't have the wonders of nature and this planet to have those experiences, what would life be like? I honestly don't want to think about it. It breaks my heart to ever play out a scenario where wild animals are extinct and we live in a world that is too hot for us to step outside in the midday sun or the air is too toxic to breathe and we as a human species also become extinct because of the neglectful decisions big corporations have made and everyday people have turned a blind eye to.
Now is the time to act, we should have acted on this about 30 years ago but we can't change the past. So please, if you have made it this far on the blog post, I urge you to rethink the way you live and by saying that I mean think about the top causes of climate change and how you as an individual add to the problem. Deforestation for livestock and palm oil, pesticides on our food causing illness not just in our bodies but also to the ground and runoff to the rivers and oceans. Take responsibility for your trash, protect your local places of beauty and wildlife and generally care about the spaces around you not just the communities on your social media. Spend less time on your phones and spend more physical connected time with your family and friends. Our lives are more fulfilling when we connect with people with love and not judgement.
Thank you for reading this post, it has been one of the most influential of all the adventures on the 'One Planet One Life' project because it directly affected me as I celebrated 2 milestones in my life and shared those milestones with my husband, hopefully, something we will talk about until we are old and wrinkly.