Off the Beaten Track – Road Tripping in Iceland
I’m personally not a big fan of itineraries. I like to know where I’m sleeping and how I’m getting there, but beyond that, I basically like to free ball.
I came to Iceland with a vague idea of what I actually wanted to do, but no set plans. It was the first time I’d ever travelled to a place on my lonesome and I was basically open to anything that took my fancy.
I knew I was going to hire a car and figured I might hit up some of the famous Icelandic Ring Road. However, Bárðarbunga (the still errupting volcano) was up to no good and to be honest, I didn’t really fancy going anywhere that would be packed out with tourists. I like the quiet life, I do.
So, two Canadians I randomly met during breakfast one morning at my hostel and I decided to rent a car and navigate across the Westfjords.
Meet “Trusty Steve”, the car we rented from Sadcars. Steve was a lean machine who had clearly seen better days. But, he suited us for our purposes. (ie, being total bad-asses).
The only really touristy thing I had done up until this point was the Blue Lagoon, as you’d have to be a damned fool to miss out on that. It was pleasant, but also expensive and people ridden. I don’t like crowds; they make me nervous. So driving for three days around the remotest part of this beautiful country suited me just fine.
The trip didn’t come without its perils. For example, I am an Australian. We drive on the left hand side of the road. Let’s not have the argument about which side is the right or wrong side and simply accept that this is what I am accustomed to. At home, I’m hardcore. Yeah, I drive stick. Once I even drove my brother’s truck and I was only about 60% terrified.
Steve and the Westfjords conspired to completely and utterly destroy my confidence. You haven’t been terrified, until you’ve driven on the wrong side of the road, in a large manual sedan, on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere… on a mountain. To top it all off, during one of my many clutch related panic attacks, it gave up its lease on life and broke, frightening the bejeebers out of all three of us and ultimately costing $50 to fix. We were so lucky in that it decided to do this just outside of a little town called Patreksfjörður and not in the middle of nowhere, or we truly would have been up the creek.
When road tripping in Iceland, anything goes. We were driving with a good old fashioned road map and nothing but our wits to keep us on course. Naturally, we got lost on several occasions, at one point creating for ourselves a three hour detour. There were many stops for cigarette breaks (not me Mum, okay only one time but I was stressed out!). We peed out in the wilderness. We sang along to hit songs from the 90s, played off my iPad as nowhere in West-North Iceland seemed to sell audio car cables (unsurprising). We went on nature walks in the mountains surrounding Ísafjörður. We totally, unexpectedly saw the northern lights one night in Bíldudalur; faint and partially obscured by clouds, but there. If I was a better photographer, I would have a photo to show you. Unfortunately, that moment exists only in my memory.
We never saw the Gulfoss waterfall, the Geysir or Snæfellsjökull National Park. I’m not fussed. This isn’t the last time I plan to go to Iceland in this lifetime. That’s what travelling is all about. Being open to new experiences.
You never know where the road is going to take you.