Iceland and Two Hogs

So what do you do when most of your worldly belongings are packed into moving cubes, your condo is being renovated, and you are essentially homeless? Why, go to Iceland, of course!

I hadn’t planned it this way. The trip to Iceland to do volunteer trail maintenance with the Icelandic Forest Service had been planned long before I decided to move out of my condo. But as it turned out, aside from some fairly challenging logistical concerns, it made perfect sense for me to be traveling while my condo was uninhabitable. Hey, if I need to be paying for lodging, I may as well be travelling, right? Or better yet, living in my tent in an Icelandic National Park!

Kaffibrennslan, Reykjavik, Iceland

Kaffibrennslan is a great place to sip a cappuccino and people-watch, in Reykjavik, Iceland.

But first things first. Before I had to “report for duty” in Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) National Park, I had a bit of exploring to do on my own. This exploring naturally began in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and a great place to get over any jet-lag and adjust to Iceland’s (and my vacation’s) slower pace. After packing my possessions and loading my furniture in record time, I was due for a bit of decompression. And sitting in a cafe sipping a cappuccino while watching the locals (and tourists) go by was exactly what I needed.

In the evening I stopped by The Drunk Rabbit Irish Pub, one of my favorites from a previous trip, to grab a pint or two and some grub. Hey, Iceland, Ireland, they’re almost the same, right? Anyway, I sat next to a couple of Americans who had decided to ride motorcycles around the island and camp along the way. We chatted for a bit and then called it a night and headed our separate ways.

The next morning it was time to rent a car and do some exploring along the southern coast. On my last trip to Iceland in 2013, I had spent most of my time on the west coast, so this was new territory for me.

Iceland Waterfall, Stóridalur, Iceland

An unnamed waterfall cascades off the side of a cliff near the Þjóðvegur 1, or Ring Road, in southern Iceland.

The day started out nice enough. There was actually some sunshine and blue sky as I traveled east along the southern part of Route 1, known as the Iceland Ring Road for reasons that are obvious if you peruse a map of Iceland. I stopped for lunch at a nice Thai restaurant (???) and continued east to my hostel near the town of — well, it’s tiny and you wouldn’t know it anyway. There was a nice waterfall just behind the parking lot — I could literally set up my tripod next to my car and get the shot. In Iceland, waterfalls are everywhere!

After checking into the hostel, I decided to explore a bit more. By this time, the weather was starting to get nasty. (I do believe that Iceland was the original place that claimed, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!”. I’ve seen it swing wildly myself many times.) The wind was starting to pick up, and rain and heavy winds were in the forecast. But it wasn’t too bad yet, so I headed down the road a bit until I saw an interesting red roofed building I wanted to photograph and pulled off the road next to a couple of motorcycles that were parked there. I suspect you can guess who was on those bikes. Yep, it was the two guys from The Drunk Rabbit. What are the chances? Anyway, I jokingly asked them if they had selected a campsite for the night. Nope, they were heading for a hostel. Camping was not looking like a good idea that night.

Old White Building, Evindarhólar, Iceland

A bright white building with striking red roof and windows sits at the base of a hillside just off the Þjóðvegur 1, or Ring Road, in southern Iceland.

The bad weather held off long enough for me to explore another much more famous waterfall nearby, the one called Seljalandsfoss. In fact, the light at sunset was perfect, lighting this west-facing waterfall and creating beautiful rainbows. I spent a while exploring this area, a place I would see again in several days, as it was on the road to Þórsmörk National Park.

Seljalandsfoss glows in the late afternoon sun, near Stóridalur, Iceland.

The next day I checked out of the hostel and continued heading east. I was able to stop at a number of port towns along the southeast of Iceland before checking into my guesthouse in Höfn (pronounced something like “hup”). I checked out a couple of restaurants in town, hoping to find a bar where I could have dinner while chatting with locals. I wasn’t having much luck, but finally the hostess in one restaurant suggested I go downstairs, as there was a small stand-up bar down there. Well, that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I could always come back up and get a table for dinner, so I headed down the stairs to the bar. And, who do you suppose I found standing at the bar? Of course, it was my motorcycle riding friends, again! This was starting to get weird. Anyway, once again we had a good chat, and then decided we would never see each other again. They were continuing to the east and north, whereas I was heading back to Reykjavik the next day to rendezvous with a busload of volunteers heading to Þórsmörk National Park.

Afterwards, I had a truly amazing seafood dinner before heading back to my room. The first phase of my trip was coming to a close, but I knew some serious adventure (and work!) was in my future. In my next article, I’ll show you what it’s like to live in a tent in Iceland for two weeks while doing some serious trail maintenance. Stay tuned!

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4 Responses to “Iceland and Two Hogs”

  1. Patty Pausch says:

    Thanks for sharing! Headed in that direction (and to that area) in July!

  2. Dave says:

    Oh man.  Now I want to go back.  I thought I might be permanently done with Iceland, but now I’m not so sure.

  3. Marius says:

    Looks like a great adventure Ed. Thanks for sharing and giving the lay of the land. Always wanted to visit Iceland. You’ve added additional incentive. Cheers