Joy & Terror in Iceland

Photo of a mountain in a snow storm

We had a slow morning. We woke up at 7am to enjoy a hot shower, make coffee, and muesli for breakfast before heading out at 9am. As we pulled out of the hostel, the winding road before us sparkled in the moonlight. There were no northern lights, but Matt saw a shorting star! This turned out to be a good omen for what was to come…

Photo of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in winter

Seljalandsfoss

We stopped at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall just before 10am. It was still dark, so we couldn’t see much. The sky began to lighten as we continued towards Vik. The mountains, clusters of rocks and white farmhouses were gorgeous. The fields were free of snow and in the distance was the dark ocean.

Photo of huts beneath a mountain

Eyjafjallajökull

We happened upon the volcano that erupted in 2010 along the same route. Matt was very excited to see Eyjafjallajökull. As we drove towards the volcano, what looked like a snow tornado blew across the road in front of us!

We parked the car by a small swimming pool and went for a short walk. I stuck my arms out and let the wind blow me down the trail. Matt laughed – the wind was so strong he could see it indenting my puffy winter coat. But this was nothing in comparison for what was to come…

Photo of Skofoss falls in winter

Skogafoss

We stopped at the Skogafoss waterfall. This had been one of the top items on my To Do List. It was a cloudy day and already crawling with tourists at 11am. We snapped some pictures, then went into the diner to grab some fish and chips. We split one plate between us – it was the perfect amount! It was a good thing we fuelled up, because the rest of our day was a nightmare.

Photo of a small car driving in a snow squall in Iceland

Snow Squalls and Slippery Roads

We had snow squalls on the icy road, and drove through blizzard conditions often with zero visibility. Matt tried to keep a car behind us and in front of us so he could keep his bearings on where the road was, and as a safety net in case of an accident. This must be the yellow alert for South Iceland we saw on the weather report of more than 126 km/hour gale winds.

Photo of a church in Vik during a snow fall

We arrived in the picturesque village of Vik in a near whiteout. We found a gas station and filled up as we were down to a quarter tank. The wind pounded the car as snow gathered on Matt’s black wool coat as he filled the tank. I was quite happy to sit in the car as Matt leaned into the wind to stay upright.

The whiteouts let up for a bit around the Eldhraun lava field. Even covered in snow, it was very pretty! It’s said to be the greatest lava flow in the history of the world, 16km cubed and 580km squared.

After the lava field were all these pointy hills, like an elfin golf course. We began to see turf houses more often too. Unfortunately, we saw a big cloud on the horizon. What Matt had hoped was fog rolling in was a wall of snow.

Photo of a road and mountains in heavy snowfall

After that, things got really scary. I was so scared at times I felt like I was going to throw up and cry simultaneously, but one has to keep themselves together at times like this. Matt was keeping his cool although he was ‘white knuckling it’ the whole time too. Both of us kept calm and focused on the road as we winded up and down through the mountainous Vatnajökull region.

We saw a couple accidents on the way – mostly abandoned hatchback trailers. At one point, the snow let up for a moment, revealing an Arctic Adventure tour van off the road with all its windows broken and its front roof flattened. Matt said it looked like it had rolled from the intense winds. The vehicle was vacant – we hoped everyone was okay.

Photo of a gas tanker driving at night into a snow storm

Höfn

We eventually made it to our AirBnB in Höfn by 5pm. We were greeted by a friendly lady our moms’ age and a little white dog named Fönn – an Icelandic word for Snow. He was named after Snowy in the comic books Tin Tin!

We dropped our bags then headed back out to get some beers. We really needed something to help decompress after such a harrowing journey. Much to our joy, the snow had finally stopped. We picked up a couple beers at the local grocery store, then went back to our AirBnB to eat the sandwiches we’d bought earlier in the day. We were too tired to even cook the pasta we’d bought!

After many snuggles and tummy rubs with Fönn, we went to book our ice cave tour for tomorrow. Seeing a glacier and an ice cave up close was something we both wanted to do. To our surprise, everything we’d bookmarked yesterday was now sold out! We found one tour with a couple spots open, so snapped that up. The weather tomorrow should be better.

Now we lay in bed, happy to be alive and well. Tomorrow is another day – and hopefully a much, much easier one. Matt has had lots of winter driving experience in gales living in the East Coast, but today was something we never wish to experience again.

Photo of a Maltese Westie dog looking at a beer bottle

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