We had a slow start on New Years Day. We checked out of Atlantic Apartments at 10:30am. White, snowy mountains loomed up from low lying clouds, looking like they were just floating there. It was simple yet magical sight to behold above the little houses of Reykjavik – like something out of a storybook!
As we reached the outskirts of the city, a pink sliver of light ran across the horizon ahead of of us, edging along more silhouetted mountains. Rays of sunlight shone far up into the sky, reminding Matt of the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, glowing fiercely from behind the mountains.
I had one of those ‘happy to be alive’ moments… at a gas station. I wasn’t feeling 100% today and we thought we’d pick up some water on our way out of town. The water at our apartment smelled very strongly of sulphur. Nothing appeared to be open. Gas station after gas station was closed – but we saw one open on the highway just as we passed.
After passing another closed gas station and no buildings in the foreseeable future, we turned around. To our surprise, they had no big bottles of water. A small bottle of still water was 399 ISK while a large bottle of sparkling water was 499 ISK. We asked the cashier to confirm and she walked us over to where the water was. So, we bought a little bottle of water and a large bottle of what we thought was sparkling water, but turned out to be pop when we opened it later.
When we went to pay at the counter, we saw a overhead menu of sandwiches and wraps. I had no idea what it was, but one called to me. Matt ordered the one that said spicy and the cashier started making them on the grill. We’d never seen a grill behind a gas station counter before!
The wraps took awhile to make. We browsed the store some more, drawn to a shelf of dried fish. You could buy dehydrated cod and fish jerky like you would potato chips at home! We each bought a pack to try out of curiosity. We also bought two pre-packaged sandwiches for the road – English Breakfast and Chicken Pesto!
Once our wraps were ready, we sat down in the little dining area next to the cash register. The wraps were full of fresh ingredients. Mine was like a chicken club sandwich and Matt’s was surprisingly spicy! Matt has a very high tolerant to heat too! The wraps were hot, filling, and delicious – just what we needed at that very moment. I felt an intense feeling of bliss sitting in the gas station eating my wrap. I felt truly alive, happy and content.
Drive to Þorlákshöfn
We didn’t have an itinerary for the day, so decided to drive to the coast to a place called Þorlákshöfn. We had no idea what was down there, but it had paved road! We dropped a pin on Google Maps, put on a Sigur Rós playlist, and off we went.
The drive from Reykjavik was beautiful. Matt kept remarking how everything looked otherworldly, like we were driving on another planet. There were snow covered mossy lava fields, snow covered mountains, and clusters of thin, arrow-shaped trees with the straightest trunks and branches I’ve ever seen in nature.
There didn’t seem to be too much in Þorlákshöfn. We knew there was a lighthouse, so went to check that out. It 4-;. There was a Viking ship statue and a plaque on an Icelandic saga that apparently took place here. Locals were sledding behind an AV and setting off fireworks in the field behind us, having a grand time. However, what was most impressive was the surfer!
Here we are, bundled up in -8C weather with 16km winds and there was a big burly man changing out of his Icelandic sweater and toque into a black wet suit. We watched as he made his way down to the beach, over the icy black rocks and into the icy cold waters – his face exposed! He then went SURFING in the big, dark, rolling blue waves. We were amazed! Just standing on the shore for 15 minutes we watched was too cold for us!
Our next stop was Eyrarbakki, a small village of 570 people that used to be a major fishing village. There was a hostel there and preserved historical buildings, but it didn’t really call to us. We looked up hostels in the area and the only other one not booked up was the South Central HI.
South Central Hostel
There was one other guest in the hostel when we arrived. The hostel felt like someone’s grandmother’s house with all the paintings and nicknacks around, but with a Scandinavian feel. There were railings and what looked like gym equipment on the wall, and a giant hair dryer like they had in old hair salons. It was odd but cozy.
After a nap, we went out stargazing. The Northern Lights forecast has been fluctuating all day – from ‘active’ earlier in the day to ‘quiet’ by the evening. We didn’t see the Northern Lights, but did some stars on this clear night with the full moon lighting the snowy landscape for us.
Back at the hostel, we sat down at and tried to plan out the rest of our trip. We had become fixating on the Westman Islands where there was a giant puffin colony and a hostel, but to our great disappointment the 38minute ferry didn’t operate in the winter. It was only accessible this time of year from Þorlákshöfn and took 3 hours, leaving twice a day. We scraped that plan and went to bed.
I woke up suddenly at 2am. I had been having vivid dreams again, but this time they were more nightmarish. I got up and had a glass of water, walking around the hostel. I looked out each window in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Shapes in the trees and rocks outside played tricks on my eyes – I could see how people could believe in elves living here!