Perched high on a boulder with the early morning sun beaming golden rays across the bay.
My counterpart hustling in the sodden grasslands, camera in hand awaiting ‘the shot’.
We’ve found ourselves in isolation, the bay void of humanity in all directions. Our faces and hands being sand blasted by the wind, we pause and take some time to be present here, in the now. In this moment we own the bay, the view, and the mountains reaching into the sky next to us. Suddenly a shriek pierces through the ice wind: “
“Did you see that?”
Before I have the time to reply -
“WOLF!” Ricky screams whilst pointing directly at me, but only briefly before diving behind the nearest rock. My heightened sense of accomplishment vanishes. Not shitting myself would be a bigger feat at this point.
Now, understand my predicament for a quick minute. I have just had the only other person on this deserted stretch point directly at me, scream something about a wolf followed by him diving into cover. I have not seen said animal, nor can I from my half squat position. Looking over my shoulder I see nothing. Other shoulder. Nothing. Crawling to the edge of my rock I see the animal, prancing down towards the waters edge. Head high, feet almost trotting in unison, antlers. Wait. Antlers???
“It’s a reindeer dude” I yell back at the orange beanie I can see poking out from behind some rocks. Laughing all the while secretly checking my underwear for fecal matter… And we are good!
A dash of over-excitement and a dose of brash naivety can go a long way to making for an interesting adventure. This was just a part of the recipe that sent photographer Ricky Cavarra half way around the world to experience Iceland’s raw beauty. With a lack of warm clothes, a single burner butane cooker, and an “old model” rental 4X4 we shot out of Reykjavik. Peace, suckers.
Iceland is a moody bitch. Crowded House wrote a song about her weather, perfectly describing it ‘four seasons in one day’ and day 1 did not disappoint. For by the end of it we had sunbaked (inside the car), contended with hurricane like winds, seen snow fall and were so wet we may as well have swam. The question of chasing the possibility of better weather had quickly become the priority.
“Yep!” Ricky confirmed without any need to deliberate.
The peninsular just north of Reykjavik is tipped by a national park which hosts one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of Iceland. The streets of Grundarfjörður provided shelter for the night. Waking up to mountainous peaks rising into the sky all around the car was such a very pleasant surprise. With excitement levels through the roof we were off. Kirkjufellsfoss was a beauty in her self, and the area did not let us down. Even turning it on with some sunshine, reinforcing in our minds that the road north was the right choice. The highways for the next few days sent us winding through mountains, in and out of fjords, across old lava landscapes. All done of this accomplished with our lower jaws in our laps.
Making our way back to highway 1 the trip continued north. Keen to explore the coastline we quickly diverged into pothole lane, bouncing our way up to the end of a peninsular with our minds set of ‘what will we find?’ An hour passes and we’re still on pothole lane. The reward, a quick hike through snow down to a freshwater outlet that opened through the fog to a black sand beach, rocky sculptures and a large heard of seals playing in the channel. I wail and Ricky sticks his face behind the lens. On the other side of the dark water a cheeky little left peels off the sand spit. A reminder that we are suit less and board less.
Day 3, morale heightened with a hot chocolate to start the morning. A lack of warmth and space is making for long nights. I need a coffee. Back on highway 1 navigator, Ricky realizes we are driving right up too a waterfall. The waterfall of the gods. Goðafoss. This is an impressive waterfall spewing water into a gorge. We dive from an almost moving car like Woooo girls at a football game. This was just the start to the day filled with more roadside stops than there were hours. Luckily for us, we also found some babes that took pity on us and shared their food with us (the idiots) for lunch. We found ourselves on Lake Mývatn, a huge expanse of water in a volcanic region dotted with false craters. The area around Lake Mývatn does not get the press that it deserves. For its own reasons this ancient volcanic lake, covered in ice during winter months, has a view of black and white mountains in every direction.
North east Iceland, out past Lake Mývatn, becomes this contrast of black volcanic soil with crooked lava fields and ancient volcanoes protruding into the sky. All dust in the crisp white of snow and ice. Between each string of mountains and extinct volcanoes lay flat white valley floors spanning from the base of one monster to the next. We drive on following the black snake commonly known as highway one. Every chain of mountains we breach just leads us into another incredible valley. Keep in mind this area is the least visited section of highway 1. At one point Ricky and myself stopped the car in the highway and ran down the road taking photos with the boyish excitement, getting back to the car and driving another 40-50 minutes before seeing another car. Unfortunately, any of the side roads we wished t diverge on were closed. Given the opportunity to revisit those roads I would take it with two grasping hands, just to see what is down any one of those isolated paths.
Day 5, I swear the boot of this car is getting smaller. Beyond keen to get in any kind of hike, we found ourselves waking up on a beach at the east of the south coast. The beach of pitch black sand transitioning into a moss dominated wetland that ran back away from the beach and attempted to climb the mountains that shot into the sky. We were at Stokksnes, the headland making waves across social media and once you're here you can see why. Icelandic horses running free along the beach and an old Viking fort style abode situated in the middle of the beach, surrounded by straight logs sharpened on the top ends. We took the time to enjoy this, taking to the beach and walking into the unknown around the furthest corner.
I have already told you about the excitement on this hike. We bumped into none other than Mr Wolf (reindeer).
The south coast of Iceland is often, and more appropriately, referred to as an adult adventure park. A beast all of its own. You hop in the car and drive until you see a little parking lot, dive out of the car running in the general direction away from the side of the road and there it is… The waterfall you were looking for, a glacier tongue spewing out into valleys, lakes with floating icebergs conveniently close to the edge of the road, little gorges to hike up just incase something cool is inside them, a plane crash. Endless random waterfalls pouring out of mountains and plateaus right next to the road. Most of which fall right into the back yards of houses. Every second driveway with a new waterfall, camera at the ready, we were like a couple of tourist Jacks in boxes. Every corner. Every stretch. Every single kilometre. Again and again. Scenery to woo you. To win you over. The south coast will leave you in awe at the raw beauty and natural wonder that Iceland is. A noteworthy mention must go to the infamous Skogafoss whose mighty torrent thunders into the flatlands in a damn spectacular fashion.
The last few days of this little adventure were fast paced, and included all of the above and more. I personally almost fell off an ice covered rocky outcrop next to a waterfall that shall remain nameless so my mum doesn’t Google it and berate me long distance for my carelessness… As I said earlier in this piece, us (the idiots).