27 September 2017

My Scandinavian Adventure: Iceland—The Ring Road

Day 1: Reykjavik to Arnarstapi (Snaefellsnes Peninsula) 185km

Okay. Time to get serious. This is the meat and potatoes of the Iceland experience. We chose to drive the Ring Road—a mostly paved highway that, as its name implies, circles the entire perimeter of the island—in a clockwise direction. YMMV.

In January, I began calling and emailing rental agencies. We wanted to rent a mobile home, an RV, with a shower and toilet and small kitchen. They were already all booked for our August trip so I scooped up a camper van that supposedly sleeps five people. It had a small cooler, a sink connected to a refillable water tank, and two small propane rings. We were anxious about "facilities" but were pleasantly surprised to discover that Iceland has a terrific camping infrastructure: close to 200 campgrounds, most of which have hot showers and very clean toilets! Practically every night we had a choice of places to stay, and every one we chose was terrific. Because we are not small people, the sleeping arrangements were tight, but fortunately Wesdom brought his Eno hammock, and we were able to string it up diagonally on the van's support posts. Otherwise, it would have been uncomfortably tight.

On Saturday, 12 August (my birthday—best ever? No, but very close.), I picked up the van in the morning, we stocked up on groceries and supplies, and we drove the three or so hours out of Reykjavik to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This and the Westfjords are technically not on the traditional Ring Road circuit, somewhat off the beaten path but are highly recommended if you have the extra days—you'll see why. We drove at a leisurely pace and stopped when we wanted for pit stops and picture-taking.

We found a small village called Arnarstapi with a lovely, expansive campground nestled into a long finger of mountains that come right down to the sea. It was one of the few which didn't have hot showers. Next to the campground was a roped off field populated with nesting Arctic Terns—hundreds of them. They were noisy and busy coming and going, and if you got too close they would swarm and dive at your head. They have sharp beaks! The terns lay their eggs in the field—no nests, no predators—and each tern looks after every nest. It's a collective!

Our home for eleven days! Appropriate Led Zepp motto to boot!
Pit stop on the road to Arnarstapi. The light is amazing! Oh, and the views!
View from the campground at Arnarstapi across the Arctic Tern nesting grounds.
Arnarstapi. See that cone? We climbed 1/3 (Wisdoc and I) and 2/3 (Wesdom) up it on a whim. Because it was there and because we could! This sort of late afternoon, early evening adventure walk became a pattern. Glacier in the distant background.
Our lonely camper van in the shadow of the mountain we climbed.
Hiking up the rubbley hillside before dinner ~7:30 pm overlooking the Arnarstapi village and the North Atlantic. Campground is in on the left there.
Sea arch Hellnar seen from after dinner hike along the sea cliffs at Arnarstapi—approx. 10:00 pm.

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