It's funny how a few simple things can change your mood. Today has been a good lesson that I'm not in the UK at the moment and I'm very much not in London. I had to check myself as I spent the morning cursing the rental company and had some self created sense that they were going to screw me. It's actually all ok. Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world and I have met nothing but helpful people in all my time here. Okay, it's the start of high season and so the tourists are here in vast numbers too (more of that in a moment) but generally Iceland's a good place to re-discover that people are well meaning. These moments of perspective are also part of the broader travel experience and external discovery is also a good way to cover some internal ground too.
To give this some context it's time to talk about my 4x4. I shall call him Bob. When Bob and I first met, it was like a dodgy singles night. Bob was certainly (as I was warned by the host) not new to this game. Well worn in would be the affectionate term. Maybe a bit self neglecting? Bob and I had a thing, briefly. It's lasted a few days.
I found that the tyre pressure system wasn't working. The parking sensors weren't working and there was a definite sense that Bob had been a smoker at some point. Most of this I could ignore. He was good value for the short fling I planned to have. Then this morning a new alarm started flashing (airbags) and I was done. It was all just too much. I got to the first black sand beach, Reynisfjara, of my trip and started to make photos and debated how to manage the break up. Basically I worked myself into a tiz and sent a slightly aggressive message to the host of the singles night. It put a dampener on my morning as I tried to make the work I had set out to make.
I spend a few hours wondering the beach, playing with long exposures and filters, dodging as many tourists as possible and eventually ending up in the cafe for a sandwich and a coffee. Bob was still bugging me, so dropping all the camera kit back in the boot, I tried to walk it out, stomping up the long beach. I couldn't figure out why I was so worked up about it and it was starting to filter into other parts of my head. I watched endless coach-loads of tourists empty onto the black sands and for a while I was angry at each of them, silently. In the morning I had missed the first load by moments. Now everywhere I turned there were people. I walked further along the sand and pebbles. I sat at the far end of the beach and held a small black pebble in my hands. I listened to the sea and looked out to the waves crashing against the shore, washing the beach and whilst wet turning it glass like, black and glass like as obsidian. I started to find some calm.
I decided the best thing to do was ignore the new red flag and the lack of response to my message and moved on to Vik proper. As I wound my way along the road back towards the 1, someone stuck their thumb out. "Go great places, do great things." It was time to pay it forward to the universe a little. I tapped the indicator and pulled over. It's the first time I've picked up a hitch hiker. He was a blonde Dane called Lasse. He was heading East and I agreed to take him as far as Vik. Lasse was hitching his way around Iceland over three weeks, trying to get the whole way around route 1. I admired the ambition but he reckons that hitching here is relatively easy. As we came into Vik I dropped him by the N1 service station, at least here he has a good chance of carrying on his journey.
Vik has more beautiful stretches of black sand and slightly less tourists than Reynisfjara where it's unique rock structures make it a stop on every coach tour. It's a bit quieter and there are pony rides around the black sands, parts of which are full of blossoming blue flowers. There's also a sculpture here that twins the spot with the UK. The English title is Voyage, but I prefer the Icelandic "For". The same sculpture stands in Kingston upon Hull and they both look out to sea. Strange the things that make you miss home and appreciate that there are quiet spots of beauty everywhere.
By the time I had had my photographic fill I had a message from Magnus. At once I felt bad and said as much in my reply. He would be arranging someone to bring me a different version of Bob /this evening. A great wash of guilt mixed with relief and all my fears of being stuffed washed away. And there was the calm again. I repacked my kit into the car. I popped to the 'Icewear' shop next to where I had parked and finally got myself some gloves! I cannot describe how much this small purchase will improve my trip. I have fumbled with numb fingers for days due to neglecting this one small detail and today is a lot windier and colder than yesterday. I found a local convenience store to plug a few gaps. Deciding on hotdogs for tea, trawling the Isles of the supermarket, each looking like it had been raided by a hoard of people that hadn't eaten for days I eventually make it to the checkout with 6 cans of Gull. After manoeuvring my trolley back down the single step of the supermarket and loading my stash into the car, I headed back to Skoga.
By the time I had driven the 13km back, the wind had gotten up. You could see the spread of mist from the falls coming further away from plunge pool. In the evening yesterday I was able to sit on the terrace and drink a beer as I wrote my entry for the day. Tonight I had one quiet beer in the tent and thought about a snooze but that I should probably cook and eat before that snooze turned into a whole night of fitful rest. I stepped outside was instantly cold. No I was not doing this tonight. I headed to the hotel restaurant/bar. I am glad to be indoors and am safe in the knowledge that everything I have brought from the shop will be fine in the chill!
As I type this the 'Local One', a burger has arrived with my name on it. It'll be hotdogs for breakfast!