Today it feels like I covered a lot of ground but from here the distances will get bigger. Hopefully less driving through the day and more drive-stop-explore. It continued to rain all through the night and as I woke the patter of drops on the tent was still there. I looked at my watch, the near constant daylight is a little disorientating. It was only 5am. I rolled over and managed to get a few more hours of sleep, eventually waking to the roar of the nearby camper vans pulling off. Two wildlife (from the length of their lenses) photographers were padding around as they had been the night before. Where I had camped was known as a spot for watching sea birds. It also had a tiny lighthouse and a beautiful rocky outcrop into the sea.
Emptying most of the tent into the car, the rain started to stop and so I left it pitched and empty in the hope it would dry a little as I assembled all my camera kit. I needed coffee. My Thai sachets were there and I set some water boiling. It was as disappointing as expected but it was warm and if I closed my eyes and ignored most of the taste, I could pretend it was reasonable coffee! There were things that could come out of the bag (laptop, iPad and all the other things that I had stuffed into it to make it viable hand luggage) and assembled the pieces I thought I'd shoot with. I was glad already for having spent a small fortune on two new memory cards as one of the old ones I had appeared to have given up life.
Climbing up and down a slippery metal ladder I crossed over the sea wall and onto an even more treacherous kelp covered outcrop and gingerly made my way out towards the water, looking for an angle. There wouldn't be much to this photo but I had to start remembering what I was doing, the things that used to be second nature now feeling strange and my hands wooden. They turned to stone as the cold bit them and I realised that I had not brought any gloves with me. Something to try and fix when I eventually made it to a supermarket.
The rain started to get heavy again. So much for drying the tent. When I had finished playing with some of my new filters I went back the way I had come and dropped my kit in the car. I was acutely (due to the point headache that was hovering somewhere towards the front of my head) aware that I was pretty dehydrated. I refilled the litre and a half bottle and downed it. This tiny free campsite is one to remember for anyone else looking to come this way and have a cheap night on arrival or maybe the night before going home. Close to the airport, running water, toilets (with central heating) and so having availed myself of all the facilities and topped up the water for the ride, I couldn't put off taking down the tent any more. It is beautifully simple. Six pegs and two poles. The metal work removed I bundled the damp remainder into one of my duffles, the contents of which was half stuffed into the other and half scattered across the boot, but at least this way everything would be dry.
I crawled my way down the peninsula, stopping often, just to look. I had thought to walk out to some of the cliffs at Hafnir (Hafnaberg) but as I pulled off the road, the heavens opened. I walked the first hundred meters down the black sand track and turned back, retracing my deep footprints in the soft earth. I pushed on to Valahnukur and was glad I did. The wind was high enough to give some power to the waves as they crashed around the dramatic cliffs and outcrops and the nesting birds whirled overhead. From the main land you look out to Eldey, the world's largest colony of gannets. It's hard to give the great lump of rock and scale but it doesnt look like the stretch of water that stands between it and the land is 14km long. I walk up to the high point of the cliffs and look unsteadily down into the deep blue waters.
It was time to finally pin down some food. Having nothing but a pack of quick noodles and a coffee since leaving the airport lounge, I was starting to feel it. A quick stop in Grindavik where my sat nav said the nearest supermarket was. It was sat right on the main road and I worked hard to not do the hungry shop and plan a few meals out. Some of these will also be quick noodles, but I took the time to find the ones with the least salt, some ham and cheese and all the simple ingredients that a diet is generally reduced to when camping. As a slight gesture towards the potential of eating some kind of vegetable in the next few weeks, I also picked up a small kitchen knife and a chopping board. I finally think I've got my head around the currency conversion too after being slightly terrified at the tills. I did also have a brief moment where I thought 'shit, what if they don't take cards' and then I remembered where I was, the most cashless society I have ever travelled in.
In the guide book I had highlighted a local campsite in Grindavik as a potential place to stay, but it was only 2:30pm - too early to stop. I sat in the car park with my haul and flicked through the next few pages of the guidebook. My post its took me through roughly the first 7 days of moving around but there was a fair amount of flex. Beyond amenities, there was little reason to linger in Grindavik. I also felt that I should find somewhere other than the car park of the supermarket to eat something so I didn't look like a total bum living in a car!
My journey beyond this point meant that I had to head in a direction that would eventually bring me back on to Route 1, Iceland's Ring Road. This is North of where I was and so my options were to back track using main roads, round to Keflavik, Reykjavik and then on to the 1 or cut up across country. I was up for the adventure and continued to follow smaller roads (more numbers in their identifiers) around the coast.
I kept my eye open for the left turn that would take me across Reykjanesfolkvangur - a wildlife reserve with pockets of hot springs, lakes and giant lava fields. It was still quite a way off and so I took a random right turn down a gravel road and pulled into a siding to sit and look at the lava field and its development of green proto-plant life as I made a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches. I instantly felt better for having eaten something. It struck me that all I could hear was the sound of my own chewing. The rain had stopped. I took a few photos of the lava field that had kept me company and turned the car around.
Spotting the turning I started to meander my way up through the reserve. I stopped a few times to look at the lakes in old fissures with beautiful sky blue water reminding me of Steetly, one of my first trips Urban Exploring.
Now I could have followed the 42 back towards Reykjavik and then picked up the 1 but I would be back almost where I had started and see nothing new along the way. Instead I picked the 417, a mountain road that is closed in winter and the signs advise not attempting before May 1st. I was about 10km along it when I glanced at my petrol gauge and found that I had eaten my way towards the warning red line. I pulled over and started playing with the sat nav. How far to the nearest petrol station? Paranoid thoughts about inaccurate old fashioned petrol gauges started to fill my head. Running out on the 1 would be one thing, but the 417 is a high road, capped by snow covered hills on one side and a lava field running off to other mountains on the other. Turn back? Push on? Onwards. The 1 is well populated and on this stretch of the south of Iceland apparently well equipped with petrol stations. I tried to make good time without smashing through the last parts of the petrol and was quietly relieved when I started to descend and see the 1 on in the distance.
I turned to continue my general anti-clockwise direction and in a few kilometres there was the petrol station. I pulled in and stuck my head around the door. Do I need to pay first? Nope! I tried to put bang on 5000 Ikr into the tank and got 5001. This should be about £25 of petrol and I was curious what that would do on top of about an 8th of a tank. The answer was take it back to the half way point. Now I was feeling tired but being on the main artery of my trip meant that all I had to do was pick somewhere to stop.
Selfoss would make my trip on to Skogar and Vik tomorrow pretty and there was a well reviewed campsite for approx £7 a night including hot showers and a communal 'house' with cookers. It was blissfully close to where I had joined the 1. I pulled up and paid my fee for the night. It was warmer now that I could remember it being through the whole day and I pitched the tent next to the car. I was able to fill the water bottle, make a much better coffee and when feeling a little more relaxed, headed towards the shower with the few bits of washing up I had to do.
I love a good shower. I love the shower I have at home. The camp site shower was BETTER. It may be just the feeling after what had become a long day of driving, but to stand under the hot water that soaked me in moments, was bliss. The water here is so soft that I continued to re-wash my hair with just the suds on my hands. Eventually when I did step out of the water, I felt refreshed.
Taking full advantage of the facilities offered to me, I cooked my dinner in the communal kitchen and sat in the warm watching the light draw in but never fully pull to a close, fingering through the pages of the guidebook and picking out key points for tomorrow.