Hitting the Road
I knew we were back in London when I saw the Heathrow customs queue. It snaked back on itself multiple times and seemed to expand and contract like a slinky spring as it moved forward. Despite my lack of sleep on the flight and the inevitable wait in the queue, I was still happy. We were at the start of an open-ended semi-world tour.
London was a brief stopover. We dashed into town and did some winter clothes shopping (I bought all my stuff on discount and whilst an R800 discount might seem like a lot, it becomes less material when you compare it to the actual price paid in Rand). Being focused on efficiency, I’d ordered some goodies not available in South Africa via Amazon and other online vendors. Our friend Lars, who names his kids after Vikings, met up with us for a bite, a drink and the delivery of my purchases. San-Marié looked a tad exasperated as I unwrapped these mainly electronic devices whilst cackling with delight. And then we headed off to Iceland.
We planned to spend our first eighteen days in Iceland in a campervan. I was excited at the idea of going where we wanted, when we wanted and sleeping wherever we desired. In particular, I was keen to have some flexibility to try and capture some photos that would keep San-Marié’s dad awake beyond the first few slides of our inevitable family photo viewing. Having a campervan would give us flexibility to be at places when the light was good or when nobody else was there.
When we told people that we would be spending time in a campervan, the response varied from feigned excitement to barely concealed disbelief through restrained incredulity and even open guffawing. You see, we are not exactly the rough-and-tumble camping sorts who like brushing our teeth with twigs and baking soda and who see a gentle squat in the bushes as the ultimate communion with nature. My wife, in particular, is fond of 800 thread count Egyptian cotton, subtly-roasted Brazilian coffee, fluffy slippers and aged Shiraz chilled to just the right temperature (preferably drunk from a Riedel glass). I suspected camping offered none of these so I had my concerns.
Would she cope with the possibility of not showering for a couple of days? Or more importantly, would she cope with the possibility of me not showering for a few days? Would I be able to watch the start of the English Premier League season and see my beloved Liverpool march towards their first title in 26 years? Would I be able to squeeze my well-rounded belly into the opening of a sleeping bag? Would I be able to cope with a big van on the wrong side of the road on some very dodgy roads with vertiginous sides? Would my wife develop an unhealthy, slightly psychotic obsession with Icelandic sheep? OK, I wasn’t really worried about the last one, but in retrospect I should have been.
Well, we collected our little beauty, did some stocking up at the local Reykjavik mall and headed out into the wilderness. We left in the late afternoon and were targeting a campsite somewhere on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We immediately noticed a lack of traffic and even just beyond Rekjavik the scenery was enticing. Our campervan can ostensibly sleep five people (we feel it’s just right for two) so it is quite a hefty beast. I threw it around some corners and sadly found that its road-holding fell a little bit short of the Audi TT. Still, we made it safely to our first campsite at about 9:30pm (it was still light) and I sent San-Marié into the small hotel next door to find signs of life. She returned looking somewhat downcast, saying the campsite had just closed for the season, but we could stay as there was at least one toilet available to us. She said it looked “passable”. Alternatively, she had been told that there was a site another 40 minutes away. Now I’m nothing if not intuitive and using my well-developed wife-reading skills, I nodded and said, “other campsite, 40 minutes, let’s go”.
The “other” campsite was a rare delight. Situated near an outrageously coloured beach, facilities were basic but sufficient. The site was relatively empty and the only hiccup occurred when the local tariff collector came round to exact his pound of flesh. I hopped out of the campervan to pay him and he expressed surprise at our late arrival. When he asked how many people were in the van, he lifted his eyebrows at my response. “Big van”, he said knowingly. I wondered if North African refugee smuggling was a problem as far north as Iceland – why else would someone even suggest that we could fit one more body into our moderate accommodation? Fortunately, we were spared the search and seizure and after a good night’s rest, we settled into our tour of the peninsula.
We visited wonderfully named places like Hellnar and Arnarstapi and Kirkjufell, each with their own attractions, but after a rather long post, I think it’s best if you just enjoy these via the photos below.
To see our full gallery of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, please click here