Our Trip to Iceland: Day 1
We've never experienced anything quite like Icelandic weather. We arrived in Iceland at 4:30am local time, in the middle of a storm. The wind howled and swayed the entire plane as we sat on the runway for nearly 20 minutes, waiting for the airline's staff to attach the jet bridge to the plane. When we finally made it outside, the snow was whipping - truly, whipping - my body and face as I attempted to walk against the wind. With effort, we arrived at the hotel beside the airport where we would be picking up our rental car. We signed the car out - studded tires, four-wheel drive and all - and we were given one piece of advice: be careful when you're opening the car door, the wind has been known to take the doors off.
With that advice - and so much adrenaline pumping through our veins - we got into our car and began the drive to our first destination: Vik and Skogafoss, a 4 hour drive from Keflavik International Airport. The blizzard had us in literal white-out conditions. We could see probably 3 feet in front of our car and the occasional blinking of the hazard lights on the car ahead of us. This wasn't the first time we would drive in white-out conditions, but it was the scariest. We were in a country we were unfamiliar with, on roads we had never been on before, and our ability to see had been taken from us by a roaring blizzard in the black of night. Daniel's knuckles were white on the wheel and I was sitting on the edge of my seat, trying my best to be his second pair of eyes.
Finally, the snow subsided; then, it was 10am and the sun began to rise. This moment of our drive was magical; we had had no idea that we were driving between rising, soaring, snow-covered cliffs and mountains. We had no idea that the terrain surrounding us was otherworldly, or that small cottages dotted the horizon only every few miles. In that first (merciful) break of dawn, we spotted this waterfall. That's when we knew we were in for a truly magical trip.
Four hours later, we had made it to Vik. Our first stop was going to be the black sand beaches; we pulled up into the parking lot with sunny skies - and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of what I was seeing before me. It would be so easy to pretend you were on another planet; the beach's sand was black as oil with small boulders protruding across the otherwise-flat horizon. The ocean waves were overwhelmed by the storm; they crashed and screamed menacingly against the column rock formations that jutted out along the cliffs.
We exited our car and made it perhaps 10 yards when it began to hail. And not just baby-hail - this hail was the size of marbles! At the same time, the wind whipped so hard that the black sand formed an almost tornado-like wall around Daniel and I. Above the roar, Daniel yelled at me to return to the car (I had gone into a deer-in-headlights reaction.) I finally did turn around to run back to the car - being whipped and beaten by hail and black sand in the process. I opened the car door, jumped in, and then found that I was literally unable to close the door behind me because of the strength of the wind. For nearly 10 seconds, I struggled with the car door - sand and hail were piling into our rental car all the while. Finally, either because of an adrenaline-spiked strength, or because of an almost imperceptible break in the wind (or both) I slammed it closed. We sat there like you see people on movies do when they finally make it to safety: our chests were heaving, shocked looks on our faces ... then we bursted out into laughter.
That day, we experienced rain, wind, thunderstorms and lightning, blizzard-conditions, frozen rain, hail and a sandstorm. If the forecast says "stormy" for your trip to Iceland, this is the kind of storm you can expect. Every kind. Luckily, it did clear up for the rest of our trip - we had sun, snow and rain during the next four days, but the wind, lightning and hail only stuck around to greet us on Day 1.
After that adrenaline-packed day - and after staying awake for over 24 hours - we arrived at our lodge in Skogofass. We were too tired to even walk out to see the waterfall. We decided to get food in the only restaurant for miles around, then fall into a deep sleep at 4pm local time.
And don't you worry; there is much more that happened during our five days in Iceland. Stay tuned for further blogposts - in them, there will be itinerary details, blue glaciers, ponies, and a few more near-death experiences.