I had the best of intentions when I bought a plane ticket to Reykjavík. Ten days to visit a good friend, see some sights, eat some Hákarl, sit in the Blue Lagoon, and come back fully refreshed with a nasty hangover from the Brennivín.
Sometimes the plans you lay out don’t work out for reasons beyond your control.
With a few weeks to go, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to stay with the friend, and I needed to rethink my plans. It wasn’t as big a deal for me as it was for her, but it did affect my budget for this trip. I briefly entertained the possibility of cancelling my plans. Then I remembered that I’ve been through a lot in the past year and I could really use some time away, so off I went with no real plan.
I booked 2 nights at the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel. A quick hop, skip and a jump from the night life without being in the projectile vomit path of the runtur, this was a good choice. It was one of the more expensive hostels I’ve stayed in, but still cheaper then a lot of Italian offerings I’ve stayed in, the beds were comfy, the toilets immaculate, the staff very friendly and helpful, and the guest kitchen a popular choice. My roommates were Bryce and Ben, and some other dude who didn’t interact with us. I ended up adding an extra night to my stay while I was there, and that gave me plenty of time to wander around Reykjavik and plan my road trip around the Ring Road.
A few pints of beer into my trip (isn’t that always how these things work?) I manage to convince my new friend the geologist to head out with me. Into the void, we clunked along the Ring Road in Bjorn, our 12 year old Subaru station wagon. We lost the road every time the atlas plunged into the crease of the book bindings. Through fog and waterfalls, we meandered to the remote sheep station of Ytra-Lon in the extreme north east, only 40 km from the Arctic Circle and seemingly at the end of the world.
We developed a ritual as only two strangers thrust in a rental car in a foreign land with no CDs and a fading radio signal can. As we approached a major town, we took turns reading from the Lonely Planet guide about our destination.
“Hey Ben? Did you know that Lake Mytvan has these giant slime snot balls in bubbling hot pots in the ground? And that these slime balls are found in exactly 2 places on Earth – here and some obscure lake in Japan?”
There were sheep shagging jokes, mostly at the expense of the Welsh and the Kiwis, of whom everyone gets to poke fun of. There were crash geology lessons for the communications major. Travel war stories. Contrasting surfing and scuba diving, and the mutual draw to the surf but for very different reasons. And trying to teach an Aussie how to swear in the best Québecois French known to the outside world.
I still feel pangs of separation anxiety weeks later. For almost a week, this barren volcanic desert was the canvas to a budding friendship. Oh sure, sometimes the Australian would accidentally drive on the wrong side of the highway. And sure, sometimes I would try to overtake 5 cars at once and almost get us killed. But it’s a fine memory now, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Besides, Iceland has a strong magnetic pull and I know at some point I’ll be back. Or maybe I’ll just wind up in Perth, yelling “Hotel Borg” at the top of my lungs until someone tells me to cut back on the cheese before it gives me nightmares again.