Iceland is full of sheep


June 8, 2018 – June 17, 2018

One of my Robin Leffler rules is this: the more wide open sheepy spaces a place has, the more I will like it. Iceland: Q.E.D. (Too many colons.) (No, leave it.) Too many colons! (I try to be a serious person, but sometimes (all the times) it just doesn’t work.)

Happy 10th Anniversary to us! We packed light, rented a camper van, and drove. Lots. Here’s a map.

I started with two colors, but the dots were absolutely useless at the end because we navigate like crazy people.

Base map by (also, probably Google)

Day 1: have a nap and a geysir

Pro tip: the best thing to bring with you on any trip is someone who will drive while you sleep if you, say, took a sleeping pill to help you sleep on the plane but it just dried out your eyes and made you look like a pothead zombie.

The second best thing is a camper van. Camper vans are sexy minivans with beds and stoves in them. Why did I even buy a house when I could have had you, Camper Van?

Anyway – if you go to Iceland, just ignore the bits from the airport until you get out of the part where there are people. People are nice, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Okay, that’s not true at all.

But when we vacation, we enjoy nature and as much solitude as we can afford. Iceland has both these things in spades, if you’re willing to venture out into her wilds at odd hours. It’s doable and safe in summer, as it doesn’t get dark.

After a nap to de-zombify, we hit up Geysir (the original geyser) and Strokkur late in the afternoon. Geysir doesn’t blow much anymore, but Strokkur goes off every ten-ish minutes. So, if you like spectacle-of-nature type things, it’s there for your steamy pleasure. Then, we drive to Thingvellir – the rift valley which was the birthplace of Iceland’s parliament. Some geese give Curt the stink-eye. We leave.

Day 2: magma hole window cleaners

When we started traveling together, there came a point when Curt turned to me and said, “Can we just have a day when we have nothing planned? I just want to sit.”

And I said, “No. You can sit when you’re dead. I’ll staple you to a chair.”

Well, I was nicer than that. But what I mean to convey with this fictitious exchange is that when we travel, we pretty much do what I want. So when he said he wanted to go into a magma chamber, I said, “No. You can go into a magma chamber when you’re dead. I’ll throw your corpse into a fiery pit and save myself some money on the cremation.”

No, I didn’t. We went. And it was awesome.

We also visited a couple of waterfalls that day – Gulfoss and Seljalandsfoss. (That’s me and my favorite warm-head hat, Hat. Which is totally different from my favorite cold-head hat, Hat. Keep up.)

Day 3: i left my blood on Pig mountain glacier

We spend the morning ogling a pretty sunset and taking pictures of ice rocks on a black beach. The sheep stare as we drive by. There are so many more of them than us, but they have no political will. That’s why there has never been, nor will there ever be, a plausible Planet of the Sheep story.

I have biggish feet for a short-ish person, and sometimes I’m self-conscious about it. That’s how I found out that in Europe, an American woman’s size 9 ice hiking boot is actually an American woman’s size 8 ice hiking boot. Am I the victim of American vanity sizing, or was I just too silly to say, “PLEASE I NEED BIG BOOTS ‘CAUSE I HAVE LONG GRIPPY MONKEY TOES!” By the end of the glacier hike, I had matching dime-sized flesh holes on the top of each of my next-to-pinkie toes, and another one on the heel of one of my feet, near where my vestigial flipper bone is (oh, you don’t have one of those?)

We go on a nice glacier hike in Vatnajökull National Park. Our guide had squirreled out a small ice cave for us to go into – an unexpected pleasure, since they usually melt in the summer.

We stop and have tasty langoustine rolls in Hofn, then spend the rest of the day heading up the bottom half of the Eastern Fjords.

Day 4: fjordy in the front, stinky in the back

Today, there are rugged mountainsides, empty roads and an embarrassment of roadside waterfalls. We crest a misty, ice-crusted mountain and find a tentacle. There’s waterfall gazing, there’s puffin-chasing, there’s stinky-mud-walking. 

It’s Rasputin Day on Dan Carlin’s six-part podcast about World War I, Blueprint for Armageddon. We alternate between that, Douglas Preston’s Lost City of the Monkey God and (confusingly) David Grann’s Lost City of Z. What can I say? I like a good lost-cities story. 

Day 5: textiles and a very good cat

We experience a couple of Iceland’s two-way, one-lane tunnels. As we see headlights approaching, Curt grips the steering wheel and thinly exclaims, “What the hell.”

We go to a textile museum.

I pet a cat. A little girl on a bike stops and says, “That’s my cat!’ to which Curt replies, “Well, she’s a good cat.” She grins, says, “She is a good cat!” and rides off. Towards the end of the day, we start to experience the Icelandic wind, imported especially from Greenland.

Day 6: what the fjord

The East Fjords are lovely; the West Fjords are breathtaking. The rain falls steadily, and we are alone almost everywhere.

We visit the waterfall Dynjandi, and then take the road south which ascends towards peaks dappled with snow. I shoot, but it’s beyond my ability to truly capture it: an unmerciful, violent loveliness.

There’s a quick stop at the Sea Monster Museum, and on to Látrabjarg on a hold-on-to-your-butts type of road. I am rubbish at puffin pictures, but we do spot a scrappy arctic fox.

We are unsuccessful at locating an entire beach. Curt and I are attacked by arctic terns and run like lunatics, a la The Birds.

Day 7: Journey to the top of the center of the earth

When we open the doors of the camper van at Hólmavík, it smells like they pull the fish right out of the ocean and immediately into a delicious bowl of fish stew. Fish perfume. We’re here to see the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. I have advice for you: Google “Necropants.” You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

We make a stop at an Icelandic dairy, pet some dogs, watch some cows, then it’s off to climb a small hill and make three wishes to Thor. The day ends with a quick dash into Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Days 8 and 9: baaaaaaabbbbbby goooooooaaaaaats!

We learn about Icelandic Settlement and Egil’s Saga in the morning, check out a tragic waterfall and then! And then! We visit an Icelandic Goat Farm. It has baby goats. We spend an hour there, in the wind and rain, petting baby goats because baby goats are everything. Several of them tried to eat our clothes. Curt gives one a stern lecture, and then gets his finger nipped. It is a joyous place.

On our last long drive, we literally chase a rainbow, then head back towards Reykjavik and civilization, which is semi-loud after a week out in the wilds. Still, we find an obligingly quiet campsite next to a horse field. When I wake up in the morning, the younger horses are galloping around, playing with one another. At one point, the white spotty one kicks the brown one in the face for being an ass (a horse’s ass, you might say!), but later they nuzzle nicely with each other.

That is the end of our trip to Iceland. The final verdict? You’ll like it if you like beautiful things and nice people. And sheep. I have about 100 pictures of sheep that I did not post here, because I’m saving them for an exhibition called Sheeps of Iceland in Hats I Drew. Stay tuned.