This particular spring morning, my family woke up early. We’re all pumped up as we’re about to explore Southern Iceland including the main attractions of the popular Golden Circle Route. It’s the first of our two-day road trip. This will be one of our most precious family trips. Indeed, as it was a very special day particularly for our son. It’s a teenager’s journey of a lifetime we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Our excitement was cut short as we woke up to a foul-smelling air. We thought that a million rotten eggs were dumped in Reykjavik. A staff in the hostel where we’re staying for four nights explained that the culprit was the sulphur-smelling hot water due to its geothermal origins. It’s one of those normal days in the capital and there’s nothing to worry about. “You’ve never been to Reykjavik if you have not experienced this smell,” she assured us.
After a quick shower and breakfast, we went to the car rental company where we booked a Toyota RAV4 a couple of days ago. The firm shared the same roof with our hostel so we did not have to go far. A friendly staff briefed us on driving instructions and traffic regulations in Iceland (see Driving in Iceland). Then he walked us to the waiting “Sly” in the parking lot. He handed the keys and wished us well after satisfying our queries.
We clambered with our stuff aboard our rented vehicle. I drove to a nearby petrol station. Loading up our SUV with petrol was a total struggle because the instructions in the filling station were in the vernacular. We were like on another planet. Thanks to my son’s phone app coupled with a lot of patience, we did the impossible and our nightmare was over. Driving out of the station, I made a mental note to myself to always drive on the right side of the road (as opposed to left side driving in the UK where we live).
It was our third day in Reykjavik and the first two days have been amazing so far. We were awed by Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s largest church and shocked to find “rotten shark” in a restaurant menu. Also, we climbed atop Perlan, a landmark building which offers a 360° panoramic view of the city, met and interacted with friendly locals, among other things. Please read this post about Reykjavik’s sights.
This morning in April 2016, the sky was grey and overcast. Coupled with the horrible smell in the air, we did not allow these things to dampen our spirits. We’re all excited for our road trip to the Golden Circle Route which features Iceland’s most stunning sights.
At the historic Þingvellir National Park set in Iceland’s largest lake, we saw cracks or faults because the North American and Eurasian continental plates continue to drift apart. Erupting every five minutes or so of up to twenty metres or more is Strokkur, one of Iceland’s most famous geysers. We hiked along a trail at Gulfoss, a popular waterfall as its mists kissed us in the cheeks. Please read this post about the Golden Circle Route sights.
Sly drove through a stretch of terrible road. Around us are wide open spaces of farmlands. At a distance lay mountain ranges still blanketed in last winter’s snow.
I took a little break from driving and parked near a barb-wire fenced farm. We made friends with a pair of lovely Icelandic horses.
Known as the oldest but one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets, we dipped and refreshed our bodies at Secret Lagoon’s warm waters. It was a great day to be outdoors.
Out of the Golden Circle route and into Route 1, Iceland’s ring road, we marvelled at Seljalandsfoss and went around it as we scrutinise this vertical waterfall. Never mind that we got wet, the experience was something we’ll soak up in our memories. Please read this post about Southern Iceland’s sights.
To say that our adventures so far were spectacular is an understatement. It was beyond spectacular, I would say. However, there is more to these experiences than meets the eye. It’s kind of surreal and evokes memories that were not easy to explain.
My mind drifted back some six springs ago halfway across the world. On an Easter family holiday in the US, an Icelandic volcano whose name was guaranteed to make one’s tongue twist was becoming restless. In mid-April 2010, Eyjafjallajökul erupted and created an ash cloud which covered most of the European airspace.
We were enjoying the Californian sun in the company of relatives at that time but we’re scheduled to fly back to the UK in few days. Our son was enjoying and having an amazing time and kept nagging us to extend our holiday. The main reason was he want to celebrate his 13th birthday in the US. Of course, we just ignored him.
The time for us to leave the West Coast came. We landed in Boston for our flight to London. At Logan International, we learned that flights to/from most of Europe were cancelled. Eyjafjallajökul’s ash cloud shut down most European airports. We were stranded or to put it another way, we have an unexpected extended holiday. A Boston-based friend and his family who hosted and toured us around some parts of the East Coast earlier happily took us again. A few days later, our son got his wish – he officially became a teenager in the US.
Driving along Route 1 on the way to the southernmost and coastal Icelandic town of Vik famous for its black sand beach and strange rock formations, my wife was busy snapping photos of an endless mountain range. Our son was occupied browsing at some Google images on his mobile phone whilst turning to look at the mountains.
With a loud and excited voice, he blurted out “That’s it! That’s the volcano!” pointing to a ridge. I slowed down. We have that long stretch of the road on our own. Eyjafjallajökul, covered in a thick glacier was an image of peaceful bliss and innocence – a stark contrast and far cry from its fiery outburst half a decade and a year ago.
This day and moment were special. It was the first day that our son will be spending his last year as a teenager. Six springs ago, he celebrated his day on becoming a first-time teenager in the US. It’s all because of Eyjafjallajökull.
He was silent, gazing intently at the volcano. My wife and I were both speechless. I was tempted to ask “A penny for your thoughts, birthday boy?” I decided not to – it was between him and the volcano.
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