Our last couple of days in Iceland were a strange mixture of excitement for the sights we still had left to see, and heartache at the thought of leaving. We took a journey into the great wild mountains of the south, where we ventured onto giant cliffs towering over winding blue rivers. The wind picked up like a cyclone as we meandered up the vibrant green slope, and it was colder than anything I had experienced in Iceland since Reynisdrangar beach.
This place was like another planet, or something straight out of Jurassic Park. I felt like we had stepped back in time to a prehistoric world. The incredible place is a canyon in the south-east of Iceland, called Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. The canyon was created by the progressive erosion of the flowing water from glaciers through the rocks over millennia. The canyon walls, which have now become freestanding rock cliffs, rise over 1000 feet into the air, dropping all the way down into the flowing river below.
Standing on this ledge was terrifying and thrilling all at once. Knowing that you are just one small step away from tumbling thousands of feet into a river far below sent my stomach lurching every time I looked over the edge. I was literally one movement between life and death, and that was a completely new experience for me. I felt strong and powerful, and at the same time very small and vulnerable. Needless to say, I felt as though every emotion I could possibly feel was rushing through me all at once.
If I were to recommend only one place to visit on a trip to Iceland, this canyon would be it. It is beyond incredible, and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. This is what Iceland is to me–genuine, untouched, and undoubtedly bizarre nature.
As we drove to our campsite that night, we stopped once more at the hill above Vík to look out over our favorite city and grab a bite to eat. Lizzy has decided that she is going to live here someday, and I can’t wait to visit her when she does 🙂 We had the urge to go to Reynisfjara beach one last time, in the hopes of seeing the famed Elephant Rock before we left the country. As we journeyed further into the blue dusk of the evening, however, we began to realize that it might be a lost cause, The tide had risen and the rain fell in sheets outside the warmth of our car. The ghostly shapes of rocky cliffs rose from the shore before us, and I stepped out of the car for only a few moments–which was just enough time to drench me to the skin.
That night, the rain continued to fall around us as we persisted to our campground for the night. Rob was determined to set up our tent in the dreary darkness, but I was apprehensive, to say the least. In the end, the rain kept us trapped in our car and so it was there we spent the night. The next morning dawned clear and bright, and brought out the vibrant greens in the pillow moss all around us. After readying ourselves for the day, all three of us ran around the plush landscape taking photos in the morning light.
Soon, we left our pillow moss wonderland and drove out into the countryside. There was a rock shaped like a mushroom that we wanted to climb, with an incredible view of a veiny river in the distance. Lizzy and Rob had climbed it before, and had told me the view was unbelievable, but I needed to see it for myself. I was absolutely blown away–literally–by what I saw when we got to the top.
Our last trip to the ocean was one I will never forget. It was chilly as usual and the air was misty and dense, but despite the cold, the sea shore called our names. We ambled out onto a cliff, past throngs of tourists, and we peered out over the blue-grey ocean waves far below us. I was still so unused to black rock beaches, and the contrast of bright white sea foam against coal black rocks was so dramatic. Photos couldn’t come close to capturing the beauty of this place. (Film)
On our drive away from the beach, we stopped by one last time at my favorite waterfall, Skogafoss. I needed to say goodbye, because this was a place that I felt such a strong connection to. The air was colder than the first time we had visited, and the waterfall’s mist pelted me like tiny darts. Something was different about this visit to the falls, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was. It seemed eerier, more cinematic this time, and once again, I felt so small and insignificant standing below it. (Film)
This last day’s journey was one of farewells to the place we had called home for those past two weeks. No amount of time could possibly be enough to spend in this beautiful country, and it was heartbreaking to know we had to leave. We had stumbled upon this abandoned entrance to a mine the previous week, and we knew we wanted to come back here before we left to take a “family portrait”.
These two people mean the world to me, and I love them both with all my heart; sometimes I feel like they are my long lost siblings. We all learned so much about each other on this trip–things that we didn’t know before. t learned that Lizzy doesn’t like confrontation, and I act like a mother when it comes to safety, and that mine and Rob’s personalities sometimes clash. We all got frustrated with each other from time to time, but we always forgave one another and tried to be more considerate afterwards. There were highs and there were lows, but I wouldn’t have spent this particular trip with anyone else.
Our last destination on our journey was the incredible waterfall, Gullfoss. This waterfall is larger in volume than Niagara Falls, and we were all struck by its powerful nature. It was the perfect ending to our time in Iceland, and it truly was a magnificent sight to see.
I’ve been dreading the ending of this blog post for the past (almost?) five months. I don’t have any idea how I’m supposed to sum up the experiences I had during those short two weeks, and trying to condense my thoughts into a paragraph or two seems nearly impossible. It was difficult to leave Iceland, even though I was ready for a real shower, a real bed, and for not having to be in the car for most hours of the day. This trip has changed my life–and I realize how cliché that is to say.
It opened my eyes to real, authentic traveling, and gave me a taste of what true freedom really feels like. This trip to Iceland inspired me in so many countless ways, and I felt truly alive for one of the first times in my life. I don’t for a moment believe that this was my only trip to Iceland, and I hope I can return again soon.
To anyone who is thinking about taking a trip to this incredible country, I have only this to say: do it. There is nothing like Iceland, and you won’t regret a trip there, I promise. I hope these photos have been enough to prove that Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I will never forget the memories my friends and I made on our journey, and I’m so grateful for the time we spent together creating, growing, and exploring the world.
I want to thank Lizzy and Rob first and foremost for asking me to join you, and for giving me this incredible opportunity to create alongside you in this crazy country as part of the “The Restless Youth”. Lizzy, thank you for reaching out to me and befriending me so many years ago, and inviting me to your house in Canada for a week–I would never have expected you to become like a sister to me, but you absolutely have and I love you so much. Rob, thank you for being such a brave human being, for reminding me to act like a kid sometimes, and for loving me unconditionally despite our occasional differences 😉 I also want to say thank you to Kelsey, for making this trip possible with your selfless contribution to our Kickstarter–we literally could not have done it without you! You are a gorgeous, talented, amazing human. I want to thank Sian for the awesome conversations you and I had about Scotland and the British Isles; I’ll definitely be visiting you there in the future! And, to the beautiful, vibrant group of girls we spent a few days with in Vík–Kassidy, Autumn, Anna, and Chelsey. Every one of you has such a lovely heart and incredible talent, and I can’t wait until we are reunited again…Iceland 2015?? I love you all.
Lastly, I want to thank you all for following along with me on this voyage; for your kind words of support and encouragement as I posted these photos over the past few months. Your patience means so much to me. I hope you’ve all enjoyed viewing these photos and reading about our trip, as much as we loved living it. Viva Icelandia!