When you get lost, you normally get frustrated. Agitated. Confused. Annoyed. After the experience is over, you never want to do it again in your life. You look back on getting lost resentfully, or you try and forget about the experience altogether.
That is very much not the case in Iceland. Rather than feel frustrated or agitated, you feel peace and serenity. Rather than feel resentful about the experience, I feel lucky that I ever had it.
So what happened?
The Golden Circle was the last place we knew on the map before getting lost
It all started right after the Golden Circle…
Actually, quick sidenote: it sort of started before the Golden Circle, and here’s where I give you guys unsolicited but extremely beneficial advice: Check the reviews for your GPS device before renting one. We rented a GPS with the car because obviously we would need one to travel around a new country, but our GPS was special. Our GPS had sudden lapses of brain damage, and we knew that as soon as we were in the Golden Circle because it took us down an old, dirty, unpaved road to reach Kerid, and it never even got us to Kerid. (eye roll)
Okay so we have a terrible GPS, but it had only failed us once so far. So we thought, eh maybe it was just a glitch. Yeah, wishful thinking.
When we left Gulfoss (pictured above) we needed the fastest route to Akureyri, which is the only major city in Northern Iceland. So we put it in the GPS, and boom! A route shows up that goes straight through the heart of Iceland up to Akureyri. Fantastic right? Wrong.
Other piece of advice here: There is one main road in Iceland that goes all the way around the country. There are plenty of other roads that go through the interior of Iceland but keep in mind that these roads are unkept and wild because during the winter they’re overrun by what I imagine is a lovely combination of sheep and snow. So HUGE advice: stay on the main road when traveling around Iceland unless absolutely necessary. It will save you tons of headaches. Thank me later.
We silly Americans knew nothing about this main road of course, so we decided to take the route that THE GPS RECOMMENDED and stroll through the back country. We drive for like 2 hours and then we see a solitary wooden shack with the first signs of human life in about 100 miles.
I’d say the view from the wooden shack was pretty nice, wouldn’t you?
There’s one woman there who is manning some little convenience stand that has coffee and bathrooms, and we were definitely needing a bathroom so we used it. Other than the one woman, there were two guys outside camping, and I was beyond jealous. Imagine waking up and looking out to this view…
Anyway, we ask the lady if we’re going the right direction and she confirms that this is one way to get to Akureyri, but she tells us about how that particular shack is only open for like 4 months because the snow overcomes the landscape and nobody travels through that road in just a few months time. Sweet.
We keep trekking on along this road and we’re just completely overwhelmed by the beauty all around us. Mountains adorn the horizons which are glowing pink at this point as the sun gently sinks beneath the sky for just a few hours before rising right back up again. There is no night in Iceland in July. Only twilight and beauty.
Sometime along the path, we look out and there’s this curiously shaped ice mountain, which we recognized immediately as a glacier. It was the second time I had ever seen a glacier in my life, but this was so much more special because it was so undisturbed, and it was completely by surprise. We had no clue we were going to drive right by a glacier.
Not sure exactly which glacier this is, but after looking at a map later in the week, we think it might be the entrance to the second biggest glacier in all of Iceland.
Normally when I’m on vacation, I love to read. I also love to write and play video games, and just overall relax in an awesome environment. That sounds like bliss to me. But the scenery was so stunning that I (for once) put down my book and just soaked everything in. It was wonderful being out here, especially when you have no idea that you’re lost. Ignorance is bliss right?
Well the road isn’t road so much as it’s flattened dirt with rocks strewn every, and every now and again we see these pyramid shaped rock formations. Apparently these pyramid rock formations were the GPS system long before GPS existed. Different formations meant different types of directions, and the Vikings left these rock formations half a millennia ago to signal to other Vikings. It’s actually illegal to touch any of these formations, so I think they may actually be undisturbed. Imagine that, something that humans actually haven’t touched for 500 years.
In addition, it’s getting ridiculously late, like it’s 2 am, but by now we already know that there is no such thing as night time here. The light really helped make it less terrifying to be lost. If we were in the dark, I’m sure I would’ve felt about twenty times more panic. But hey, we don’t know we’re lost yet! As a matter of fact, nothing really bad happens until:
So you have a flat tire…in the middle of Iceland…with nobody around for 200 miles….Good luck. With that.
*clunk clunk clunk clunk*
What’s that sound? It’s the sound of failure.
Like from now on whenever I make a giant mistake in life, this sound plays in the background of my brain like a bad omen.
It’s a flat tire! And so we freak out momentarily until we find a spare tire (thank the Heavens) and then we realize that from here on out we need to drive excruciatingly carefully or else we risk being stuck with no transportation in the middle of nowhere. It’s also worth it to point out that our phones don’t exactly have reception out here. Hooray.
So now we’re going extra slow, and we’re going and going and going and we are getting NOWHERE. We’re beginning to get worried. We start to realize we have no clue where we are. We look around and all we see are mountains and sheep.
Our only company for hundreds of miles: sheep. Fantastic. We have oreos and chips in the car, but if we get stranded, we’ll run out of food in like one day. We start getting very desperate. Everyone in the car needs to use the bathroom. We get out of the car and take turns peeing on top of a mountain (no that’s not an exaggeration). There’s something quite strange about feeling a cool wind gently blow your crotch when you’re panicked.
Anyway, we finally make it up a mountain and when we feel we’re getting close…we come to a closed gate. Later on I Googled that gate and found out that just beyond that gate was a road that had a giant hole in it. It was an impass, and we were stuck.
So the GPS royally failed us. We’re lost. We pray to God up above to come rescue us.
He said no.
But at least He gave us the idea to head back the way we came, so we did exactly that until eventually we made it back to a main road, where we drove onwards to Akureyri, 8 hours later than we were supposed to.
All told, we were lost for something like 9 hours, but I gotta say, those 9 hours are some of the most memorable hours of my entire life. So although I don’t recommend going and getting lost, I do recommend going off the beaten path.
You might just have an adventure.
-The Wandering Toucan