There’s dampness in the air and small water droplets accumulating and dancing across the car windshield, orchestrating a temporary distraction for your eyes to what lies beyond the window. Rolling plains covered in mud leading to cragged edges of rock erupting out of the Earth, appearing simultaneously out of place and right at home. Grass covers the plateau at the top as water gently trickles down, navigating a maze of grass before falling off the steep cliff side. All of this from just one window on the right side of the car, begging to be appreciated.
As you drive further, you begin to approach the mountain that houses these rogue cliffs, and you see one particular stream of water, gushing down the edges with more gusto than any other stream on the entire mountain. From far, it looks relatively small; a skinny line of blue accentuating the green mountainside. As you drive closer, you lose concentration. It’s summer, but it’s also Iceland, which means there is no such thing as warm weather. Adding to the frigid air outside is a brilliant storm cloud, outlined on the edges by a peeking sun, trying to break through the fifty shades of gray in the sky, but mostly failing to do so. It may rain or pour or do nothing at all. You should be prepared for anything in Iceland.
So you grab your sweater and your rain coat, and then you check and make sure you have your camera equipment and your phone because Snapchat absolutely needs to see this. Before you know it, you’re in a parking lot facing a cliff, blocking your view of anything. You get out of your car, turn the corner, and there it is: Seljalandfoss, a waterfall like none other.
The incredibly majestic Seljalandfoss is even more stunning in person.
Most waterfalls hug the mountain they as they travel down to the Earth, water making contact with the rock the entire way down. Not this one. Water is shooting out from the top of this cliff as though shot through a children’s water gun, spouting out at an angle, creating an arc within the water before splashing into the giant puddle below. The first thing you notice as you get closer and closer is the disparity in size between an average person standing beside the fall, and the ridiculous height of the fall, seemingly dwarfing the people around it into less-than-ant status. You begin stacking people in your mind to gauge how tall it could be, and after you stack about 100 people, you realize that this particular cliff still looks taller.
The air is rich with humidity and conversation. The tone of voice around you signals nothing but astonishment, with “wow”, “woah”, and “damn” punctuating sentences in every direction. There’s a bridge in sight, and it is at a perfect angle next to the stunning waterfall; it’s every photographers dream: the perfect shot. You wait for an empty moment on the bridge and as people evacuate, you set up your camera, tell your wife to stand still, and take dozens of pictures, each one better than any you’ve ever taken before in your life. Not because of the technical ability or how expensive the camera is; none of that matters right now. What matters is the person in the frame, and the gorgeous background, and how the person in the frame is embodying a serenity you never even knew existed.
You leave the bridge and walk towards the fall. The mighty water splashes on the pond and ricochets everywhere, spraying anyone within 50 ft of it. Because the water doesn’t fall directly attached to the cliff, it’s possible to walk behind the fall, on a rocky path that circles the fall. The steps are uneven and slippery as you make your way up. The water continuously gets in your eyes, further accentuating the difficulty of climbing behind this fall without clumsily falling down. When you make it behind the cliff, all you can really do is smile bright and wild. You feel right at home right here. At this moment, you know that one day in the near future, you will return to this spot because moments like these should never have to be classified as “once in a lifetime”.
That’s what it’s like to visit Seljalandfoss.
-The Wandering Toucan