I’ve always been a light sleeper, and if the events of this trip so far have taught me anything, it’s that sleeping in hostels and couches probably won’t help. And trying to sleep in a country that gets something like 19 hours of daylight during the summer makes it even more difficult. Needless to say, I woke up on my second and final morning much earlier than I wanted. As disappointed as I was to not achieve 8 hours of sleep, it also gave me more time to go exploring before catching my flight to London this evening.
And go exploring I did! Since time was still of the essence, I didn’t bother signing up for one of the day tours to visit Iceland’s legendary Golden Circle. Instead, I took the bus to the base of a local mountain called Ulfarsfell, where I was treated to amazing views of Reykjavik, suburban Mosfellsbaer, and the rolling foothills that stretch to the eastern horizon. My trek served as a decent barometer for my preparedness to hike the Camino de Santiago: in total, the ascent and descent were probably no more than 2 miles, but the steepness of the trail in both directions was a good test of my balance and my brand new hiking shoes.
Going on this hike also lent me an interesting perspective on what an American might consider a difficult hike, versus a local, hardened Icelander. When I went to the bus station to inquire about what I might be able to do, the attendant there, a slightly stocky blond woman in her late 20s, told me that compared to hiking Esja this was an especially straightforward hike. I’m not going to disagree with her entirely, but what the relatively gentle terrain lacked in grade, it more than made up for with extremely strong gusts of wind and bursts of chilling rain. As I went up the mountain, I was literally walking into a cloudbank, and it made the moss-coated rocks I climbed that much more treacherous. On the way back down the rain had finally come to a halt, but I still almost lost my footing on slippery rocks.
After about an hour or so I had completed both the ascent and descent of the mountain, and had entered a valley slightly northeast of the city. I had absolutely no clue where the nearest bus stop was, so I simply followed the largest road I could find back in the direction of Reykjavik. Along the way I encountered two separate equine paddocks and fed a couple of the horses grass from the side of the road.
Between climbing a mountain and encountering grazing horses, it seemed like a pretty good reminder of how quickly Iceland’s metropolitan area devolves into rural and wilderness territory, but after following the road for no more than a mile I stumbled upon a huge outlet mall, including a ToysRUs, pet store, furniture store, and one abundantly stocked supermarket chain called Bonus. And there I discovered some remarkable things about grocery stores in Iceland: The prices for almost every item in the store were posted digitally, rather than stickered on; someone took the time to translate the Tabasco Sauce bottle; and there is apparently such thing as “cheese with Mexican spices.”
What with a gorgeous landscape, inviting people, clean streets, and geothermal power it’s hard not to love this country, but for now I think I’ll pass on the Mexican flavored cheese. Hasta la vista, Iceland.
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