We packed up the car and said goodbye to Stykkishólmur and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The skies were grey, and in the car we blasted the Secret life of Walter Mitty soundtrack, Jose Gonzalez serenading our exit from the filming location.
And as we left, we saw sheep in a field, which excited Samantha. “Sheep!”, she shouted. Those mystical farm animals Iceland supposedly had so many of, they did exist.
We followed route 54 all the way south, to the town of Borganes. We stopped at the Settlement Center, a museum dedicated to the Egill Skallagrimsson saga, but we only stopped for food. Burgers and pizza for us boys, while Samantha tried an Icelandic meat soup – she wanted something traditional before we left. In the shop we found what would have been a very helpful map of the peninsula we’d just left, and Conway grabbed himself a volcano postcard.
Outside, as seems to be the default for anywhere in Iceland, we marvelled at the fabulous views across the water. Oystercatcher birds walked up and down the beach looking for lunch. We ran up and down the boardwalk, playing racing games, holding our hands out like we were holding steering wheels, “quick, quick, quick”, Forrest signed.
We were making good time, so rather than driving deep beneath the water through the Hvalfjörður tunnel, we opted for the old detour around the fjord, taking route 47 around the water.
At the eastern tip of the fjord we found a little stream, and stopped to show Conway how to use our phones to take photos. Once he had a grip that meant his fingers didn’t block the lens, he quickly learnt what to do, and snapped all the things that interested him. Forrest was asleep in the car.
Further along, we stopped again at the Fossarétt waterfall – I stayed in the car with Forrest, and played Wingspan on my iPhone, while Samantha explored the boggy stream, waterfall, and old ruins with Conway, and then we swapped. He took photos of the waterfall, and we showed him how to record video. We trusted him near the water with our phones.
The problem with Iceland is that there are always so many places to stop and gawk at the beauty of the place. We agreed, just one more stop, and took a look at Laxfoss waterfall, posed for funny photos, then continued non-stop to our hotel.
We stayed at BB Hotel near Keflavik airport, so we wouldn’t need to travel far before our flight. We’d planned it this way just in case of weather, we didn’t want to be stuck in a snow drift on the other side of Iceland, driving through the night to get to our flight on time. That said, as it turns out, it hadn’t snowed for days and we’d had the best weather we could have hoped for.
Tonight, of all the nights, the KP index was at the highest I’d seen it, it was 7+, and the chances of seeing the aurora sat well above 40%.
Somewhat cheekily, and with Sam’s reluctant permission, as the boys were almost, but not completely asleep, I took the car out to see if I could get one last northern lights experience.
The problem here was escaping light pollution, so I drove west, as far from the airport and Keflavik town as I could, to the west most point, the Garðskagi lighthouse. This was clearly the place to come, as soon after I arrived, so too did all the coach loads of tourists on their aurora tours from Reykjavik.
But here there were street lights, and of course a great big white spinning light on the lighthouse. I escaped the crowds, the only crowds we’d seen in all of Iceland, and found my own quiet and dark place to see things.
I found a little dirt track to park on, away from any lights, and near some interesting reflecting pools (sorry sleeping waterfowl, I did not mean to scare you). Given the magnitude of the expected aurora, what I saw with my own eyes was not as magnificent as before, but what was exciting was that this time the aurora was both green and purple, according to my camera sensor at least.
I left when the skies clouded over. Before beginning this trip I thought we’d be lucky to see the lights, I could not have imagined I’d see them 3 times. And each time was different. Though I’m still left wanting more, wanting that perfect aurora experience, where the colours are visible to the naked eye, as everyone imagines it.
Back at the hotel I missed some unfortunate drama. I was beckoned home quickly as I was filling up with petrol, one of the boys had been sick. Not the nicest end to a holiday, especially when the hotel were assholes about it, and would not give us any replacement bedding or sheets. We do not recommend BB hotel. Thankfully that was it, and everyone was then fine.
Time to go home
Our journey home was uneventful – we were so relieved – and once again the boys were brilliant on the plane and in the airport. Conway went back through his Iceland book, looking at all the activities we’d done, noting his discovery that vikings exist (‘were they not very nice daddy?’), and that snow is actually ok.
What an adventure we’ve had. Whales, foxes, northern lights, caves, volcanoes, museums, snow, ice, eagles and stunning landscapes. What a great reminder of everything we’ve missed during this pandemic.
Goodbye Iceland, you are beautiful.