the golden path

Posted: April 30, 2012 in Travel

Something about traveling to the edge of the earth makes miserable weather forgivable. Exciting, even. Wandering the streets of Reykjavik in a steady drizzle, shopping for a wool sweater to hold back the cold, and sagging into a chair in the warm hostel / pub trying to catch a glimpse of glaciated mountains through the persistent clouds was somehow blissful. Like I was braving the “real Iceland”, whatever that was. I was being intrepid, and misery has no place in the mind of the intrepid.

Of course with the first hint of good weather, this kind of romantic nonsense was out the window and I had picked up a rental car to do some exploring. A quick call to Gaui, my new local friend, and I had a co-pilot as he agreed to come along for the tour if I’d give him a lift to his family’s place in the Westman Islands, some two hours and a ferry ride from Reykjavik. Perfect.

Our trip took the meandering path along what’s called The Golden Circle, a series of roads that pass by the sightseeing highlights of the area including the sight of the first parliament of Iceland, the origin of the term “geyser”, and a substantial waterfall named Gulfoss. All this was scattered across a landscape that boggled the imagination and defied speed limits. At times it felt like we had gone back in time before even bushes had sorted themselves out, and all that really broke the monotony of the horizon was mountains in their awkward teenage phase, suddenly far too big to know what to do with themselves and still not quite smoothed over from the eruption of adolescence. For people like myself who always wonder what’s over the next rise, it was a landscape of both satisfaction and frustration, knowing you have a pretty good handle on what’s around you for miles in all directions, but that you’d need weeks to actually see what comes next.

After our sightseeing tour, Gaui and I made a quick stop for a nap on a sun-soaked grassy hillside to let the day catch up to us before we made the final run to the ferry, a fairly straightforward setup taking people and vehicles alike from a building in the middle of absolute nowhere to an island slightly removed from nowhere. It was a social claustrophobic’s dream. The ferry ride itself was uneventful on calm seas, though I’ve never been so caught off guard by a room packed with people watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother. Luckily I tore myself away from Neil Patrick Harris’s antics in time to catch the ferry passing into a harbor that seemed pulled straight out of a story of a lost civilization, cutting into nearly the center of the island through sheer cliffs.

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