South Coast Calamity!
Trip Start Oct 19, 2008
16Trip End Nov 03, 2008
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We woke up to some pretty grim weather this morning. Usually, the breakfast room's 360 windows gives us an amazing view of the harbour. Today the view was a pretty white one! It was snowing but the winds were strong enough to make it look like it was blizzarding. Over breakfast we discussed what we might do instead of our planned South Coast adventure. However, as the guidebooks and locals say, 'If you don't like Iceland's weather, wait 15 minutes.' Sure enough, in the 30 minutes it took us to eat breakfast we watched it clear up completely, become bright and sunny and then cloud over again.
Feeling hopeful, we decide to check the traveller's centre downtown and find out what the day's weather and road conditions would be like. 'Slippery but passable and intermittent rain.' we were told. Not the best of conditions, but we knew when we planned our trip that the country was a little greyer and wetter at this time of year, so we decided to go ahead.
Our route started on the same route as yesturday, through the highlands past the Hveragerđi , but instead of going north, this time we continued along the Ring Road. (The Ring Road, or route #1, is so named because it cicles the country, forming a ring around it's permiter).
After about an hour of our estimated 3 hour drive, weather started turning on us. It had been cloudy but without rain until that point, but it started to snow. Remembering how quickly the weather had cleared up that morning back in Reykjavik, we continued.
Over the next hour, it went back and fourth between snow, rain, and clear (but very windy) periods. Had we not been so close, we probably would have turned back. Around the 2 hour mark, it had yet to clear but the snow wasn't too heavy and it was steady so we thought we'd be okay. But then--CALAMITY STRUCK!
While passing over a narrow bridge, we went over a patch of black ice. We spun a little, then crashed into the side rail. For a few seconds, I thought we were headed off the bridge into the icy fast moving bridge below. Thankfully, the rail held and we were able to drive ourselves past the bridge and out of the way of traffic (of which there was very little).
Shaken but okay, we checked the car for damages. Luckily, other than missing the right front part of the bumper, the car seemed driveable. Then, we looked up and saw that we were right in front of one of the sights we'd planned to see--Seljalandsfoss! Seljalandsfoss is a very tall and narrow waterfall with natural caves surrounding it. The mountain from which Seljalandfoss decends actually has a bunch of streams of water falling from it. The river we had just driven over was the runoff from the biggest one. We pulled the car off the road to give it a bit of a closer inspection. conveiniently, Seljalandsfoss's viewing area was about 500 m ahead.
We weren't really sure what to do next. The car seemed okay to us, but we wanted to make contact with the rental company to find out what they wanted us to do. The guidebook seemed to indicate that the closest town with over 100 people was Skogar (which is the site of another of the South Coast's waterfalls) so we headed there in hopes of finding help.
Maddingly, as soon as we got past the waterfall, it got completely clear.
After a short drive, we found Skogar. Apparently, it's only a larger town in the summer. All the hotels and resturants we drove by had signs on them saying 'closed for the season!' In the distance we saw a tour bus stopped at the waterfall. Hoping that the driver would be able to tell us where we could go next, we sprinted for it.
It turned out to be a charter bus from a British girl's school. As I explained our situation to the driver, Ruth, the girls giggled and snapped pictures of us. However, the driver was wonderful. 'Here in Iceland, we take care of our tourists.' she said and lent cell phone so I could call the rental company.
As it turned out, the nearest mechanic was 40 minutes away in Vik, the seaside town that was to be our final destination. Since the car had gotten us this far already, I was (not so) secretly happy to see that we had an excuse to see more of the things we had planned.
Those last 40 minutes ended up being snowy again but we made it. While waiting for the mechanic to come and meet us at the gas station, we got a chance to walk down to the shoreline.
The sands on the beaches here are black, the product of volanic rock that degraded centeries ago. The windy day made the waves especially high. Watching them crash against the shore was pretty dramatic (as you can probably tell from the many pictures I've taken).
The mechanic finally arrived and gave us the all-clear to drive back to Reykjavik. But the day's stress and bad luck weren't over yet. Just as we were about to set off, I noticed that my purse was missing! I looked everywhere but couldn't find it. Hoping I'd left it at Skogar, we started back. After searching everywhere at both Skogar and Seljalandsfoss, I resigned myself to having lost it. After a preatty unhappy drive, we arrived in Rekjavik too late to exchange the car. We had dinner, went to an internet café to print out my travel insurance info and headed back to the hotel.
As we trudged in, SURPRISE! There was my purse! Ruth had found it at Skagar, found the map with my hotel's name on it in the pocket and returned it. :) I was absolutely EXUBERANT.
I guess they really do care of their tourists in Iceland. I don't know if she'll ever know how grateful I am. :)