Stunning, rugged, natural beauty. Some of the gifts that Mother Nature gives us are outstanding. Iceland is one of those gifts. I write this as I sit in front of a spectacular waterfall, in a remote northern corner of the country. How many people get to see these gushing falls? Not many, I’ll bet – this is not one of the waterfalls you see named in guidebooks. Like so many others in Iceland, this is just another natural feature of the landscape, undocumented, and a nice surprise when you happen upon it in your travels. As the tourists are checking out Reykjavik, I sit in a place with no roads, accessible only by boat. We took a speed boat in, and then had to transfer to a zodiac to get to the shore. There used to be a settlement here, without roads or electricity, but it was completely abandoned in the 1950’s with the dissolution of the fisheries. It’s a place that’s far too remote for anyone to live here year-round. These days, it’s a jumping off point for people wanting to hike the nature reserve.
I’ve spent these last few days travelling in the Westfjords region of Iceland. We’re close to the Arctic Circle here, and even though it’s July, I am in my toque, gloves, and 3 layers of clothes. But the sun is shining, and the cool weather is pleasant. In fact, I’m so in awe of the scenery that lies before me, that I hardly notice it. Yesterday, as we were driving along the cliffs, we rounded a corner and I got my first glimpse of Raudisandur Beach. As we came down the mountain with the sun reflecting on the vast plain of sand, I had to catch my breath and the inexplicable feeling of seeing something awe-inspiring filled me again, as it has many times in the last 72 hours. This is a red sand beach, different than the volcanic black sand beaches of the south; it gets its golden red colour from the millions of years of ground up sea shells. The colours, and the expanse, and the air, are calming. I don’t want to leave.
I’ve also been to Iceland in the winter. It’s, well, as you would expect – snowy and icy and cold. But, despite the cold and the wind, to be standing on Langjökull glacier in the immense silence of this natural wonder that is Earth, with the snowflakes falling around us, was truly a moving experience for me. I cried. At Thingvellir National Park, I stood at the continental divide, where the earth cracked into two pieces to form America and Europe (okay, well, maybe that’s not exactly how it went – I’m not a geologist). And I am still overwhelmed whenever I remember the greens and purples of the Northern Lights dancing in the sky above me in the middle of a dark field where we stopped when we spotted them. How can I be so lucky? And again as I ran out of my hotel in my pyjamas, with my bare feet stuffed into my boots at 3am on the night before departure, when I didn’t sleep because I was hoping to see them one more time.
We are fortunate to have opportunities to travel. Don’t take those opportunities for granted. Go somewhere beautiful. Go to Iceland.