The unsorted logistics of anything make me want to throw up, so my anxiety got frothy before picking up my rental car. Will I find the rental office? (I did.) Will I manage the Iceland road rules okay? (Yes. They’re not that different.) Do I know where I’m going? (No. But it’s an island. How lost could I get?)
They put me in a white Kia Soul, which I found adorably sheep-like and very appropriate. Much like the first 2 hours of the Fimmvörðuháls hike, once behind the driver’s seat, every part of me squealed, “Weeeeeee!” and another adventure began. I’ve often thought Road Trips are my second home.
I left Reykjavík by way of the Hvalfjörður Tunnel, a drivable tunnel 165 meters below sea level. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. I had a whale watching tour booked out of Hólmavík in the Westfjords, starting at 9 a.m. the next morning. I had no room booked anywhere between, and intended to sleep in my car somewhere reasonably close to Hólmavík. Airbnb Host S said her favorite area of Iceland was Snæfellsness, and she recommended a drive to Stykkishólmur. So that’s where I went: Stykkishólmur.
I enjoyed a cappuccino in a café by the harbor while my cell phone recharged, then took an easy walk up Súgandisey, a basalt island with a small lighthouse at the top.
And that’s it. That’s what I have to say about that. I missed other parts of the town (e.g., Helgafell Mountain where wishes are granted) due to lack of planning and itchy-footedness. When I’m in drive mode, it’s hard to stop. I’d passed an interesting looking cemetery on the way into town and wanted to explore it, so I left the way I came.
Back at the cemetery, an infinity sign was drawn into the dirt where I parked between the road and a field. It was the size of my car. I hadn’t noticed it driving into Stykkishólmur. Maybe it wasn’t an infinity sign. Maybe it was just a figure eight from a biker who pulled over for a moment to loop.
The cemetery. I’ve written before about my (likely unreasonable) expectation that every time I walk through a cemetery something dramatic will happen. The sky will crack and truths will fall like rain (or hail, depending on how painful the truth is). I needed the mark in the dirt to be an infinity sign, because nothing dramatic happened in the cemetery.
I was interested in some clusters of graves grouped into the center of what looked like buried iron bed frames. In a short online search I found rituals burying Vikings in ships (and sacrificing thrall girls with chieftains so they can continue to serve them sexually in the afterlife, for shit's sake) and some iron bed graves in Wyoming as a “final resting place.” So there is that. I don’t really have anything wise to say about it. I think how we treat death says a lot about how we treat life. But I don't know the specifics. I took photos but only a few, and I took them quickly. I once went to a Native American powwow and took a bunch of photos, only later to learn that some tribes believe photographs steal the soul of the subject. Guilt. Ever since then, I worry about taking photos in sacred places. My camer is just an Android smart phone, which seems kind of cheap and ridiculous in certain contexts.
Anyway. I wandered the cemetery, said out loud "Thank you for accepting me. I hope this is okay." And then I kept driving.
When the sky began to dim, I pulled into a parking lot by a closed gas station in Búðardalur. This is where I would sleep.
I felt giddy about the prospect of sleeping in my car. Maybe that sounds foolish to you. But in my world of predictable middle class convention, it was a fairly wild thing to do. Búðardalur is a small town along Hvammsfjördur at the throat of the Westfjörds, Before retiring to the passenger seat of my Soul (I enjoyed writing that.) I traipsed across the black stones by the water, huddled in my hat and sweater.
I parked as close to the tree line as I could so I could pee in the grass between the cover of open car doors.
The night in my car was uneventful except for my brain. No music. No conversation. No moving about the cabin. Just me and every hurting thing I’d been avoiding back home. It was a cramped car. I wrote in my journal. I stared out the window. I did some old-fashioned crying. I made a few resolutions to protect my heart better. (And forgot them days later as soon the plane landed in Iowa.)
I had no blanket and pulled nearly every article of clothing out of my bag. It got colder. I slept an hour or two at a time, waking up to run the engine and the heat periodically. Despite my best efforts, I peed on my shoe.
I headed toward whales first thing in the morning. I felt peaceful and light and ready.