Sunlight filtered in through the ice on the windshield when I awoke this morning. I could see my breath in the air, but the light felt warm on my skin. It was not time to face the day. Instead, I turned to my journal with musings from the evening’s time traveling in my dreams.
I had an epiphany and I feel the need to write this down: I think a lot of my anxiety would be relieved if I just stop trying to feel the need to be appreciated by other people. I have never really fit in anywhere and I honestly don’t think I ever will, which, ironically, helps me get along with all different types of people. I am a weirdo, and I always have been. I can’t really help it. Perhaps the home base that I need to find, that I have been seeking, is in my own head. The problem is that I’ve never been able to sync the person I see in the mirror with the person I feel I am in my own head. Maybe that is why I keep searching for something that I already have like when my mother used to run around frantically looking for her glasses when we were walking out the door only to realize that they were sitting on her head the whole time.
I am constantly striving for people’s praise in all things, but I never used to care when I was a kid. I think when you get older you just want to stop feeling alone as time and biology start reminding you that this moment in time is always constantly becoming a part of the past. These thoughts ran through my head as I drove back towards Akureyri and tried to savor every bit of the landscape while dreading the thought of leaving. Driving over the ridge from Myvátn back into Akureyri, the water lay so still you could have sworn it was made of glass. I stopped in Akureyri again for lunch. I figured I would get one of the famous Icelandic hot dogs and ask about my route home. I had consulted the analog map and it said that route 35 (a gravel road) went straight through the highlands back toward Reykjavík, but being pressed for time led no room for fuck-ups or break-downs so I figured I’d ask the opinion of a local. In Iceland there are several types of roads: paved roads, gravel roads, and F roads. Paved roads are like any asphalt-laden streets safe for all vehicles and gravel roads are like the unpaved road leading up to your grandfather’s cabin in the woods, but F roads are supposedly unmaintained roads where some of them are only passable for a short time of year. I guess even locals stay away from F roads for the most part.
The Akureyri Cultural Center looks like the housing for a large merry-go-round, yet inside lies all the modern allures that Iceland has to give. A poster of the local theatrical company wrapped around the outside of the building that depicted actors who appeared to be enacting a whimsical rendition of “The Last Supper” except with sexy librarians, men in sparkly suits, drag queens, and old people. Damn, I wish I had more time to spend in this country! These last few days have only whetted my lust! At the information desk, I asked the woman with stark blonde hair if my car would make the route that I described to her. She looked up my car model and cautioned against it because even though I had an all-wheel drive vehicle, there could be conditions that they did not know about that could make it hazardous. She said the bus that goes along that road from Reykjavík to Akureyri only stops three times and still takes a whole day. She also mentioned that there could be traffic in the Golden Circle area of the south. Since I knew from checking verdur.is (the Icelandic weather site) that rain was coming and I had to return the rental car at four in the morning, I decided to take the safe route back the way I came. Next time I come to Iceland I’m going to rent a legit off-road vehicle and leave enough time so I can romp around on F roads and gravel roads to my hearts content. The vehicle I had rented this time had four-wheel drive, which had saved me from getting stuck on that hill last night, but how reliable was it if things got rough? Even though the sticker on the glove box said, “This vehicle is allowed on F roads,” just because you can do something does not mean you should.
I left Akureyri around 1pm after lunch since I was taking the “easy” road. There was one other site that I wanted to visit based off a post card I had found in a gift shop in Akureyri. It is called Hvítserkur. The postcard had a rock formation that seemed to float out of the sea, its base barely attached. When I consulted my map, it seemed that the best way to get to the site was 32 km on a gravel road off the Ring Road along one of the fjords. By the time I got in the nearby area it was four o’clock. Did I have time to go on a gravel path and back?
I passed by the sign on 1 with what I have come to interpret as the Icelandic sign for “Really Cool Natural Wonders This Way,” which looks like the flowery pound sign on the Command key of a keyboard. After driving past the sign for about a minute, I convinced myself that I really was not sure when I’d make it back to Iceland, so I better get while the getting is good. I turned around and headed up the gravel path.
Looking down at the dashboard, I had a little over a quarter tank of diesel left. I realized then that I had no idea when the gas stations close in Iceland. If they were not 24/7, would I make it all the way back with what I had? I had made it from the airport, to Blue Lagoon, and to Akureyri on half a tank, so yes? I also pre-paid for fuel on the rental return since I was returning it so early in the morning.
Did my anxiety feel that way as I drove down the dusty road? Absolutely not. In fact, between the worry about fuel and the worry about whether the car would get a flat and fuck my whole flight up waiting for a tow, my heart was beating into my eyeballs. Yet I pushed on. I tried to figure out what the “M” on the blue signs along the side of the dirt road meant. I figured out later that it indicated a cut out for you to pull over and let the bigger vehicle pass you. At first I thought it meant a “maintained” road since this was on the way to a landmark. Then I remembered that English is not the native language. Duh.
I looked over at the dash from the odometer to the fuel gauge, odometer to the fuel gauge. The needle had barely moved. Out the window to my right, the evening sky mixed with the clouds foreshadowing the oncoming rain. It turned the sky a lovely grey-blue settling over the black sand beaches winding like dark serpents in between the lagoons and green hills. Suddenly the empty dirt trail dotted with the occasional farm broke out into a hub for tourists complete with Hostelling International-approved accommodations and gift shop. I made my way further down the road past the bus of tourists until I saw the tell-tale sign of a landmark with the Icelandic infogram poster. I love that you can’t see Hvítserkur from the road. It forces tourists to drive down the steep, dusty slope to the small lot and walk their asses to the vista point. When I got to the lot, I saw a Honda Civic covered in dust and realized I had, once again, worried for absolutely no reason.
I followed the people to the wooden boardwalk overlooking the cliff. As I got closer, the head of the creature began to peek out over the cliff. When I got to the look out, the rock formation seemed oddly small from far away as if I was looking at some giant from a long distance. In the movie “Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind,” the main character looks out over the empty plane and sees the lone shell of a gigantic dead insect called an Omu sitting in the twilight. In another scene, she sees the dead head of one of the fire gods petrified by time. This was the helmet of one of the fire demons lodged in the sand for so long that the barnacles and seaweed had overgrown the iron to make it an organic sentient mass frozen in space.
It was worth every bit of effort to see.
After that, it really was time to just head to the rental home in Keflavík. It was dark and intermittently raining, so I put on podcasts and internet radio as I went on auto-pilot since the darkness enveloped all the landscapes to see. I had to watch myself to keep from speeding. I tried not to go over 10 km/h over the speed limit, and somewhere right around Borganes, I saw what I thought was a speeding camera. I was going 94 km/h in a 90 zone. I thought I saw the lens blink and the fear and anxiety suddenly gripped my mind and the rest of the ride I was more cautious because all I could think about was that the camera had possibly caught me. I even looked it up on Google and some forums said that their cameras use red IR cameras so you might see a faint red flash. I did not, so I pray that I am in the clear.
I finally got to the GPS coordinates. It had been dark and raining for so long that I was ready to get out of the car. When I came up to the door, it opened for me. A woman in a tracksuit and blonde-hair gave me a friendly welcome. The warmest of any place I had been so far. Her name was Holly and she showed me around the house. I love rental apartments now because it feels like a home rather than a hostel or a hotel. A woman with a pile of dreads on her head and cheeks full of freckles sat on the couch in her pajamas. Her name was Annke and she was watching the house for the host who was out on vacation. Her and Holly were so friendly that I felt a bit of culture shock from being alone for several days then being reintroduced into society. They talked about a man coming from Pasadena, California in the next few days who had requested a half-roasted chicken when he arrived. They both could not stop laughing about it. Even after I showered and changed, they were still over themselves about “Half-Roasted Chicken Man.” The two women who shared the room with me were friendly as well. The one woman from Montreal who spoke French said she had spent more time visiting with people than with nature in Iceland because she loved people. I wish I had more time to spend here because I did not get to experience that side of the country. Next time, Iceland, I will be back…