While Jules Verne’s Professor Lidenbrock travelled to the Snaefellsness Peninsula to embark on his Journey to the Center of the Earth, our interest in this remote western part of the island was primarily to see the Kirkjufellsfoss, a picturesque waterfall that is an Instagram craze, and rightfully so.
The Snaefellsness is an out-of-the-way detour since the famed Ring Road does not run through this part of the island. Most visitors stick to the Ring Road as it’s easily navigable, and contains everything that you need to see in Iceland. For the longest time even we debated whether it was worth it going so far west for just a waterfall, but are we glad we did.
The remoteness and the solitude.
The first views of the midnight sun.
Black churches against a volcanic backdrop.
The extremely long shadows against the weak sun.
Not knowing whether it was 7pm, 7am or 12 midnight.
The daze of jetlag against a wind that chilled your bones.
Hotels that looked like solitary gas stations in the middle of complete emptiness.
Mountainous walls of basalt columns that rose from the barren landscape like looming fortresses.
It was our first experience to a facet of Iceland that we would only see on the opposite end of the island, in eastern Iceland, which probably was more remote, more inaccessible and much more gorgeous than anything else I have seen on this planet. But we didn’t know that yet.
At one point, we chanced upon a solitary hut bracing the gusty winds in a wide open volcanic plateau that stretched in every direction till infinity. Smoke was billowing out of it’s chimney. Someone had decided to live there. He might as well have chosen Mars to live in.
Viraj, our 10 year old, who had been silently observing all along, suddenly piped up: “This is like Minecraft” How so? “Because you have an infinite empty world, mostly rocky. There are horses and sheep. And you can build anything anywhere and live in it.”
But an encounter with a pair of birds on our very first day was a testament to how remote and sparse this part of the island was. On our way to the Black Church of Snaefellsness, rays of sunlight were spectacularly sieving through the thick yet spotty clouds. We decided to stop and take a few pictures. Everyone had a camera and everyone was independently trying to capture their best shot – wandering around without fear, as there is really nothing to fear on Iceland – no bad humans, no dangerous animals, insects or reptiles.
I ventured out first, and within seconds, was scurrying back into the car. “What happened?”, everyone asked. “Man, there is this bird that is going to kill me”, I responded. For the next 5 minutes, there was hysterical laughter, name calling, and jokes about Dad being wimps. Not my best 5 minutes.
I challenged Rachna to go out. She did, and within seconds, she was wildly flailing her arms, jumped inside, and hurriedly shut the car door. “Run, run, this is like Hitchcock’s Birds!”
As we started pulling out of the shoulder, we looked carefully at the spot these two birds were circling, loudly, and saw a small collection of foliage that could only have meant one thing:
One set of parents was driving the other set away.