Picture yourself standing on the top of a mountain, in Iceland, surrounded by massive, white-capped peaks to the east, and an endless coastline to the west. For most people this would be the pinnacle of a trip, that beautiful, scenic moment where everyone is staring out in the distance and reminiscing on how incredible the days in that mysterious country have been. However, this was not the case for the four of us. At that moment I just described, we had been traveling for nearly 16 straight hours and had only in Iceland for about 4 hours. Normal people would be incredibly disappointed in us for what we did next, but at the time (and even after), it may have been the best part of the trip. We took a nap…
To backtrack a bit and explain how this unfolded, I’ll begin with explaining what let up to this and why it was worth it. Half the group drove up from Philly to Hartford, picked us up, then drove us all to Boston for our flight. But we ended up putting in the wrong address for parking in Boston resulting a normally 1.5 hour trip turning into a 3 hour one. But nevertheless, we caught our 5 hour flight from Boston to Keflavik. This flight normally would be quite joyous, knowing you only have to sit on a plane for 5hrs and get to Europe; however it was a red-eye that arrived at 4AM local time. Which meant that very little sleep was had on the flight over due to a boisterous group of guys on a bachelor party, along with an unexpected view of the northern lights from the plane’s port side window. But energy levels were still high when we landed and the group was in fantastic. After a quick stop at duty free and a little negotiating with our Avis rep, we were driving north through the pitch black night.
It hit us pretty quickly, once in the car, that we had literally nothing planned, nowhere to be, and we were on our own. Our only constraint, was that our bed for the night was at some place called the Freezer Hostel that was 3hrs away in Rif, Iceland. Other than that, it was up to us. Realizing we had plenty of time on our hands, we drove into the “major” city of Reykjavik only to find that there would be no food establishments open. We asked a passerby and he pointed us in the direction of an Iceland equivalent of a 7/11, called 10-11 (real original). Rummaging through the convenience store’s isles, we loaded up on sugary drinks, sub-par sandwiches, power bars, and some well-deserved candy & chocolate. At this point, it was still quite dark and only 5:30AM, which meant we were in the perfect spot to watch the sun rise over the mountains as we stood on the sculpture & shore walk. As the sun peaked over the horizon, and the sky slowly became more and more intense shades of gold & orange, we stood there acknowledging that moment which became the official start of our trip.
Highway 1 became our home for most of the trip, but it was home surrounded with incredible views in every direction. Fast forward through a long amount of driving, a stop to drink from a waterfall, and a failed attempt to go horseback riding; we were in a desperate mode to finally hike one of the mountains. Every place we tried to pull off and hike, always had a fence blocking our route. And at the time, we were still timid foreign travelers that didn’t want to break any rules. But we were finally fed up, pulled over at the next picnic bench area, hopped a short fence, and we were on the way up our first peak in Iceland. Pitches and pitches of loose rock kicked down the steep slopes as we pushed further up the mountainside. Focusing on not trying to kick a pile of rock down onto your buddies below, we finally made it to the plateau where the rock became more stable and also covered in a thin mossy layer. We traversed across the top to reach the summit, where we were treated with impeccable views in the distance in all 360 views. The snowy mountaintops to our east and a glassy ocean surface to the west. Never in a million years would I have ever thought I’d be able to say I stood on top of a mountain in Iceland.
With all the adrenaline and excitement slowly winding down, we looked up at one another with similar expressions of, “Well what do we do next?” So I jokingly said that we should go take a nap (with the intent of doing so at the hostel). Following my dumb remark, Tim reached down to touch the moss under his feet, noticing that it was significantly thicker than we originally though. And so it was decided, we would take a nap on top of that mountain. The moss was nearly three inches thick, and significantly more comfortable than my bed at home. What I thought would have only lasted a few minutes, ended up being nearly a full REM cycle. We all slept for 2hours, on top of a mountain, in Iceland, entirely before noon.
Literally all that travel time and exhaustion was wiped clean with a single, summit nap. From that point on we were full-send-mode and ready to take on everything Iceland could throw at us.