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No Plans

Frequent stops along the Ring Road

Story by Dan Bretl March 12th, 2017

letting go

Our first three days in Iceland, we had tried to stick to a hastily created and generally far too ambitious schedule of sights to see. By the fourth day, we were feeling exhausted and somewhat stressed by that sort of self-imposed pressure, so we decided in the morning to cut ourselves some slack and set out without any plan at all.

This turned out to be an excellent idea. It afforded us the luxury of simply pulling off the side of the road whenever we saw a beautiful scene - something that seemed to occur roughly every five or ten minutes. I'm a little unclear on what is and isn't allowed as far as wandering through unmarked terrain in Iceland, so I apologize if we overstepped our bounds over the course of the day.

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Neverending waterfalls

Everywhere you look in Iceland, there is a waterfall. In fact, after a while, the term sort of starts to lose its meaning... Is that stream coming down the side of the rocky hill a waterfall? Or seven waterfalls? Is that water always there? Or does it come it go with the weather? I wonder if anyone has ever tried to survey the entire country and count how many there are in total. I'd guess it to be a futile endeavor, but still I wonder at even the order of magnitude. Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? More?

Not only does the number of waterfalls seem unbounded, but each one itself seems to have no end. They would simply fade off up into the clouds. It was like they came straight from the rain above.

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burial site

Somewhere along the Ring Road, we found an old family burial site overlooking a bay. There were sheep grazing in the long wet grass and a trail leading down to the water, so we spent a little while exploring. It was nice and quiet.

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I get excited about brightly colored and well weathered farm structures. I also get excited about wandering reindeer!

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my favorite spot in iceland

At some point while we were driving, I looked up to our left and caught a glimpse of an incredible ravine with steep rock formations on either side leading up to a waterfall. I couldn't let it go, so we found a spot a ways up the road to turn around and come back. It didn't seem to be private farmland, so we pulled over and started hiking up the hill.

It was raining pretty hard. Normally, I'd concede and put my DSLR away in that sort of weather. The scene was so incredible though that I couldn't satisfy myself with just my paltry iPhone (nor of course *gasp* just my own eyes). I've always wondered what it would take to bring my D3 down. It's built like a tank and has never failed me over the last ten years. Unfortunately, I found its limit that afternoon. The Iceland rain wouldn't let up, and my camera body got absolutely soaked. It didn't stop functioning in the moment, and I did finally stuff it into my rainproof bag (after hastily wiping it down with a spare jacket), but I realized later that some moisture had seeped through the cracks between the lens and the body and corroded the metal contacts that are used to communicate with older lenses. All in all, the damage could have been much worse, and I consider myself quite lucky. Plus, it gave me the excuse a few months later to finally upgrade my 50mm.

Equipment concerns aside, that rainy wild ravine was probably my favorite spot in all of Iceland. I'd never seen terrain like it, and certainly never had the opportunity to walk through it. I went all the way up to the rock face over which streams of water were snaking down. I wonder what was on the other side... (A dragon, I assume.)

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Catie and I were quite satisfied and bedraggled by the time we got back to the car - a perfect time for some fresh baked bread from Breiðdalsvík (Bretl-svik, in my head)!

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Iceland