“Summer” is an abstract thought in Iceland. As I write this, the wind is blowing with a chill of five degrees Celsius, just over 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s the fourth of August. I’m looking out over the expanse of the Highlands – the lesser-visited central region of the island – while the wind does its best to push our camp chairs over.
This summer is colder than our winters in South Africa – we haven’t experienced a single day above 12 degrees Celsius, and the average is just 10 degrees for the month of August. We’ve also spent a lot more time in snow and ice here than we ever would in our home in the southern hemisphere. This, despite an average of just three or four hours of darkness in peak summer months.
A poster at the Keflavik International Airport greets new visitors, illuminating the iconic and extreme qualities of Iceland: in June there are just two hours of night-time, in December just four hours of daytime; the temperature rarely rises above freezing in winter and monthly averages never get above 10 degrees Celsius; the Northern Lights can be seen from September to April; over 350,000 whales frequent the country’s shores; and there are 170 thermal pools to swim in around the island.
Despite the ever-present chill, we met many warm and friendly Icelanders during our 13-day visit to the small country. Love of the great outdoors is ever-present here. And you have to really love nature to live through nine solid months of winter, with three barely-summer months to offer only occasional sunny and mild days for hiking, biking, boating, off-roading, camping and numerous other activities.
There are more sheep than people in Iceland: about 450,000 to 330,000, and you certainly see more farm animals than humans on the road. Around nearly every bend we would slow for a passing sheep family – often mother ewes with twin or triplet lambs in tow.
We are a week into our honeymoon of 4x4ing around Iceland, cozy in our Suzuki rental car, kitted out with a relatively comfortable rooftop tent. We are about half way around Iceland now, looking forward to days in the North and Western Fjords. I’ll be posting details from our itinerary in journal-format after our trip ends. Until then – tala við þig seinna!