Continued from parts I and II, here and here
With everything in place, including a bottle of water, a jacket, etc. ... the weight of my backpack amounted to about 18 kg. I can tell you that those first few days, hauling those up and down the mountains for the better part of the day wasn't all that funny.
For ease of working, I attached the cameras (usually with the 85 and the 135) to the shoulder straps, which greatly diminished the need for lens changes and removing the backpack. I had the hold the tripod in one hand, as the backpack didn't feature a convenient and secure way of attaching it. By while, it doubled as a walking stick, so no complaints here. And you do get used to the physical exertion, fairly quickly even.
All of this had an important implication however, that happened to coincide with the fact that I would be driving around for 24 days. Renting a car for that long and be the sole occupant, would have been rather costly. The same goes for flying in with a suitcase packed for three weeks, plus the amount of gear I was carrying (gear that they would have to pry out of my cold dead hands before I would agree to check it in).
The (only) alternative: take the ferry and be at sea for a full week. Unfortunately, you can't have your cake and eat it: the only ferry sailing for Iceland does so from northern Denmark (i.e., Hirtshals). This meant that first thing on the planning was a day long drive to Hirtshals, more than 1100 km away from my home base. It would result in my driving around as much on the mainland as I did in Iceland itself.
Have I mentioned the word "masochism" somewhere before ?
While apart from the logistics point of view, and the cost of car rental, the boat trip was probably the best choice from an ecological point of view too, it did have some notable disadvantages: (1) it's slow, which meant sacrificing about nine days of my holidays (vs. 1 when flying in) on transportation, (2) it's expensive, costing about twice as much as a plane ticket (3 meals a day, as well as transportation for the car included), and (3), it is freakishly boring (I will leave out 4, which would be me getting incredibly sea-sick).
To be more specific, I honestly cannot remember a time when I'd been that bored (I cannot remember a moment when I'd felt that sick, either). There was, quite literally, nothing to do on the ship, unless you have a weak spot for playing bingo or watching a movie with image and dialogue slightly out of sync. Eating became more or less the highlight of the day.
Luckily, on the parking lot of one of the glaciers, I met a seasoned Iceland traveller living in Ghent (you can find his own blog here, do check it out !). As it turned out, he left Iceland the same day I did, with the ferry, so not unlike the hills, the walls of the ship were alive with the sound of chatter (and so was I).
One last thing worth mentioning at this point, are the driving and the road conditions. Imagine roads consisting of only two lanes (= no emergency lane), positioned on top of a slope - the latter to prevent snow from piling up, as I was told. As a rule, no guardrails.
Add to that the distinct possibility of driving on gravel and/or on winding and (very) steep roads, with in some cases (I'm looking at you, road to Rauðasandur) an abyss on one side, and a mountain of loose rubble on the other, both starting at the very edge of the narrow road.
Sprinkle with never abiding winds, continuous or in the form of gusts, that are particularly nasty in open areas. Throw in a snow storm that makes taking Caradhras Pass look like the child's play - I'm talking first week of June here.
The last ingredient are the dauntless descendants of the Vikings of old, who drive either at, or sometimes well above, the speed limit (70 kph). In my experience, never slower - despite the sheep, arguably best known for their ability to suddenly materialize in front of your car.
Now consider how spread out people tend to live outside cities such as Akureyri or Reykjavik, or villages such as Stykkishólmur or Holmavik, i.e. in communities consisting of only a couple of houses (or less). The large distances to the nearest community, shop, car workshop, medical facilities, ... will probably appeal to the Icelanders' sense of independence and freedom, but it also means that in winter, when even they fear the road conditions, they are cut off from everything.
Charming to the passing tourist, but, as I imagine, a by while hard reality for the inhabitants. And surely, vastly different from conditions in Flanders where all amenities (and a full range of choice) can be found basically at walking distance.
With this series of images, starting with part I, I've taken you on a trip along the ring road (and some of its side roads), starting at the banks of Lagarfljót aka Lögurinn (my second day in Iceland), and ending just shy of Seyðisfjördur (the four images below), the port of call.
By the time I got back to where I'd started more than 3 weeks earlier, the bleak rusty slopes had been transformed into lush green walls embracing the little town.
Hope you liked them!  Keep tuned though: there're still a couple of thematic posts on Iceland left to share ...

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