As the panic attack settled in from losing my phone, and I caused quite some stress to my wife, I ran back to customs where I nervously tried approaching from behind the counters to ask if perhaps I left my phone there. The agent was friendly, but said, "Nope," and so the after effects of shock kicked in. How are we going to have GPS? It was my
phone that we were going to get a sim card (and my Facebook, WhatsApp, email
), now we'll have to set things up with my wife's phone. Where even IS my phone? Is it gone forever? Uch, I hadn't backed up my pictures to Dropbox in a few weeks. Oy, the cost of a new phone. We're stranded in a foreign country without my phone!
I hope you can get the smallest sense of what was going on in my mind.
We made our way to baggage claim, where my wife waited for our bags (we only brought two carry-on sized bags, but with frozen food, we wanted to keep everything under the plane), while I went on 2 missions. First, I went into the shop to buy a sim card. Prior to the trip, I learned, courtesy of Moishebatchy, that Siminn
was a reliable company and sold a 1GB data/100 minutes/100 texts sim card for $15. I thought that would be plenty and was a great deal. The shop by baggage claim had other brands, but not Siminn. I opted to press my luck and wait to find another shop. So, I went onto my second mission, which was finding the lost and found. I found baggage services, where they informed me that the police handles all lost and found (Wait, waaat?), and that the police is closed on Sundays (Wait, waaat?). Well, that settled it. By the time the police would be open in the morning, I had planned to be hours away from the airport. I took the police's business card and went back to my wife. Thankfully, our bags came through without a hitch, and we took SomethingFishy's advice of just walking out the "Nothing to Declare" line to avoid any issues with our food. I expected that line to be small and off to the side, but it was actually the main exit line, while the "Declare" line was on the side. Out by passenger pickup, we found another shop, where I went in and, behind the cashier counter, found the exact Siminn package I was looking for. Was nice to have that go as planned, although as you'll soon see, we didn't get to use 1 bit (pun intended) of the card.
Our camper rental included tickets for a FlyBus
transfer from the airport to the rental office. Unsure where to catch the bus, we waited on line at the FlyBus counter where they told us to just go outside. Tip: Don't wait online; just go right outside.
Once outside, our bags were taken below the bus, and we were directed to find seats. When we got on, there were no seats on the coach bus, so we had to get off and our bags were removed from underneath. While there was another bus already waiting, missing the first one was annoying as the buses only leave once mostly full, so we had to wait 20 minutes till we left. The bus had wifi, which enabled us to use my wife's phone for the 45 minute ride to the BSI Bus Terminal
(which ironically has a bigger sign outside for “Reykjavik Excursions” than for “BSI”). At the bus station, we went inside and found the sign for CampEasy, where we waited on line and had them schedule a taxi for us to go to the rental office. The rep didn't seem overly familiar with this process, so it took some time, but soon enough, we had our voucher for a free taxi, which we just brought over to the first cab in line outside. 15 minutes later, we pulled up to the camper office. So, this form of transportation from the airport isn't the smoothest, but if you give yourself enough buffer time, it's nice to have the free ride. Additionally from my research, the only ways to get to the camper office was either: 1) this bus, 2) a taxi (expensive) or 3) have them pick you up from the airport (super expensive). However, on our return to the airport a week later, we passed by a shuttle called PrimeShuttle
, so it may be worth checking out their prices. (Edit: from first glance, they aren’t too cheap.)
While we waited for the people ahead of us to be taken care of, I tried to get my wife’s phone set up. First, we struggled to find something to pop the sim card slot open with. Once my wife’s strength prevailed, we swapped in the sim card only to find that her phone wasn’t connecting. That was when I realized I never unlocked her phone for international use! Heck, I didn’t even unlock my
phone! The last time we were outside the US was 2 years prior on our honeymoon, and I unlocked my phone at the time, but I had a new phone since then. Thankfully, the CampEasy office had a computer set up for use (as well as coffee and a stash of leftover items from other customers – mostly food/pots). I used the computer to get Sprint’s phone number, the staff let me use their phone to call America (!) and 15 minutes later, my wife’s phone was unlocked – phew! We put the sim card back in and then a warning popped up that to activate the sim, the phone’s data would have to be wiped. Uh oh. My wife was not ready to do that, so we opted for Plan D (E? F?) a few minutes later.
Meanwhile, it was finally our turn to get set up with a camper. We filled out paperwork and figured out the payment situation (see the end of the intro post to the trip report where I discussed what happened here). To solve our phone woes, we opted for the wifi package ($32 for 3 days) for the camper – essentially a 3G device in the camper that acts as a wifi hotspot. That would give us GPS and anything we needed while in the camper, and we would have no internet while outside, but we figured how much would we really need then? Turns out that plan was great and we could/should have just done that in the beginning. They brought out our camper, and as mentioned before, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was much nicer than the pictures online showed! We got a quick demo – how to refill the water tank for the sink, use the fridge/cooler, use the extra heater at night – and learned that there was a separate battery that powered the fridge and heater so they could work even when the car was off. Turns out the wifi was plugged into car’s battery, so it would shut off whenever we turned off the car. This was annoying when we wanted to use internet after parking the car for the night. I told them about this issue when we returned the camper, and they apologized saying they would make sure all their wifis were plugged into the extra battery moving forward.
We delayed in the airport with my lost phone. We couldn’t fit on the first bus out. We spent more time than expected at the camper office. But finally, we were off in our AMAZING camper!In day/meal mode. The board on the floor props up to be a table.In bed mode. We kept the camper like this for most of the trip as it was just easier to eat on the bed than keep shuffling our suitcases around while converting between table and bed.
Despite thinking I planned enough time between landing and getting to our first (and pre-paid) activity, I knew for a while at this point that we wouldn’t catch the ferry to the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) especially since we still had a 1:40 hours drive ahead of us. Before the trip, I reached out to a few Iceland-related Twitter accounts and confirmed we should be able to buy those disposable grill packages at gas stations and supermarkets. I specifically wanted disposable so we wouldn’t need to deal with Toveling issues, and I considered schlepping foil pans/racks and charcoal from home, but opted to save the luggage space because we would be able to find in Iceland. No longer in a rush, we didn’t mind that it took us 4 stores till we eventually found the grills at the Olis gas station in Selfoss.
Continuing the drive on Highway 1, SomethingFishy had mentioned that there was a nice horse pasture pretty close to the ferry. I had only planned to stop by if we were magically early (HAHA!), but now we had the time to take a look. We only had coordinates for the pasture, so when we were supposedly “there”, we didn’t see a horse in sight. It’s funny that we were slightly disappointed (particularly my animal-loving wife) because we would go on to see countless horses throughout the trip. As you drive through the country and travel miles and miles between towns, you really feel that everyone in the country is a farmer because all you see are horses, cows and sheep that have somehow made their way to the tallest and steepest peaks on the mountainside.
We continued on to the ferry station at Landeyjahafnarvegur Port in the hopes of rescheduling for another day. The ferry schedule is not so favorable for those trying to make a roundtrip in a single day as there are not too many trips and you really want a good 6 hours or so in the Westman Islands, so it’s just hard to make the timing work. I went up to the clerks who informed me that there was nothing to be done; I’d have to buy new tickets for the next day. They were quite rude and would not hear any of my pleas, so we left having burned the $70 we paid for our original tickets. We drove around the parking lot for a bit, where we noticed a black sand beach off to the side. Out in the distance we could see the Westman Islands.
The tease of the island was too much, so I drove back to the office ready for a fight. However, I walked in to what felt like a completely different office. The clerk empathized with us and offered to reschedule us for a $23 fee for later in the week. We’d have to re-plan some of our other days, but we were glad to have this booked again.
We left for the 15 minute drive to our last planned activities of the day, which would really be our first and only activities – the two neighboring waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss
fronted by the Hamragardar Campsite
. The falls are literally right off the highway. First up was the beautiful Seljalandsfoss with its path that leads behind the falls.
Iceland is full of waterfalls and this one made quite the first impression. From here you could walk to the next falls, but we chose to drive the 1 minute since the campsite was nearer to it. We pulled into the campsite, which was literally just “drive on the grass and stop somewhere”, and went into the office to pay the $23 cost. We then went to checkout Gljufrabui, which is hidden inside a cave. You have to get your feet wet (we were super glad to have bought these water shoes
) and climb through the cave for a minute, but then – WOW! The power of the falls crashing down inside the cave, the colors of the green moss and the sunlight peeking through the roof created an awesome experience.Cave entrance
Back outside, we noticed the grassy campsite was full of… bugs! Despite being told “Oh, there are no bugs in Iceland,” and “It’s too cold for bugs to live in Iceland,” there most definitely were gnats flying around. We moved the camper a little further away from the waterfall, but that only helped slightly. At this time, I got an email that our glacier hike and ice climbing tour
the next day was cancelled due to weather. With a half-day freed up, I called up the ferry office and was able to bump up our reservations (for free this time) to tomorrow. After having done a lot of research into picking a glacier hike, it was annoying that we wouldn’t be able to go on one, but at least now our schedule was back in order and this would be the only activity we’d have to miss. We then checked out the campsite bathrooms and set up our first BBQ of Jack’s Sausages as we took in our first Icelandic sunset. They say the sun never really sets in the summer here, and I’ll admit it definitely took a long time to go down at an extremely late hour (~11PM), but it sure did get dark out. Photo cred: DW
We pulled the curtains closed on the windows, turned on the night heater and went to sleep after an extremely long day of traveling, stress, delays, driving and waterfalls. The best was yet to come!