East Iceland

Finishing my Jokulsarhlaup hike at Reykjahlid, a bustling metropolis of 128 people, put me back on the Route 1. Also known as the Ring Road, this two lane highway loops around the country and will take me further on my monthlong journey back to Reykjavik. 

Reykjahlid sits on Lake Myvatn, an area known for birdwatching and hiking. At the recommendation of an Italian hiker I met on the Jokulsarhlaup, I stayed in a campground uphill from a church farther from the center of town. Granted, this town had fewer people than my introductory chemistry class so it just meant an extra 8 minute walk to the gas station. 

The gas station seems to be the center of activity for all these Icelandic villages. In the smallest locales they double as grocery stores, restaurants, and bus station. This was true for Reykjahlid. After buying some skyr, an Icelandic yogurt-type thing that has a really strange texture but is amazing, I sat on the terrace and played typical Iceland tourist bingo:

  • Germans older than 30? Check. 
  • An inexplicably large group of rowdy French teenagers with no adult supervision? Check. 
  • Israelis overloaded with way too much camping gear? Check. 
  • Bus of Asian tourists? Check. 

Reykjahlid fit the usual Ring Road checklist. 

I took a bus two hours along the Route 1 to Egilsstradir, which at almost 3000 inhabitants felt like walking through Manhattan on a weekday. Egilsstradir is the largest town in east Iceland, the country’s least visited area with paved roads. It’s a service town with not much to it other than discount grocery stores and its excellent location as a springboard for exploring the Eastfjords. 

Really craving fresh (by remote arctic island standards) produce and a hot meal, I was distracted by a Subway next to the Bónus grocery store. Only twice have I  dared to go to American chains while abroad: after a late night flight in Bucharest, where McDonald’s is apparently more upscale and has reserved seating; and a week later in Bulgaria when about to miss a bus. Both times were with friends amongst whom we had passports from three different continents, so it was semi international. 

In a Nordic country where a restaurant meal starts at $35 a person (I do miss $5 tapas lunches with tinto de verano in Madrid), I was willing to break my rule. In doing so I had the 999 kronor ($8.19) 12 inch “American pizza” sub with spinach, pork, mayonnaise, green peppers, salt, and tomatoes. Totally worth it. 

After buying all my provisions for the next few days, I went across the street to a different discount supermarket…this time with disgusting microwave pizzas and a functioning microwave!!!! Hikertrash trail magic happens in Iceland, too!

I totally made a mess of the microwave and tried to clean it up as best I could, though the Icelandic teenagers working there didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Totally content on pizza, I wrote my dad yet another postcard from an obscure locale. I send him postcards from every town I visit on all my travels when possible, and I’ve sent him some from pretty obscure places (Republic of Kosovo, Transylvania, rural Ethiopia, Gibraltar, etc.). 

Last chore: camp stove fuel. I’d been relying on a used butane canister I got for free at the Reykjavik campsite, but was in danger of running low after a couple weeks of constant use. Luckily the gas station, again the center of town, had some on sale. At $12 for a medium sized canister it wasn’t that much more expensive than in the US, and with how few I’d been seeing lately I didn’t want to tempt Fate. Boy Scout motto: be prepared. 

2 thoughts on “East Iceland

    • There are birds that will attack people, but I haven’t run into any issues. There really aren’t any animals here other than sheep and birds. I think I’ve seen three dogs in my entire three weeks in Iceland. The only mammal native to Iceland is the arctic fox.

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