I knew Iceland was going to be beautiful, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to witness as we set off down the South Coast. We had barely left the outskirts of Reykjavík, when our chatter of anticipation abruptly stopped. The horizon was suddenly dominated by a vast expanse of mountains, cascading up toward the heavens, their surfaces an undulating contour of deep blues, greys and purples punctuated by the iridescent white snow that adorned their peaks. We stared in silent rapture at the approaching formations as the road weaved onwards through a nadir. As the mountains passed by either side, stoic and watchful, I felt same the awe and reverence I imagine ancient settlers felt when discovering this land, and understood why they found refuge in intricate mythologies to explain it.
What follows is my attempt to describe with words and images what we experienced, knowing it can only be a mere echo of the reality.
Stepping out of your car, the landscape that you've been staring at through the glass barrier finally hits you with it's tangibility. You tread slowly and hesitantly over the thick moss, as if waking, bleary-eyed from real life into a dream, unsure if what you are seeing can really exist. Maybe it's the jet black volcanic rock, sharp and porous and alien in texture, giant cracks splitting its surface. Or perhaps it's the thick moss under your feet, unnaturally large and vividly green. Either way your mind refuses to accept the sensory information it's receiving.
On this island, the extremes of earth collide, raw elements meet, lava and glaciers fuse in a cataclysmic embrace. Like stepping into another world you feel insignificant, as if observing ancient, unknowable beings engaged in divine activities you can't hope to comprehend. You feel humbled and awed as you stand on a precipice surveying the rock, ice and bizarre vegetation with their celestial hues stretch out before you. The sublime scene renders words that once conveyed such meaning utterly meaningless. You hold your camera aloft and attempt to grasp some of the wonder before you, but reconstructed dots of pigment can't hope to capture what you are witnessing; they fall through your fingers like technicolour sand.
Endless rivers weave through the erratic topography, periodically tumbling over cliffs in a rhythmic cadence. The water surges over the edge and seems to hang in the air longer than necessary, as if melodramatically indulging in the spectacle it's producing. The torrential motion of these waterways jars with the surrounding landscape which by contrast seems frozen in time—grand and immovable.
If you reach the coastline near Vík prepare to feel even more untethered from reality; a vast expanse of black sand seems to spread before you without end, as empty of light and colour as the deepest void, even more impressive when viewed from one of the hills that jut incongruously out of the dusty aether.