It was dark when we arrived in Keflavik, at ten-thirty in the morning, after a red-eye that felt twice as long as what was actually traveled. But at least I was not connecting on to Europe, another five or six hours away. Those poor bastards.

Dawn came as we pulled into a hotel outside Reykjavik’s city center at half past noon, but rather than take advantage of what smattering of light we were blessed with for the day, I was overcome with fatigue, and never mind the two cups of espresso from the car hire agency, another in the lobby, and an energy shot I had packed with me, as I fell into Morpheus’ seductive embrace comfortably tucked into the sheets of the Hilton Nordica.

It was dark when I awoke, at around seven in the evening. Too far from the city center to walk there on foot, and still drowsy, I decided to try my chances with Reykjavik’s nightlife another time, and settled in for a rough night of intermittent sleep and restlessness. All the while through the window, the constant glow of a 10-11, Iceland’s local answer to a global convenience chain just a few numbers away, filled the room with a bluish hue. One can easily describe a convenience store in Japan as an Elysium of sorts, where everything is cheap, tasty, and available in plenty, but 10-11 was more of a siren: it called to me throughout the night, but I knew that the furious storm, which alternated hesitatingly between rain, sleet, and snow throughout the night, would be my quick undoing. Darkness, and often literally painful weather, would come to define my vacation in Iceland.

The plan for our twelve-day vacation was well-reasoned: after a night’s rest, we would immediately head east, staying a night in the town of Vik, before reaching the glacier Vatnajökull, where we would spend two nights. Largely retracing our path on the return route, we would overnight at a guesthouse not far outside Selfoss, then spend the next day returning to Reykjavik by way of the Golden Circle. After three nights in Reykjavik for Christmas, we would head north to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, where we would spend two nights in the town of Grundarfjörður before returning to Keflavik, staying outside Akranes for our last night.

The route was designed to maximize the amount of sightseeing we could do while minimizing fatigue and risk of disruptions due to inclement weather. Regrettably, this meant that we would only travel the southern half of the Ring Road while skipping the more treacherous northern parts. Travelling in winter also meant that it was not possible to venture into the highlands, nor were we able to safely travel through the Westfjords.

There was a huge difference in venturing out of the Reykjavik to the Southern coast, which can only be described as the natural prowling grounds of the Iceland tour bus and their attached symbiotic organisms, the group tourists, and in Snaefellsnes, which was largely deserted throughout our three days in the area, with an uncanny stillness in the air that pervaded in spite of the storm that would accompany us and treat us often to bursts of 80mph winds. This unnerved my mother the most, and she described stepping out of the SUV as going into a great expanse, in which you are truly alone. It was indeed a trepidation that I wish not to experience again.

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