Moments from an Icelandic Road Trip
Originally published on PassionPassport.com
After brothers Brian and Jason Lee saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” they were inspired. They loved the otherworldliness of Iceland and wanted to capture the landscapes and Northern Lights in person. In November of 2016, they spent two weeks road tripping the Ring Road and creating content in Iceland.
Day 4 — Skógafoss Waterfall, South Iceland
Brian and Jason got up early to visit Skógafoss Waterfall. They knew it would be crowded with people as the day went on and wanted a chance to take photos uninterrupted.
As they walked toward the cliff, Brian noticed someone in a yellow rain jacket near the waterfall. With each step closer, the person remained the same size and Brian realized the true magnitude of the waterfall in front of him.
The sky was muted gray. The wind caught the water and carried it through the air, drenching Brian and Jason.
Brian tried to take note of each gust of wind, each drop of water that hit his skin. Eventually, his discomfort faded away, and he focused solely on getting good photos.
Jason walked toward the waterfall so Brian could capture the size in relation to someone standing at the base. Brian screamed at the top of his lungs to give Jason directions, but Jason couldn’t hear him over the roar of the waterfall.
The pounding of the water was loud, yet, in the midst of all the chaos, Brian noticed that it was surprisingly peaceful.
Day 4 — Vík, South Iceland
That night, while checking in at the Puffin Hotel in Vík, Brian and Jason met Ischa Clissen and Dorus Masure, two filmmakers from Belgium. They started talking — about the differences between Belgium and Korea, their creative journeys, and how their passions had led them to Iceland.
The woman at the front desk mentioned that there was a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights around midnight and Ischa and Dorus suggested they head out of Vík to try and see them. The four men piled in the Lee brothers’ rental car and drove to the Black Sand Beach.
They drove in the shadow of a daunting mountain on their left. It was pitch black except for the car’s headlights. They could see the water in the distance.
When they reached the beach, Brian set up his tripod and they took turns running back and forth from the car because of the cold.
The phrase, “Did you see it?” circled the group a few times as they strained their eyes to see a glimpse of the aurora. A collision of events led them to the beach, where they stood, faces turned up, watching the sky together.
The sky was devoid of everything except stars that night, but all four men were content anyway.
Day 6 — Seyðisfjörður, Eastern Iceland
There’s only one road in and out of Seyðisfjörður, a tiny town in Eastern Iceland. After driving up hills that never seemed to end, the one-lane road eventually sloped down between two mountains and into town.
The sun was rising as Brian and Jason drove into Seyðisfjörður. They stopped at a café to work for a few hours and get a feel for what the local life was like. From their table next to the window, they could see the mountain looming next to the town.
That afternoon, as they drove out of town to continue their journey around the Ring Road, they stopped to look back at the waterside city. It looked different than before. Clear rays of sunlight shined down on the mountains. Snow drifted across the pavement in the wind and made the road look like it was moving. Everything was untouched.
If they hadn’t driven through the hazardous mountains to reach Seyðisfjörður, they never would have seen the incredible landscape in front of them.
Brian noticed a lake on the same elevation as the mountains. He didn’t know such a thing could exist and remembers thinking that the world was so much bigger than he knew.
Day 11 — Westfjords, Northern Iceland
Brian and Jason chased the possibility of the Northern Lights from the Ring Road to Westfjords. This region was covered in snow — perfectly white, like a scene from a movie. It seemed unreal.
They were isolated. Very few cars passed by and towns were few and far between. Nothing had gone wrong so far. Jason drove and Brian napped in the passenger seat.
In some kind of snowy illusion, the road seemed to get wider.
All the sudden, the car hit a ditch and bounced into the air.
Brian woke up instantly. The car came to a stop and, after a few seconds of disbelief, the brothers got out.
Their car was stuck in the snow, back wheels off the ground. The snow had piled up high enough to level with the road, which was how Jason had lost control and veered slightly into the ditch. Eventually, they seesawed their way out — Brian pushed as Jason inched the car backward and forward until they were able to get on the road again.
They drove in silence, Brian in the driver’s seat this time. After 10 days of uninterrupted driving, neither had expected anything to go wrong.
Five minutes later, a compact car passed them on the left. The driver slowed and rolled down his window.
“Is it possible?” he asked, gesturing to the road ahead.
The man had no idea what had just happened to Brian and Jason.
“It’s fine,” Brian said, laughing in disbelief. “Just stay on the right side of the road.”
Day 16 — Reykjavik, Western Iceland
Brian and Jason were scheduled to leave, but had yet to see the Northern Lights.
As they wandered around Reykjavik on their last day in Iceland, Brian stopped to talk to a photographer about his camera. The photographer, who was also a tour guide, mentioned that the Northern Lights were likely to appear later that week. He suggested they extend their trip.
The brothers discussed it and changed their flight in the hopes that the aurora would show itself before they flew home.
A few days later, with Ionuţ and Alexandru Grigoraş, two Romanian brothers they met in the capital city, Brian and Jason headed out to a lake right outside Reykjavik. As they drove, they saw faint green trails of light in the sky above.
At the lake, they stood, looking up. The Northern Lights swung across the sky in wavy trails.
All four men were fixated. The way the light moved in the sky was mesmerizing.
This was their final, closing gift from Iceland.
A while later, Brian suggested they put away their cameras and take a moment to simply look and appreciate what they were seeing.
There they were. Two brothers from Romania and two brothers from Korea, witnessing the Northern Lights for the first time, together in Iceland.