Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, which the shadow of Scartaris touches before the Kalends of July, and you will attain the centre of the earth. I did it. – Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula juts off the western coast of Iceland. Coastal flats ring the land to rise into a spine of dormant volcanoes and stacked volcanic rock. Far out on the tip, near the western most point of the peninsula, the dormant volcano Snæfellsjökull rises above the low-lying lava fields. It is here that Verne sent his adventurers into the center of the earth. Once we branched off the Ring Road to follow Verne’s lead, we found a part of Iceland that many have seemingly skipped. The crowds that seemed to flock to the stock beauty spots were largely lacking as we drove further westward. That gave us the chance to walk, quite and alone, along one of the many spongy lava fields that dot the peninsula. It was an odd sensation to see so much rock and yet feel the ground give way beneath each step.
And that is the way with Iceland. Everywhere we turned there was some new surprise waiting. Though, it seems as if the Icelanders themselves have grown largely immune to their country’s charms. Exhibit A: Saxholl Crater. The crater is a beautiful example of the raw power of the earth’s forces; it sits, a hill ripped open by the extreme force of a hundred years old volcano, covered in jagged, crumbling rock and lush, green overgrowth. Yet, despite the write up in our travel guide, the only indication of a natural beauty spot is a waist high sign tucked away on the side of the road. I suppose that is one of the good things about Iceland, however: for every stock beauty spot on obvious display, there are a score more hidden away.
“I let myself become absorbed in the melancholy of this untamed nature”
Further afield we drive down a bumpy gravel road to come to the squat, orange lighthouse of Öndverðarnes, the tip of the peninsula. It was a windy day and the sun tried its best to peek around the clouds. Despite the wind and low lying gray clouds, we found a beauty in the quite and swept landscape. It helped that we were the only four feet walking the spongy green path. Often times, as I’m getting in my car to battle traffic to arrive at work, I wonder at why someone would seek to live in such a far-flung part of the world. As I stood on the rocky beach and watched the slow tide slowly arrive I realized that the only dominate sound was the quiet rasp of the lazy wave. It was then that I remembered to breath and open my eyes and take this moment for what it is: simply standing on a rocky beach as the slow tide slowly arrives.