A lot of preparation went into this trip. Supply gathering. Gear to test out and get used to. Reading. Mapping. Ticket prices to compare. More reading. All kinds of stuff. We wanted to plan a “big” trip for 2015. U.S.A. or Iceland? I chose Iceland. Miriam agreed.
We put the ball into play back in 2014. I believe it was around November. Proposed departure was May 27, 2015. We weighed cost options about travel. We discovered that a ferry from Denmark to the east coast of Iceland operated. Cost was high. In the end we decided to fly there and sail back. I remembered the great time I had in Oslo, Norway the previous summer and thought it would be nice for Miriam to see. There was a cheap flight from Munich to Oslo and then a flight from Oslo to Keflavík. We planned a one night layover.
We searched long and hard for a reasonably priced rental car. Ha! reasonably priced anything in Iceland–yeah, right! Biggest cost factor regarding the rental was to pick it up at the airport in Keflavík and drop it off three weeks later in Egilsstaðir. There was a hefty one way service fee. Glad we did it in the end, though.
Next up was to put together an itinerary. My number one goal was to avoid as many tourists as possible. We had purposely planned to arrive exactly 3 weeks before the main tourist season was to start. To get an idea of my reasoning: In 2014 the population of Iceland was approximately 330,000. That same year about 880,000 tourists visited. Next on my agenda was to map out as many stage-hike camping trips as possible. This would be a tricky factor. We were well aware of the weather.
Icelandic summer is known to begin in early/mid-June. I kept updated about weather conditions and recognized that summer would be very late this year. This would come into play in regards to many of our desired hiking routes. Snow was late in melting and many mountain roads were yet to be opened. I started planning early enough for alternate possibilities to fulfill my hiking and camping wishes. Stage hikes would require additional transportation. We planned to leave the car at locations and get rides to distant starting points and hike back to the car. Public bus transport proved to be difficult as we were early in the season.
It took some phone calls and emails to try to arrange transportation. I have to say, I knew very, very little about Iceland before this trip. Calling ranger stations and private parties months in advance to gather info was actually very charming. The Icelandic voices I conversed with over the phone were so friendly, sweet, and cute. They must have thought I was nuts! Trying to organize rides so far in advance while they were in the throws of a long and snowy winter. Plus a fact that I learned about Icelanders: They are last minute planners! Now that I know this; at that time they must have really, really thought I was nuts! Up to the day of departure a two-day hike I was determined to do sadly wasn’t looking likely.
There were things that Miriam wanted to work into the trip as well. I’m glad that one of us has their feet on Earth! She actually did a lot of research about things to see and do. I would have spent the whole time in the snowy hills if I had my way, but as she started relaying the info she was gathering, I started learning there really was a lot to check out. Just as badly as I wanted to hike, she wanted to sail to the Arctic Circle on a small schooner so–we booked it! Great decision that I can’t thank her enough for.
We had the whole German winter to try out clothing that we could take with us. I did a winter overnight to test camping gear. Tent, down-filled sleeping mat (rated at -20 c), down sleeping bag (rated comfort -23 c), camping stove, etc. To keep costs down we even decided to take our own food. Camping meals. Dehydrated, just add hot water. We sampled and settled on a brand we both liked. There was always plenty to do but still, as it always does when waiting for a great trip, time crawled.
I passed the time by reading, studying maps, and a lot of outdoor prep to acclimate to the weather. I even planned and executed a bicycle trip across France in hopes to speed things up. I can honestly say that my backpack was packed and ready to go in February. Four months before departure!