On the second day of our Ring Road trip in Iceland, we awoke eager to see what our first campsite looked like in the daylight. The previous day we got a bit carried away and spent over six hours visiting an active volcano in the southwest region near Reykjavik and we were so distracted with our amazing day that we hadn’t thought ahead of where we would sleep for the night.
We settled on a campground that was a brutal two-hour drive away from the volcano we had visited. To make matters worse, we found out the hard way that August is not one of the summer months that can see up to 24 hours of daylight, so we arrived in complete darkness at our first campground shortly before midnight.
In the darkness the previous night, we couldn’t tell where we were supposed to park or pay or if we were even in a campground at all because there weren’t many vehicles and the place just seemed like a big sports field. We were so tired that we didn’t care if we were in the right location and just parked at the far end of the field away from the other few vehicles.
When we awoke in the morning, we could see that the campground was indeed just a large field. Later in our Ring Road travels, we learned that Iceland campgrounds are really just a “free-for-all” (but not literally free) and there are seemingly no rules or etiquette on where to park, so our random parking spot was just fine.
Eventually that morning, a campground host came by our vehicle to collect our camping fee of $15 USD (per person!!!), which solved the mystery of where/how we were supposed to pay.
Although we were tired from our previous day’s 6.5 hour volcano visit, we didn’t want to waste any time getting ready because we were anxious to officially start our Ring Road journey.
Before we could start any fun activities, our first agenda item was to get groceries in the nearby town of Selfoss because there was only one [relatively] affordable grocery store in Iceland with just a few locations along the Ring Road. We were advised to stop for groceries at this store whenever possible. We weren’t worried about cost as much as the available selection of items, and later down the road, we were glad we had stopped here because we didn’t find as good of a selection in the smaller grocery stores.
Getting groceries turned out to be an adventure in and of itself. We thought this would be a simple task, but it turns out identifying food items in Icelandic language is somewhat challenging. Iceland has many meats which we are not accustomed to eating in the United States and we were worried we were going to pick something exotic that we were not okay with eating, so for the most part, we tried to stick to pasta meals. For everything else, we used the Google Translate app on hubby’s phone, which enabled us to use the phone camera to “scan” items and translate text immediately to English while we were shopping. This saved us from accidentally buying horse or puffin meat for our lunch sandwich meats (not joking) and to also pick familiar cheeses.
After fueling up on food, hubby wanted to fuel up our vehicle before we hit the road. We were by no means out of gas, but hubby wanted to top off while we were still in town. Little did we know how much this quick errand would set us back a huge amount on our trip.
While I was in the vehicle planning our next stop on the South Coast — Hrunalaug natural hot springs — hubby came to my window and announced that he had fueled up our vehicle with the wrong fuel. *cue panic* He had known that our rental vehicle required diesel fuel, but he must have been on auto-pilot from lack of sleep when he picked the green fuel pump to fill up, which in the United States is the color for the diesel fuel.
Thankfully, our vehicle was only a quarter of tank empty and hubby noticed the error while he was pumping and immediately stopped pumping, but this still caused great panic in our minds, since we knew was detrimental to a diesel vehicle to fill it up with gasoline.
We tried to call the vehicle rental company for advice/instruction, but without cell service in Iceland, we weren’t able to make a call even though we did have a portable WiFi device for WiFi calling. Somehow, we were still able to make calls back to the United States, so we called hubby’s dad, a petroleum engineer, who, after much deliberation, decided that we would *probably* be just fine if we kept driving.
I was still very nervous about continuing on, so we also phoned my dad, a car mechanic (we seriously could not have had better people to phone for advice on this particular issue), and he advised that our fuel mistake was not a good one to proceed on, but didn’t have further advice on what we should do.
After sitting at the fuel pump for the longest time debating on what to do, hubby ended up finding out that we were not that far away from a mechanic shop, so he walked over to the shop for advice, only to simply return with just a can of diesel system cleaner and the basic advice that we should pour that liquid into the fuel tank and fuel up as much as possible at every stop.
This advice didn’t sit well with me, but it seemed like we didn’t have much of a choice if even a mechanic shop thought we would probably be fine. We dumped the system cleaner in our fuel tank, topped off with the correct fuel, and for safe measure, nervously drove several circles around the small town until we decided it was maybe safe to hit the road.
Nervous as heck about continuing on, hubby and I mutually decided that the least we could do to hopefully survive the fuel mishap was to not turn off the vehicle, for fear it wouldn’t restart. That first day was the most uneventful day as we anxiously drove from Selfoss to the next big town of Vík, an hour and a half away, while fueling up at every single fuel pump we set eyes on.
Not only did we completely abandon our plan of visiting the remote thermal springs up in the mountains, we passed up several other South Coast sights that we had hoped to visit that day. Even when we eventually stopped for lunch, we pulled off on a side road and didn’t turn off our vehicle.
Thankfully, we ended up reaching Vík without issue and we were not that bummed that we had such an uneventful day because we were just so grateful that we had not completely ruined our vehicle and entire trip. It helped that most of the stuff we had to pass up on were sights we had already seen in our 2018 trip to Iceland. Furthermore, the first thing that we really wanted to visit was in Vík.
This first stop was a coffee shop in a school bus called Skool Beans Cafe that had awesome specialty coffee and chocolate drinks. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived and it was the exact treat we needed after a long and stressful day. If you visit, the Turkish Candy Floss and Chocolate Shot is a MUST!
After visiting the awesome Skool Bus, we traveled down a gravel road to a roadside waterfall we had visited during our 2018 trip. This waterfall wasn’t anything to write home about but was a quick stop on the way to our campground for the night in Þakgil.
In the planning of our trip, we hadn’t identified many campgrounds to stay at because we figured it would be a waste of time researching campgrounds, only for us to not be in the right time/place to stay at them, but Þakgil was one of the few campgrounds we had identified as a “must stay” because of how beautiful visitors proclaimed it was.
Þakgil campground was a 16km and 45-minute bumpy drive off the Ring Road that required a 4WD vehicle (which we had!), and we were so glad we went out of our way for this campground. It ended up being one of our most favorite campgrounds during our entire trip. As we would later find out, most campgrounds in Iceland were like the first one we stayed at and just had a basic field to park your vehicle on.
Þakgil was located in a valley and had 360 degree scenic views all around it. We. Were. Spoiled!
This day was also our 8th year anniversary, so we couldn’t help but think the universe had come through in spoiling us after a rough start to the day! We uncorked a special bottle of wine we brought all the way from Colorado and thanked the Universe we made it safely through the day.
The next day, we would start our Ring Road trip….for reals this time!