After breakfast, we headed to the Raufarholshellir Lava Tube Cave for the caving tour. We all wore headlamps before entering the cave because it was pitch black. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty scared throughout this experience. Before we entered the cave, my friend told me she was extremely nervous but I told her we would be just fine. I was so wrong. To sum it up- caving was a dark, scary obstacle course. There were a lot of big rocks and icy snow piles we had to climb over to reach the end of the cave. I was also falling behind the rest of the group, but the group leaders stayed behind me to accompany me and catch me when I fell on a rock or icicle. I think the combination of the cave’s dark obstacle course and everyone getting ahead of me just overwhelmed me. Even though there was no competition to reach the end of the cave, I felt like the biggest loser for being the last one.
Once we reached the end of the cave, the leaders told everyone to turn their headlamps off. Darkness. Pure darkness. My eyes were so wide open, looking around to see if I could find even the slightest hint of light. Nope, nothing. My friend took my hand and I felt her hand trembling furiously. She actually meant it when she said she’d have a panic attack. It was a little comforting to know I wasn’t the only one scared here. The leaders were telling the group some scary story about the cave but we ignored it, we were scared enough! After the story, we put our headlamps back on and started heading back out of the cave. I was determined to get out of the cave as fast as I could, so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed from falling behind. Unfortunately, I was still the slowest. It took me a good 20 minutes to get out of that cave. Thankfully, my group leaders were awesome and offered a hand whenever I looked like I was thinking too much about where I’d place my hands and feet next. To me, caving was all about the strategy.
Eventually, I got out of that dark place and a rush of emotions came over me. When Helga asked me how the caving experience was, I told her that it was stressful while holding back tears. Once I got in the bus and finally sat down, I looked towards the window and just let out my tears of stress and relief. I was really hoping no one would notice me, but the other group leader, Erla, came to my seat to comfort me and tell me how proud she was of me. Oh goodness, I felt like such a crybaby. The crying definitely made me feel better, though.
We were on our way to a restaurant called Friðheimar, which is essentially a greenhouse that cultivates four different types of tomatoes. These fresh tomatoes are used for 99% of the items on the menu, including the cocktails! If you ever visit Iceland, you absolutely have to visit this restaurant. It has the best tomato soup ever. There were different types of bread too, and they were all delicious. I was one happy girl after dining here. Good food makes everything okay.
After we finished eating, we headed to the Golden Circle which has the famous geysers called Geysir and Strokkur. The Geysir stopped erupting after an earthquake shut it down, but Strokkur continues to erupt approximately every 10 minutes, with 100 feet of hot water exploding into the air. This boiling hot water smells like rotten eggs but it is an amazing sight. Below is a video I took of Strokkur exploding.
Our next stop was at Gulfoss Falls, a must-see waterfall in Iceland. Since it is a huge tourist attraction, it was packed with people. My friends and I took a lot of selfies and jumping pictures in front of the huge waterfall. It reminded me a lot of the Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, my phone died while I took pictures here so I couldn’t take any photos for another two days.
After seeing the magnificent waterfall, we changed buses and headed to our camping site far, far away from the rest of Iceland. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. The path to the camping site was anything but smooth. The bus drove over large rocky paths and through streams to get to the final destination. It now made sense why we switched buses. We were going on a mini roller coaster ride.
Around 3 hours later, we finally reached the quaint little camping site among mountains and greenery. Groups of 3 or 4 people would sleep in each tent, so we split into groups and set up our tents. After the tents were set up, we went into this little hut to have dinner and play games. My leaders premade some vegetarian pasta for me and another vegetarian in our group for the camping trip, which I really really appreciated. After dinner, some of my friends and I played charades while others played cards and drank beer that they brought along. I thought we would all go to bed after this to rest up before hiking the next day, but someone decided we should all go on a mini hike up this mountain near our camp site. At first, I thought I would just head to my tent and call it a day. However, 90% of the group agreed to hike up the mountain, so I went along as well since I didn’t want to miss out on the experience and the bonding. The hike was not long, but since it was so uphill, I felt tired quickly. However, it was good preparation for the 9 hour hike we were about to do the next day. The view from the top of this hike was breathtaking, but I also had mini heart attacks whenever I saw someone stand so close to the edge of the mountain that if they took another step further, they would fall off.
We spent around an hour at the top of that mountain just talking and taking in the view. We could see the small hiking trails on the other mountains surrounding us, and the people below us looked like little ants walking around. Our group mentor was telling us about the hike we were about to embark on the next day, and it sounded exciting as well as extremely tough. Soon, we all headed down the mountain and back to our tents for some well-deserved sleep.