Much of the drive is still obfuscated in fog, but as we make our way around the tip of the peninsula, there’s a break – first in the mist, and then in the clouds. Suddenly, what was a dark and rainy day becomes sunny and too warm for jackets. Now that we’ve rounded the peninsula, Owen explains, the mountains are boxing the fog in behind us. We’re hopeful that the rest of the drive will be this clear.
It’s time for lunch, so we stop at the local gas station in a town. Here, unlike in the US, the convenience store food is actually made fresh and to order. They have hot dogs (pylsur), fish and chips, hamburgers, soft serve ice cream (popular in all seasons), and a gambling machine. In a small village such like this, it’s one of the main gathering places. It’s much different than I expected – with its several industrial buildings, it’s pragmatic and modern, rather than being the quaint, fishing town I imagined.
We order burgers and fish and chips, and the proprietor bustles off into the back room, where a grill and cooking oil begin to sizzle.
The food arrives, and is genuinely great. The burger rivals Seattle’s much-beloved cheap burger joint named “Dick’s”; the fish is fresh, crisp, and flavorful. The fries are accompanied by a special tartar sauce, also delicious. It’s fast food, sure, but this nondescript Icelandic convenience store’s food easily puts other burger joints and full-on restaurants to shame.
Owen eats his burger the Icelandic way – with a fork and knife. We don’t find out that this is how burgers eaten in Iceland until later. In retrospect, I feel rude for having eaten it with my hands.
Back on the road, a rock wall rises to our left, waves crashing beyond, and a mountain – top hidden in clouds and fog – peaks sharply along the road to our right. But as we round the peninsula to the other side, the fog closes in on us once again. The view of the sea fades out to white.
We’re cutting through the mountains now to get back to the road we came in on – this is the path back to Reykjavik. The car sways, rumbling ponderously; the mist dampens all other sounds. Audrey, John, and I drift off – jetlag, late nights, and full days are all catching up to us.
I awaken just as we’re rejoining the main road that led us into Snæfellsness. Jason, awake the whole time, claims that he saw some incredible mountains during the drive. The rest of us are content with our naps, though thoroughly chilled – the outside dampness had rooted itself in the car.
Owen’s jokes about the build quality of his Land Rover were more correct than we’d realized. The wet and fog permeate everything – dripping down the windows, leaching into our jackets, and getting into our very bones.
Earlier on the road, Owen mentioned we might stop for hot chocolate and pastries at a popular bakeshop on our way back. It was a chain, he said, but quite good. True to his word, we pulled in, and were glad we did.
Inside, we’re greeted by a bevy of pastries laid out in a long case. We’d already tried Icelandic butter and ice cream, but nothing could have prepared us for how incredible the hot chocolate was. “This is fantastic!” I exclaimed to the proprietor, as she brought over a massive donut for John that was easily larger than his head.
“It is made with real chocolate,” she said proudly. Indeed, it was. Rich, avoiding oversweetness, and topped with a densely luxurious cap of whipped cream. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say it’s some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.
Owen dropped us back at the Hilton and we bade our farewells. The trip wasn’t quite what we expected – sightseeing in fog is only so interesting – but we learned so much about the Icelandic culture and country that we did not feel shorted. After all, as we were learning, you can’t help the weather – especially in Iceland.
We warmed our chilled bones in the hotel spa hot tubs, and it was exactly what we needed after a fun but damp photo adventure.