Campaganza 2016: Hraunborgir

Midsummer is nigh here in Iceland and although our run of astoundingly sunshiney summer days seems to have finally caved to the status quo and gotten rainy again, Mark and I have finally gotten the Summer 2016 Campaganza (that is a camping-extravaganza…the portmanteau maybe didn’t work as well as I was hoping) underway. Having done an absurd amount of research on tents, collected a not inconsiderable amount of gear, and investigated a number of local campground options, we decided to take our inaugural outing this weekend—a sort of test run, if you will, for a longer two-week expedition we intend to take further afield in July.

Because we were leaving later in the day on Friday, we decided to find a campground relatively close to the city and settled on Hraunborgir, a campground/summer cabin community close to Selfoss which boasts a swimming pool, golf course, mini golf ‘course,’ and a rec center where it’s possible to order yourself a pizza and watch sporting events of note, such as Iceland’s just-fine-not-great Eurocup match against Hungary on Saturday.

The weather forecast was, in all honesty, not so spectacular for Friday and Saturday, but waiting for the right weather in Iceland is a distinctly futile exercise, and also, what is the point of finding yourselves a sweet, water- and windproof tent with a sheltered ‘living room’ if you only camp in the driest and sunshiney-ist of conditions? So off we went, getting rather lucky with our weather on the first afternoon and night, even if it did go from being super warm to super chilly quite quickly. Which is when I realized, a bit despairingly, that I’d forgotten both a coat and a scarf.

We also forgot our folding chairs, which meant that we either faced a weekend of sitting on the ground (not a thrilling prospect), driving back home to fetch all the forgotten items (three extra hours in the car), or, secret third option: Mark could charm the lady in the rec center and find two chairs for us to borrow. We went with option #3, which worked out pretty darn well. All pitched and set-up, we then had a veggie-hot dog and beans dinner on our camp stove that evening and enjoyed the view until it got cold enough that we had to go ‘inside.’

It was still pretty cold, though, so although I had—luckily—packed a sweatsuit onesie which was pretty good for warmth, I ended up sitting around like a pupa in my sleeping bag. Worked out okay, honestly.

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It’s summer!

It started raining shortly before we went to bed, so we got to test out the waterproof-ness of the tent (verdict: it’s waterproof), and fell asleep rather comfortably. Woke to lots of sunshine in the very early hours and were, ironically, quite hot. That lasted for all of two hours before we actually got up, when the wind immediately picked up, pulled out a few of our tent stakes and generally batted us about. We persevered, however, got the tent battened better, and were still able to enjoy the delicious scrambled egg and lox breakfast that Mark had cleverly menu-planned for us.

After coffee, we took a walk around the campsite, quite enjoying the mini golf course and the red lava gravel roads which all end in cul-de-sacs or just end, really. From the end of some of these roads, you can see horses standing proudly and somewhat randomly in fields of lava, which makes for a nice picture.

At 4:00 PM, we found ourselves a sofa in the rec center, among a few family groups solemnly eating ice creams and sipping from cans of Egills Gull. They livened up a bit during the game, but it was all rather subdued, particularly after the disappointing own-goal that lead to a draw, instead of the win it had looked like Iceland was going to manage up until the last 5:00 minutes. We came back for part of the Portugal-Austria game a bit later—basically just an excuse to be inside for awhile (it was windy), eat a pizza instead of trying to cook on the stove outside (it was windy), play air hockey (Mark beat me easily, three times in a row), and share the joy of watching Cristiano Ronaldo ‘að klúðra’ (“screw up”: new vocab!) with the other campers who straggled in after us. (Ronaldo’s recent comments that Iceland has a ‘small mentality‘ because they were so gauche as to actually be excited about their Eurocup goal and draw with Portugal—which was, in all honesty, really remarkable—really ramped up the schadenfreude.)

By the time the game ended, it had gotten a bit less windy and warmer, so we were able to enjoy a game of travel Scrabble (he beat me by an embarrassing margin, although, really: all I had was vowels!), read a bit, and then fall asleep to the sound of confused Icelandic birds chirping like it was morning instead of midnight.

Sunday morning brought another surprise: bugs! Lots of bugs! I’ve never once in our 4+ years here encountered so many midges and flies and swatty-creatures, but they were out in force. (I know that in the summer the bugs are dense at Mývatn, the aptly named Midge-Lake up north, but I’d never run into so many in our area…) So, swatting as best we could, we had some more coffee in the sunshine, rolled up the tent as the clouds and rain started rolling in on the horizon, and headed back towards home.

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Campaganza 2016 is off to an auspicious start.

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