Journey to Haifoss: The Story Behind The Photo

On our second day in Iceland, Jesse and I set out for a day filled with waterfall hunting.  We were on our own, traversing the island in our rugged mini 4x4 Suzuki Jimny.  We'd be warned about Iceland's gravel roads before our arrival and today would be our first experience on them.  We were prepared... I thought.

We were on to our second waterfall of the day: Haifoss.  

The road turned from paved to gravel immediately.  It seemed pretty easy.  I was laughing in my head about all the warnings we'd received, thinking we were bad ass drivers or something.  Then we made some turns and started up over a hill.  Suddenly our car was vibrating, we were being tossed side to side in our seats.  In a split second the road turned from friendly gravel to a rugged rocky road.

I was scared.  I almost peeped for Jesse to turn around.  Maybe we'd skip this waterfall.  

My whole body was tense as Jesse pushed on the gas and seemingly hauled us over rocks and potholes that are sure to shake any average American driver.

When we reached the top of the hill, the ground plateaued, but it was still bumpy and rocky as all get out.  There was absolutely not a soul in sight.  The ground ran on as far as we could see until the next mountain range jutted out.

It seemed impossible that we still had several miles left on this crazy drive.  Bumping around, holding our breath and praying we got out without experiencing a flat tire - something every Icelandic tourist fears (think: no cell service, no people in sight, rainy and wet conditions).

After what felt like 3 hours (though really, it was just a 45min drive), we saw two other cars parked in an opening.  

Phew.  We made it.  

We pulled up next to the other cars.

Now we had to pee.  

Great.

Peeing is a bit of an issue in Iceland: bathrooms are few and far between and there aren't exactly any trees to crouch behind.

There was a couple in the car next to us clearly figuring out where they were heading next.  The only other person was on the trail toward the waterfall, nearly out of sight.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited... until finally the couple drove off.  We jumped out of the car and took turns "hiding" behind one side of the car trying to pee in the 40-degree whether that made our sunny Southern Californian bums shiver.  Also hoping that no tourist would roll up or that the previous hiker would decide to roll out.

We were just in the nick of time before another tourist barreled down the gravel road and into the parking lot!

Things were good now: we'd made it to the parking lot and we'd peed.  Now on to the waterfall!

We didn't know how long of a hike we were in for, but my research told me it wasn't too far from the parking lot.  We didn't hear any water, so we walked quickly laughing amongst ourselves about our bathroom snafu.

In about 5 minutes, out of nowhere, Jesse exclaims, "LOOK!"  

Next to me was an opening in the Earth looking across at the most beautiful waterfall I'd ever laid eyes on.  I literally gasped.  

The waterfall took my breath away.  Still, to this day, it was one of the most incredible sights of my life and one of my favorite parts of our trip.

We spent an hour photographing the waterfall and it's neighboring falls.  The canyon was stunning, the clouds were dark, and the scenery was everything I'd dreamed Iceland would be.

We were on our way out when we came up with an idea.  "What if I went and stood over there?"  Jesse pointed to a cliff jutting out across from Haifoss.  I encouraged him to go.  "Okay, last one before we leave."

Little did I know it would be one of my favorite photos from our entire trip.