As I braved the howling wind with gusts that swayed my petite body like a dandelion seed, I could hear the fervent roar of the snow-covered Gulfoss waterfall plummeting beneath monstrous icicles. I guarded each step with my dear life as a flimsy toothpick-like rope marked the vertigo-inspiring precipice. I felt pure awe and wonderment (along with some jittery butterflies in my stomach) as I came face to face with tons of blue water that descended this magnificent cascade resembling a staircase. The sheer exhilaration of standing so close to the edge was mixed with the fear of falling to my death.
This is what I love about Iceland: the liberty to do what you please. Here you have the freedom to die in a waterfall if you are stupid enough or brave enough to get just a little too close. Natural attractions in Iceland aren’t tampered with. This does not hold true in many countries in which governments behave like overzealous parents or are so paranoid about a lawsuit that nature-loving tourists are given ridiculous restrictions. Walls are built in order to prevent curious sightseers from meeting untimely deaths. Building concrete slabs surrounding a pristine waterfall in order to “protect” the spectator is an oxymoron in the same way that a caged bird is. If a tourist behaves recklessly let him or her deal with the consequences of their actions. Why does nature have to be ruined? In many countries a common sight is a beautiful waterfall surrounded by a concrete mess in order for us humans to get the best view the easiest way. Anyone who has seen the Niagara Falls knows what I am talking about. This famous waterfall has been made so convenient and safe for the lazy tourist that the road passes right beside it so you don’t even have to get out of your car to view it.
Another thing I love about Iceland is that here I have the freedom to visit a waterfall at moonlight or a geyser during the midnight sun. I have actually done both in order to avoid other tourists and relish in the deep tranquillity of being alone amongst echoes and wind. This is also not the norm in other countries. In Puerto Rico the national rainforest has a gate and closes at six. Last summer I was taking my time hiking around and skinny-dipping in several waterfalls when I noticed it was 7:30. It wasn’t even dark yet. When I tried to leave, the rickety gate was closed and I had to summon a guard to open it. I thought to myself, this is not a mall. How can nature have a closing time? I am always reminded of this experience every time I explore Iceland’s jaw-dropping nature and really appreciate the fact that I can hike at any hour around Skaftafell National Park.
I feel that Iceland and its inhabitants truly understand and allow their wilderness to remain like its name indicates: wild. For this same reason Landmannalaugar has rustic cottage accommodations that blend into the sand coloured mountains and is not an eyesore. Thankfully there is no fivestar swanky hotel, which would ruin the feeling of immersing yourself in the lava-covered landscape. The more I travel abroad in search of inspiring nature the more disillusioned I get. Instead of finding more Icelands, I find more Niagaras. Recently upon a trip to Morocco, I was disgusted upon seeing the death of the Todra Gorge. I tried to block the image of the luxury hotel situated smack in the middle of the gorge from my mind and decided that this must have been such a beautiful place once upon a time but now relegated to corniness and convenience.
Basically, I just want to say thank you to Iceland for allowing me to enjoy nature at its pristine glory. In a country where every summer the number of tourists surpasses the local population, the tourism industry could have exploited the nature for every dime its worth. Instead purity is preserved and that is what keeps people coming back.