Geysers, black sand beaches, a surreal plane crash site that’s worth a 4km trek, street names that could be any given track from a Sigur Rós record, and Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - Anthony Bourdain and Bill Clinton's favorite hotdog*.
That one… (if you only have time for one...)
…place to shop/concept store: Geysir
…bookstore: Ida Zimzen
…bookstore where you’ll actually buy something: Eymundsson
…breakfast spot: Cafe Loki
…fast food guilty pleasure: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (literal translation: “best hot dogs in town”)
*Recommended by Anthony Bourdain and Bill Clinton. Tony’s taste has always been a hit-or-miss for me, but when it comes to hotdogs, Bill definitely knows his stuff.
…fancy meal: SNAPS
…forgivable tourist trap: Church of Hallgrimur
…place for Dudes: Lebowski Bar. Seriously.
Rent your own car, explore southern Iceland, spend the night at Vik, then go to Solheimajokull the following day. Just don’t loose your car keys at Black Sand Beach hours before your flight.
True story bro. Read on...
So there I was, ready to go home, after taking this photo of Sam & Brooke (🇺🇸✈️🇮🇸). You know that happy, fulfilled feeling you have after a long, productive trip? Well all of that just got thrown out of the window as I tried to open my car's door. "Hey!?! These are my AirBnB keys... Wait..." I put down my cameras so I could check my other pockets. None. My car keys weren't there. In what was clearly a state of denial, I checked the same pockets again. "Where are my keys?!?" Oh Lord. I did a rough search, first, at the parking lot, then making my way first to the left side of the beach, then to the right side. None. I made my way back to the car to do a more thorough search this time, but still to no avail. "F--k." Not a few F-bombs were uttered during those moments.
Allow me to enumerate the facts related to my predicament:
1. I lost my keys in a place called "Black Sand Beach". Well it wasn't entirely sand. Half of them were small, round black pebbles wherein one careless person could easily lose a small, round black keychain that was roughly the same size as the pebbles. Think "needle in a haystack", but this time, the needle was golden yellow.
2. It was my last day in Iceland and I just had a few hours left before my flight. Black Sand Beach was 2.5 hours from Reykjavik, a total of three from the airport. It was already 9:30PM, and I was scheduled to return the car by 3:00AM. How long would it take me to find the keys (Will I actually find them in the first place?) And how long will it take the Rent-A-Car company to bring a duplicate key? Is that even an option given the time that I have?
3. The keys could have been anywhere. I traversed a good 400 meters of the beach, taking photos from time to time... argh. God knows where I dropped it. Leaving them inside the car would have been a consolation, but no, they weren't inside.
4. It was a rather desolate beach. It wasn't your typical beach beside a small town. The lone restaurant was already closed, and people were starting to leave as it was already getting dark. Having a locksmith around was quite a longshot.
On with the story. So I decided to do another search, but I had to narrow it down further. Well logically, since I spent more time on the right side of the beach, I did a more thorough, foot-by-foot, inch-by-inch search there. My search area was roughly 300 square meters of black sand and car keychain-like black pebbles. I was in a state of borderline panic and "I got this all figured out". After 10 minutes of searching... none. 15... none. I was already praying (very) audibly. There was no one else there to hear me anyway. Do you know the verse in Hebrews that tells us to "approach the throne of Grace with boldness"? Man, did I really knock on Heaven's doors, barging audaciously into the Holy of Holies. "Father, I know you're good. You care about even the smallest details of our lives. Please lead me to the key because you know where it is. I need a miracle today, Father. You know how much I want to go home." Something like that, but a little bit more desperate. Lol.
I did one more thorough search of the beach's right side. I still wasn't able to find my keys. I then Googled the number of Reykjavik Rent-a-Car (Iceland's Edge is even faster than Manila's 3G!!!) The search results gave me the number, but the store hours already indicated "Closed". Five rings or so, then, surprisingly, someone answered. I told him about my predicament, and, although he was talking to me in a professional-methodological-step-by-step manner, he couldn't hide it in his voice how messed up my situation was. Getting duplicate keys all the way to the Black Sand Beach, apparently, was out of the question. It would have taken several hours to go through the entire process.
I was given the following options.
1. Leave the car and start making my way back to Reykjavik. That would entail walking to the main road and taking my chances hitchhiking. There was no public transportation. You either rented your car or you were part of a group tour.
2. This one, I really didn't consider. Spend the night in the area, wait for the duplicate keys the following day, but utterly miss my flight. No way. I wanted to be home by Mother's Day.
3. Call their Emergency Services. They might probably give me a ride back to the capital, or at least, to nearby Vik. My things were inside the car, so I was even considering asking to police to just break the windows so I can get my bag, I'll just pay the rent-a-car whatever the damages were. I just couldn't risk flying out with my laptop and lenses left just there.
So there, we were discussing my options over the phone, with option 3 being the most feasible one. Me being actually able to find my keys was a far-fetched idea, but I told the guy I haven't given up hope yet. I told him I'll do one more round of searching before I call the police.
It was already 10PM, sunset was in 20 minutes and the tide was already rising. You know your tendency to wander around and walk aimlessly as you're talking intently with someone on the phone? Well, that happened. I found myself already waaay outside my search area - I was already on the left side of the beach. Not only did I find myself off track, I also found something else: my keys!!!!!!!!
Guj: "Oh! Oh thank God!"
Rent-a-Car guy: What!?!"
Guj: "My keys! I found my keys!"
Rent-a-Car guy: "Oh wow! Thank God".
I could hear the sincerity and relief in his voice.
The keys were there, right there, directly in front of me. It wasn't like, "Oh, there they are" a few meters away.
Wait wait wait... you mean God answered your prayer even after all those F-bombs?
The good Lord answers prayers based on His goodness alone, not ours. If for a minute, you're thinking that God answers prayers because you're "good enough" or because God owes you something because you did this for him, then, my dear friend, you're mistaken. The only thing that we can hold on to is Christ's finished work on the cross. That's both the only thing and everything at the same time. (If you talked to me a few year back, I would have given a different answer. That's why I was "churchy" and all.) Another thing that I've learned. My self-effort would have eventually led me to nowhere. The search area that I chose was the right side of the beach. Where did I find the keys? On the left side. The area where I was not searching in. I "found" the keys as I was "aimlessly wandering" while talking on the phone. I was actually passively looking for the keys as I was talking. Then there, right in front of me, way way out of my search area, as if the Lord led me to them. He *did* lead me to them. I don't believe in luck or coincidence. This is Unmerited Favor. This is superabounding Grace.