Iceland: Into The Fjords

When you announce that you’re going to go driving and camping around the Iceland fjords for a month, alone, the general reaction is confusion.

Faces contort in to various shapes, mouths open and close again, thoughts occupy the awkwardly silent space in time where, traditionally (had I named almost any other country), someone might have said something like, ‘That’s amazing!’, but it turns out not many people I know have actually considered going to Iceland, so the only thing that seems to spring to the mind of almost every person is ‘why?’.

From the comfort of my hometown in a holiday destination west of Sydney, the answer (‘exploration’) seemed obvious (I mean, really, why does anyone travel anywhere?), but after spending a night of absolute gloom camping in sub-zero temperatures and seeking refuge in a service station (where I currently sit) in the very remote town of Blönduós on the edge of the West Fjords, that answer feels very remote and I realise I actually have no idea why I came to Iceland.

 And at this point, I’ve had a lot of time in solitude to think about it.

It’s both comforting and surprising to know that tourists generally don’t die in Iceland. Beautiful as it is, most of it looks like the opening of an 80s horror film. You get out of the car, look around at the magnitude, splendour and isolation of the place, and think 'well, this is how I’m going to die'. It’s like the opening of The Shining.

In spite of the extreme cold last night, I know I went to sleep at various points because I kept having dreams that I was choking…whatever that means. I’m now on my fourth cup of coffee at the petrol station (usually two is enough to give me the shakes), the bags under my eyes are so extreme I don’t even recognise my face any more (I’m not exaggerating), and I’ve just booked three nights in a hostel 3.5-hours away because the thought of camping around Iceland again hurts the very fibres of my soul, and all accommodation around this area would cost me more than another tank of gas.

Hlid Hostel

Hlid Hostel

Don’t get me wrong, this has been fabulous and the Iceland fjords are a sight like no other, but the honeymoon period is over, Iceland and I going through a reevaluation process, and I’m sure we’ll work it out #relationshipblues.

Some may not freak out over some snow, but it just doesn’t snow like that in Australia. I’ve never had to put a car with metal-studded tyres in 4-wheel-drive mode, slow down because of ice/extreme fog/terrible visibility, or put on my high-beams in the middle of the day and prey to Thor no one was coming in the opposite direction, while kind of hoping they were so I’d know I wasn’t alone. When you’ve been driving for five-hours through blindingly-white snow and winds so strong the car wants to take flight, there’s a fine-line between recognising the need to go slow for survival purposes, and recognising the increasing desire to put your foot to the floor and speed your way out of the danger zone.

While all this was happening, my eight-year-old iPod was on shuffle.

Let’s all take a moment to digest that information.

I’ve had that thing since my first year of university – a time when I thought it was a good idea to do things like regularly drink wine from a five-litre box, eat seven peanut butter sandwiches in a day and think I was being relatively healthy, and bleach my almost-black hair with a six-dollar packet that didn’t contain enough dye for my entire head.

Past-me is the moron who put together the playlist that present-me was forced to endure while driving in to oblivion on route ninety-something off the Ring Road in the Iceland fjords. And it’s not like I was in a position to take my eyes off the road and change the song.

My car kept skidding-out near cliffs, I couldn’t see two-meters ahead, there was no-one else on the road and the chorus of My Ex-Girlfriend’s Boyfriend by Machine Gun Felatio (yes, you read that correctly) resonated throughout the very small automobile I was trying very hard not to crash.

The edge of the world...

The edge of the world...

I think I originally started laughing as a coping mechanism, and then it became an ongoing in-joke (with myself...), so every time a really situationally-inappropriate song came on, I would just laugh at my questionable taste in music, curse myself for not updating my iPod before I left, and sing along with Machine Gun Felatio lead-singer and lyrical-superstar Pinky Beecroft as he cried things like my ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend’s got a band and I don’t wanna live in this world anymore, as I battled with the elements from somewhere inside the arctic circle.

This didn’t just happen once. It happened throughout my entire trip with a host of memorable songs. Present-me is still debating whether to get ahold of a flux-capacitor and go back in time and slap past-me.

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