The land of ice and fire

My lips were cracked and my eyes were itchy from the frigid arctic winds blowing across the lunar landscape of Northeastern Iceland.  “Where the fuck are we?” I repeatedly muttered under my breath as I ran on the spot and did jumping jacks to warm myself against the biting cold.  I was wearing three t-shirts, two sweatshirts, a flannel jacket, a windbreaker, two pairs of pants, a tuque, gloves and a scarf, but I was still frozen to the core.  Frederico and I were standing beside the national ring road, dropped off by a friendly traveling Lichtensteiner at a t-junction on a mountain plateau.  There was one farmhouse in the distance and that was nearly all we could see.  Frederico and I had discussed the idea earlier of walking to the farm and asking to sleep in the barn if no one were to stop for us.  It seemed like it was our fate for the night to sleep in the cold.  It was getting late, maybe too late to hitchhike any further, and although we were near the arctic circle and the summer skies were still bright, dark clouds had blanketed the sunshine.  It was cold, and it was only going to get colder once the sun dipped behind the ridge of the mountain.  In the past hour and a half only three cars had passed, and none even slowed to see why two silly travelers were shivering with outstretched arms and forced smiles on their faces.  They just drove by without a moment’s hesitation.

A car stopped at a parking lot on the opposite side of the bridge.  We couldn’t see who they were, or why on earth they had decided to stop where they did.  Frederico and I were becoming grumpy with waiting for a ride that wouldn’t come.  We laughed at them for stopping there and we could hear a few of their comments as the wind carried their voices from a quarter mile away.  Little did we know, we were laughing at our would be saviors and new friends, Heidi and Odessa.

Eventually they drove across the bridge towards us.  Frederico and I put on our best smiles and to our amazement, the car came to a stop.  “Where are you going?”  The passenger asked.  “Anywhere,” we said emphatically.   “Hey. We saw you in the airport in London.” The passenger said to me.  And like that, they shoved us and our gear into their already full Nissan and drove away from those despondent frozen plains.

For the next coming days Frederico and I traveled with these two all the way from Lake Myvatn to Reykjavik.  They were amazing people, perfect company on an Icelandic road trip, and a godsend for me during the remainder of my Eurasian adventure.  I couldn’t foresee a better finale to my trip.  I am eternally grateful to Odessa, Heidi and her family for all of their grace and hospitality.

Many people say Northern Europeans are a cold people.  My experiences in the past week can only help to refute this claim.  The Icelandic people are incredibly generous and kind, and so are the travelers who venture here from around the world. The harshness of their climate is counterbalanced by the warmth of their hearts. I hitched around the country as I wished to do in 2010 when I was here last.  I had cold feet last time, too nervous to try, but this time round, I accomplished what I set out to do, and it was with the overwhelming help from a wonderful French couple, many interesting Icelandic characters, two Singaporean friends, and a Moroccan stonemason.  Thanks to Frederico as well, for the good times and laughs.  If you need a partner in crime to hitchhike across another country, let me know.

I’m in Halifax now.  If everything goes as planned, I’ll live here in September.  I’ll be applying for Dalhousie’s Masters of Planning program.  It seems like a great place to live and study.  I’ll keep everyone posted on whether or not I will be accepted.  As for my travels; I’ve got one last long stretch across Quebec and southern Ontario to take me home.  I’ll be there in a couple of days.  If anyone wants to come by for a beach party and bonfire, you know my number.  See you soon.