Hard breath steams through our mouths as we step out onto the tarmac. Sheets of rain and sleet come down like shards of glass stabbing into our cheeks, our heads lower, our pace quickens as we head to the terminal building to escape the weather. Inside we instantly warm from both the blast of the heaters and the welcoming nature of the local people where most of the men seemingly stand tall as giants.
It’s 2:30 but already it’s getting dark outside, with low grey skies the landscape is littered with dark volcanic rocks reminiscent of melted candle wax crowned with green moss. Through the emptiness, we journey like explorers on an ancient trail where mountains dominate the skyline and plumes of steam seep from the surface of the earth. Pools of turquoise shimmer at us from the roadside while the fluorescent white light of geothermal power stations – or cloud factories as we are told – beam like beacons on the horizon. This is the land of ice and fire.
By the time we reach Reykjavik it is dark, but with the glimmer of Christmas lights hanging from chocolate box houses make this a wonderfully cosy sight. As we wrap up warm and wander the streets our guide Magnus tells us more about this fantastic land. To learn that Iceland’s network of geothermal-heated greenhouses have allowed the country to become Europe’s biggest producer of bananas is astounding. Couple that with a sheep population double that of the human population and a country that is growing by 2cm a year – give it 10 billion years and it will cover the globe – and you have yourself some invaluable pub quiz trivia.
Mornings are a surreal time as the darkness continues exactly the same as the night before. With just four hours’ worth at this time of year you can see why. Our journey today will see us scratch the surface of the golden circle, heading towards our transport we dance our way over the sheets of ice which have crusted the kerbside from the cold night.
Off we trundle through this epic land, passing more idyllic looking towns and villages which dot the valleys. We stop on an icy plateau where a waterfall more splendid than anything we have seen before crashes from a multitude of different angles, we walk closer to take a look only to be fended off by the icicles of water vapour that are frozen instantly and blown towards us in a wintry gale.
We continue into the wilderness, our chariots mounted on enormous wheels to cope with the shoulder deep snow. We drive to a cabin at the base of a mountain where snowmobiles and bright orange winter suits are waiting to be donned. Our local guide could not be more Viking if he tried, with a thick-set ginger beard and a personality to match, standing tall towering close to 7ft, he briefed us on our latest Icelandic adventure. Off we went in a procession of orange and red, brightly lit headlamps and the hum of the snowmobile engine out into the snowy white fields, passing glaciers and mountains, out once again into the beautiful Icelandic wilderness.