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Arrival in Iceland

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There was not a tree in sight as the plane flew into REK. Lava fields, a few shrubs, the sea, it is Iceland. Shit, how am I going to hang up my Hennessy Hammock tent in a landscape where nothing solid protrudes naturally from the earth? I asked myself this as we touched down on the runway. My plan to tramp through this country either by bicycle or on foot was not initially looking good, my choice of portable shelter looked completely at odds with the surroundings I was coming into. Then I disembarked, and my feeling of ominousness began giving way to doom. I forgot about the hammock tend and focused on the temperature and the wind for the first time: it was cold. In a flash all those long nights of camping on the sly in the cold came back to me: the January night in Albany when my toes nearly froze of in steel toe boots, Japan in March when it rained and my sleeping bag froze ice solid, France in December when the cold prevented sleep for days on end during an ill-fated hitchhiking journey to Andora. I gulped big, so this is what I spent $500 on flights, dropped a fisheries job in Alaska, and left my family behind to do: freeze in Iceland.

Ships in Reykjavik harbor

Something omnipotent about the nomenclature of this country was sank in more far more thoroughly. “You know, they call it Iceland for a reason.”

The immigration procedure may as well have been automated: give passport, stamp, take passport back. It felt like more of an ATM transaction than being giving permission to roam another land. I sat in the arrivals hall and slumped a little in a seat. I looked around at the other travelers — they were decked out in adventure gear, Goretex, Northface waterproof bags. I looked at myself, and, almost to my surprise, found myself similarly clad. I had a $50 brand new pair of super discount Goretex boots on my feet, a waterproof Northface messenger bag, one of those super fabric breatheable watherproof jackets which I stole, and an incredible Lowe Alpine TT Tour traveling rucksack. My hopes rose, as I realized that I was not off to that bad a start: at least I had a tent, at least I was somewhat prepared to camp and do what I intended to do — which is sort of a rare accomplishment in a travel history in which nonchalance has been more of a mantra than a mere adjective.

Whales are killed for tourists sign in airport

I hopped the $16 bus and rode the 50km into Reykjavik. Getting out at the BSI bus terminal, I began walking out to the campsite that sits three kilometers to the east of town. Along the way something happened: I no longer noticed the cold. In fact, it was no longer present, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature rose to warm. The sun was shining and my spirits reciprocated the action. I looked out over the sea from Saebraut highway — there were mountains on the other side, the great shock of nature in the raw formed a palisade around this city. This nature is percisely what travelers come to such an ominously named country for. Now I would only need to come up with my means of travel here.

Primary plan: bicycle.

Contingency plan: hike/ hitchhike.

Mountains from Reykjavik

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Filed under: Europe, Iceland, Western Europe

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap