This may have been my very first true solo adventure. I was en route to Vietnam but one week in Iceland was my first stop. It was just me and my backpack. I didn’t have plans for hitchhiking in Iceland, but these things happen.
I had aspirations to follow the ring road all the way around the country and do all the things to do in Iceland in June, but I had no car. I was there for a week and since I wasn’t sure exactly how long it took to drive around Iceland I was nervous that with bus connections I would be stuck somewhere up north when I need to be back in Reykjavik to catch my flight. So instead I chose a few spots without ever getting too far from the city.
I was in the first of those spots. Some small town with nothing much other than a single hostel, a stunning harbor and nesting birds that attack when you walk too close (another story!).
I hiked around a bit, and stayed a night, freezing the whole time with nothing but my silk sleeping bag liner, and the next morning I was ready to head off. For one reason or another I didn’t get the morning bus, or maybe there wasn’t a morning bus. Regardless, I could either stay in the town with nothing to do until the afternoon bus, lugging my backpack everywhere I went, or I could find another way out of there.
I walked a few paces out of town and, quickly realizing that walking was a foolish idea, I turned back in the direction of ‘traffic’ and stuck out my thumb. I would guesstimate it took two or three cars for one to stop.
A red jeep pulled up next to me, I opened the door and jumped in, there wasn’t much need to discuss where I was headed, there was only one road for quite some time.
My driver, a woman, was every bit the Icelandic Viking you could imagine. Big and burly with a deep voice and short, cropped hair. Dressed in shorts while I was bundled in three layers of everything. She’d get me part of the way to my next stop, she said, but first we’d have to make a detour to pick up her son.
On our way, she told me about her trip to America, aboard a Viking cruise, she’d actually done it a few times. One of those times she’d met her now husband. They also, naturally, had their wedding on one of the cruises.
She’s talking and driving, chatting away to me when she turns off the road, to the left, onto, not a road. We’re now driving through centuries old volcanic rock she explains, as the jeep bobs from side to side, dipping into holes and driving straight over volcanic craters. We drive through this extraterrestrial landscape for some time; it’s quiet, it’s empty, and it’s a bit eerie and were I more paranoid, and had the character she was not been so damn perfectly fascinating, I might’ve thought twice about my vulnerability in that situation. But we were there, amongst those volcanic rocks and vast nothingness, to fetch her son.
And sure enough, around a boulder in a little, semi-protected nook, were three partially blown over tents, an ashy had-been fire, and a whole lot of empty beer cans. The jeep stopped and seconds later one of the tents swayed as a bigger, burlier, male version of my kind chauffer wobbled out. He looked to be about 16, but a Viking type of 16. Fleshy but not fat, cheeks rosy from the cold and presumably, last nights beer. His pale, Icelandic skin very much uncovered, oblivious to the cold winds, it probably didn’t need any silk sleeping bag liners. He abandoned the tents, the ash, the beer cans, and threw himself into the back seat. A grunt by way of hello. The boy obviously spoke no English but I’m not sure that he actually spoke at all. We continued through the volcanic landscape and exited back out onto the road, she chatted, he grunted.
We arrived at the first fork in the road, they were going left, I was going right. I hopped out, thanked my cheery Icelandic companion and her less cheery offspring. I stood on that corner and watched their red jeep turn into a speck in the distance. Not a single other car in sight.
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