The Golden Parts Of 2011 – Part 3

Daring to bare in my swimsuit and going into a hot pool in Landmannalaugar, Iceland. That morning I’d woken up in a wet tent (wet tent? Put bin bags down. Put stuff in other bin bags. Breathe.) then slogged my guts out all day in the pissing rain, hefting massive stones all over the place. I was utterly and completely knackered. The sight of women flouncing around in tiny bikinis as I stomped around the campsite in my overalls and various damp layers didn’t make me feel that much better. Everyone was going to go in the hot pool, but for me, the prospect of getting in there at all was utterly terrifying. But I had one of those moments, you know when you think ‘fuck it. I’ll do it.’ And I did. I fucking got in that fucking hot pool and put my fucking glasses on a fucking rock to the side. Words can’t really sum it up…I mean it was extraordinary. The rain pattered softly on our heads but our bodies were submerged in this gorgeous, naturally heated water. I could hear Dutch, German, French and Japanese people speaking between themselves and laughing, glancing at each other from time to time with inquisitive looks. I can’t say I enjoyed the cold, wet walk back along the wooden boardwalk, but fucking hell, it was worth every single second.

Completing the  Laugavegur hike. Laugavegur is a street in Reykjavik. But it’s also a hiking route. A very famous, difficult 34 mile hiking route though the remarkable Icelandic highlands. Its starts at Landmannalaugar and finishes in Þórsmörk. (Thor’s Wood.) I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. I felt lacking in confidence and physical ability. But at more or less the last minute I changed my mind and believe you me, I am pretty damn pleased that I did. It was hard, yeah, and it rained for most of the three days, and we had to cross glacial rivers in each other’s sandals but it was a challenge that didn’t get the best of me. I had a blip during the walk. I fell into anorexic behaviours extremely quickly and ran out of energy. I was besides myself with grief and anger and hunger. But Moran, the Israeli Godess (also a Psychologist) pulled me back from the brink. Every other member of the team played their role too, and cheered me up and out of my ‘bad place’. The landscapes we experienced were sometimes too much. I mean, it’s impossible to capture the full intensity on film or in a photo. It just made me want to cry. I mean really cry. I was so fucking lucky. The highlands with their changing brilliant colours shifted into barren, grey peaks where it is so easy to get lost. Steam wooshed out of the earth, often so loudly I thought, honestly, that there was a motorway nearby. It was almost impossible to believe that that sound was coming from the earth. We hiked across ash covered snow, past snow caves and cliffs, tall and menacing like the walls of a cathedral. On our second hiking day we hiked through desert like plains, ash in huge piles as if a giant had been sweeping his floor. The rain was heavy and hard. It was almost as if it was being dragged down from the sky. The wind was like a bully, waiting for when you were at your most vulnerable before lashing out at you and trying to rip away your meagre bag cover. A helicopter passed over our heads as we were nearing our second stop off. It was obvious someone had been injured out there in the beautiful barren place. It could have so easily been one of us. When we arrived at our final destination, it took a while for it to sink in. I still think back now and say to myself  ‘gal, you did good.’

Finding the perfect Icelandic jumper in a charity shop in Reykjavik, Iceland. The first night in the capital of Iceland I knew that I was not going to leave without buying a jumper. I was committed to find the perfect one and was willing to pay through the nose for it if I had to. Now, Icelandic jumpers are perhaps one of the most incredible clothing garments ever created, and believe you me, you are never content with just one. I wanted to buy one for Tom I wanted to buy one for the kids we are going to have in the future. I wanted to buy one for my Dad, Mum, brothers, sister… They are gorgeous garments and so bloody practical. I found one, after seven weeks of searching, in a Reykjavik Red Cross Shop. I was in love. It was a tiny price in comparison to the ones selling in the more touristy shops. A snip at 7,000 Kroner. All the other were 16,000 and above. The first time I put it on, I felt as if I was glowing. Not just because it was so warm but because I felt so happy in it. It was like a massive comfort blanket and made me feel more in-tune with Iceland on a totally different level. An Icelandic person had owned this jumper before me, and had more than likely, knitted it themselves. I was wearing a little piece of Icelandic history and that fact, to this day continues to make me ecstatic.