“That looks like a very interesting truck!” I said to Sanjay pointing out at a modified red Toyota Hilux Truck displayed inside the exhibition halls at ITB Berlin, the largest Travel Expo in the world. Sanjay and I visited ITB in 2014 to explore new destinations and boy, did we find one! The red truck lured us and we walked over to speak to the Icelandic man standing proudly in front of it.
“Have you visited Iceland before?” he asked us with a smile.
Iceland. Hmm. No. Who goes to Iceland? I mean, we have driven around the world, been to all 6 continents, but it never even occurred to us to visit Iceland. How come we never thought of Iceland? Steiner, the guy standing next to the truck was representing a company called Arctic Trucks that organize driving expeditions in their modified vehicles in Iceland. He gave us a virtual tour of Iceland and we were sold at the idea of driving and experiencing Iceland: Europe’s Land of Fire and Ice.
Fast forward to 2015, we decided to launch an expedition to Iceland and turn the virtual experience to a real one! This was the first time that we were doing an expedition in a region where we haven’t been before. Our ‘Icelandic Experience’ began the very moment we boarded the Icelandic Air flight. The aircraft had a beautifully illuminated interior recreating the fabulous display of the Aurora Borealis. . After we arrived at Reykjavik on Saturday evening, with a group of 22 people along with us, we headed for a sumptuous dinner at ‘Grillmarket’ restaurant, which was followed by a pub crawl and 3.5 hours of sleep.
Over the next 7 days, our convoy of 7 trucks drove through the snowy terrains of Iceland and experienced the highs of this incredible country. We saw incredibly beautiful waterfalls, the interesting part about of one the waterfalls was that you could see this waterfall from the front and even from behind by walking through a little trail that would take you behind the waterfall.
While most of the participant would agree that the whole Iceland expedition was unforgettable, but the one that surely stayed with all was when the convoy was rolling towards Langjokull – the second largest glacier in Iceland. We were crawling up the extremely slippery and snowy glacier roads, navigating cautiously to ensure we don’t slide off the road and as we moved towards the top of the glacier, the conditions became more and more challenging. We were hoping to cross a mountain pass to get onto the other side quickly (and see the ice tunnels). But alas! the first car in the convoy got stuck. Then the third, and the fifth. And talk about luck, there was a blizzard. The wind started blowing so fast that we could barely open our doors. It was getting dark and heavy snowfall dropped visibility to less than 10 meters. Even our massive tires were sinking in the snow – already over 2 feet thick. While we were safe, we started pondering over the possibility of roads getting blocked and the obnoxious idea of spending the night in our cars. But we were in for some treat as our local guide, Ingo sprung to action. Trust us, it was like a scene straight out of Hollywood movie.
He was the start of the day, he singlehandedly managed to pull our every vehicle and in the end all he had to say was, “Just another day in office”. Perfect. It was a very exciting day, nobody was expecting to experience what they had experienced and for some of them, the thrill and the excitement they felt on second day of the trip had already made the trip worth their while.
Every single day spent in Iceland was better than the last one. On one of the days, we drove for 5 hours straight through an absolutely white terrain towards an isolated mountain hut. Nobody in the group including me had ever seen so much snow ever in their lives. It was surreal, it was like a scene out of a movie, 7 red trucks driving through pure white snow as far as the eye could see. On this particular day, there was neither wind nor storm. It was a perfect, calm day. We felt so far away from the world but so close to nature. Just us, the snow and the volcanoes. It was mother nature in all its glory. We reached our mountain hut by evening where we had planned to spend a night away from civilization. A group of 25 Indians spending a night in an isolated hut in the middle of snow country was probably as rare as witnessing the Northern Lights!
Our trusted trucks took us to places where no tourist could venture. We continued driving through isolated, snow terrains of Iceland. Ingo even took us driving on the top of a volcano. As we parked our vehicles and walked out, he asked everyone to maintain pin drop silence.
“Guys, on a count of 3, I want everyone to freeze. No sound please” We followed. For 1 minute no one made any sound or movement.
It was during that 1 minute, that we heard an incredible sound. The sound of silence. A complete silence. Nothing. Just nothing. No birds, no animals, no wind, no trees, no cars, no machines, no buildings, nothing. It felt magical.
From a complete silence to the most thrilling adventure of the journey. Riding the snowmobile scooters! 25 people geared up in overalls, helmets, snow glasses, gloves and protection shoes and took position on their respective snowmobile scooters. For the next one hour, we experienced the thrill of riding these incredible machines on snow going at speeds as high at 60 km/hr exposing ourselves to the freezing temperatures but the adrenalin rush was enough to keep us pumped up. The snow fall started coming down at the perfect time and the whole experience became even more thrilling. At the end of that one hour, the entire group couldn’t stop smiling. It was an absolutely thrilling experience and even though we all were cold and wet, but we didn’t care. We wanted fun and excitement; we got it all in abundance!
The final day of the journey was spent in the soothing waters of the Blue Lagoon. In -5 degrees, we walked out in our bathing suits and walked into the cozy natural hot springs. 2 hours were spent quickly and we didn’t feel like coming out. But all good things must come to an end and so did our experience of the Blue Lagoon.
We switched on the ignition of the vehicles for one last time as we drove back towards the Arctic Trucks Headquarters from where our journey had begun. A lot of things had changed. We were connected to these trucks now, people who met as strangers a week ago had formed a bond for life. We had experienced highs together, we had overcome difficult situations together and we had all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones together. Iceland had brought 25 strangers together as a team, as a close group of friends and even as a family.
We said goodbyes to the trucks, we said goodbyes to Iceland and eventually we said goodbyes to each other with a promise to meet again soon.