You can mourn or silently moan, or you can drink, dance and get into a trance. You can bake, eat a cake or just simply throw a fake that you don’t care any longer when your birthday arrives and goes leaving you a year older. Shehzaad had his birthday on the 13th June and we decided to conquer the magnificent Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in south Iceland, the 4th largest of the country, on a snow-mobile! How is that for a birthday celebration? Given a choice of materialistic objects, gifts and galore – we always prefer to have experiences in such milestones of our lives. We believe the experience is what makes us wiser in life, not the mere numbers that turn on our birthdays.
Iceland is the country of fire, water and ice. Above ground and under it – this is the country where mother Earth vents out its fiery fury as it with equal abundance unravels its raw beauty in the most genuine form. More than 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers which appear as the vanguards of “all nice ice things” that make up Iceland. We struck a deal with the Arcanum Glacier Tours and reported to the base station on time.
We opted for the snow-mobile experience which lasted for around 3 hours. Usually they have 3 tours per day during the summer season, starting from 10am, 12pm and the last one at 3pm and we went for the slot at 3pm which cost us around £300 for two persons. Booking in advance is strongly recommended not because the volcanoes may erupt, but there are just too many adventure seekers out there to soak up the nice bits of Iceland.
As if getting ready for a space mission by Apollo, we were introduced to the orange jumpsuits, helmets, snow boots, gloves and thermal socks which we had to put before embarking on a special jeep along with other fellow snow-mobilers. Our instructor-in-charge was Olli who seemed to know the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier like the back of his hands. The vehicle kept climbing up for some 20 minutes until the dry land was left behind to welcome the shiny white patches of snow. When we finally arrived at our starting point, we could see lines of snow-mobiles kept in order. Like a scene in a James Bond movie, we got off from the jeep in our orange jump-suits ready for some snowy action to chase the enemies of the world and to save the world (and the Queen). Olli gave us a thorough instruction on how to drive a snow-mobile, what to do and what not to. Excited and nervous, we got onto our mechanic snow-wolf for the day. We checked the brakes, the accelerator and off we went!
We were instructed to drive in a line, not because it looked good but because of the fact there were still some thin ice here and there. So the unruly had the risk of taking an unexpected icy dip. We drove between 20-60 km/h as we moved deeper into the vast icy plains of the Glacier. With a serious sun on a blue sky and glittery white snow all around as far as eyes could eye – this is were Iceland comes to meditate?
After some major climbs and risky twists and turns, we stopped at our first briefing point. Our instructor made some dummy volcanoes with snow to explain to us that we are actually snow mobiling over a volcano which ofcourse turned into a glacier. He also showed us in a distance the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano which was covered under snow and which caused some major disruptions in 2010 when it erupted last time sending huge amount of volcanic ash over the Atlantic towards Western Europe.
It was the most surreal feeling to be actually standing over such forces of nature, deeply hidden under the snow for now, but everyone knows that the fury and the heat that are still bubbling thousands of miles below. After some enlightening on the geological wonders of the glacier, we resumed our excursion neatly in line to follow the instructor. The last thing you wanted to do was to fall behind from the group or lose sight of them and get lost wandering in the white abundance. You will realise once again that any natural wonder of huge scale is always best enjoyed in a company and never alone – the magnitude of nature belittles any human being and can overpower in no time.
Next in our route, we made a pause at the mouth of the lava river which was ofcourse frozen for the time being. However, the cracks and fissures in the slope clearly indicated the fact that the glacier was moving slowly away from its peaks and towards the mouth of the sea. This was one of the locations where the movie Interstellar was shot, surely the best ‘body-double’ this planet has to offer to match any of the out-worldly locations.
The contrasting charisma of the Icelandic glaciers was visible where the jet back solid lava stones were struggling to surface out of the snow-white all around. The monochrome display of natural beauty on ground was only matched with the clear blue sunny sky which kept smiling because the erupting volcanoes must have tried so hard by spitting the fireballs above but could never reach its safe abode on the ninth heaven.
After another rounds of orderly excursion through the white snow, we made our way back to the basecamp and posed for our TopGun moment – with some snowmobiles as the backdrop and the helmet held tight in the arm – this was the moment of triumph, to celebrate the exploring of the Glacier which had kept cool the fiery mouth of Katla volcano for years after years.
We returned to the plain ground to come off our weird onesies and to return the accessories. We stepped out of the office of the tour agency and before getting into our Land Rover, we looked back at the meditating Myrdalsjokull Glacier. The shiny sun made it look as it had a sly smile on its surface, whether it was to wish Shehzaad for his birthday or because of the fact that it knows how to keep cool the volcanoes – that remained a mystery to us as we rejoined the Icelandic Ring Road to continue with our roadtrip experience with a one year wiser voyager on the steering wheel.0