Our group of 28 wakes early to begin our 5 day trek. We enjoy breakfast and most excellent coffee before returning to our rooms to stuff the remaining items that have spilled out into our too large bags. We have needed to cull our gear, paring it down to a small bag and sleeping bag for each of us. We are not clear on the type of accommodation, though have made certain to have everything on the list provided. I think into the future and wonder which item I will wish I had and which items were not necessary. There is always room for improvement in packing.
Our group has hired Arctic Adventures. Our drivers and guides are Eric and Commi and have briefed us yesterday, answering the majority of questions. We are picked up in large Mercedes buses with huge tires. The vehicles are impressive and create quite the spectacle as strangers snap pictures of our ride. I’m concerned about where we are going that we will need such a ride, I kick myself mentally for not researching more. I wonder if we will be trekking from point A to B, our luggage trailing behind us in these fancy buses. This country feels vast and I wonder how many hours we will be walking daily. I decide it’s a little too late to worry about it now.
We board the bus. Eric, our driver points out the latte button. A chuckle ripples through the bus, though I test it anyway, wouldn’t want to miss a chance for a latte. Sadly the pushing of the button is futile and it still is not clear what the button does.
We travel to Skogafoss waterfall and John and I sit back and enjoy the ride. The bus is top heavy. We list across the road, crossing the centre line and then Eric regains control and the vehicle sways as it sorts itself out in the proper lane, only to repeat the process again a few moments later.
We arrive and are provided with a time limit. It is just enough time to climb to the top of the waterfall, take photos, climb back down, walk to the base of the fall and then back to the bus. We move quickly. The waterfall is breathtaking complete with a rainbow.
Our next stop is Gigjokull glacier. We don crampons, are fitted with a harness and helmet and grab an axe. We walk a short distance, stop and attach our crampons. We listen intently to our easy to listen New Zealand guide as he explains potential dangers.
Its tricky at first walking with crampons, though our Guide provides us with two visuals, “Walk like a gangster,” when walking down an incline and plant our feet like “a baby dinosaur stomp.” Perfect visuals that easily are recalled when we start to lose our balance. We remain upright.
There are many small and some larger crevices. Our Guide explains that crevice is a French word that means, “Big bloody hole” We are mindful of where we step though are mindful we lack the expertise to read the snow and ice correctly. We rely on our Guides to keep us from falling into the abyss.
Our axes though super cool to carry are idle as other Guides chip stairs for us to ascend and descend. We thank them as we pass, and walk on the stairs making our journey easier and safer.
The landscape is like walking into a black and white world after living in technicolor. It looks like a charcoal drawing, complete with smudges.
We climb to a high spot where our guide slams two axes into the snow traversing a small stream. He demonstrates how to drink water like a Viking. John gives it a try. I wait, not wanting the audience and waiting for our group to lose interest. I know that my plank will sport a swayed back, though I want the experience. I drink the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted. John and I look at each other then dump our water bottles in favor of this water. I wish I could take more. We are informed the water is approximately 500 years old. I wonder if all water tasted this sweet all those years ago. I know I will remember this taste for a long time.
Our Guide has found some mud and John and I don this soft mud under our eyes, like the Warriors we are. We then dinosaur stomp and gangster walk our way back to the vehicle. This experience has us feeling like children. We arrive back to the beginning changed. Our smiles and eyes bright, I wonder if there was something even more special about the water. We pronounce this day one of our very best days, a terrific beginning.