Back in Reykjavík

Friday, July 3rd 2009

I got up the next morning to find thick fog enshrouding Kulusuk. As I packed up my tent, I heard the plane from Reykjavík approaching, but I couldn't see it. Then suddenly it passed breathtakingly low over my campsite. I saw the dark shape and heard a huge roar, but not long afterwards, I heard it again much higher.

I packed up and walked across the tundra to the airport. The fog was still thick, the plane had still not landed, and there was an air of slight tension. It had been circling for more than an hour by the time it landed, and there was relief in the airport as it finally pulled up at the terminal. The most relieved people were a huge group of Greenlandic children, who were clearly going on a big trip to Iceland. We all boarded, the Greenlanders were waved off by their families and I looked back at the snowy landscape and bade farewell to this incredible place.

Barely two hours later, we were back in Reykjavík. Coming from London, Iceland feels pretty remote. Coming from Greenland, I had the sense that I'd crossed an enormous but invisible boundary, leaving behind a place where humans lived on the brink, where there were no towns or villages, really, but just houses on a landscape, and returning to somewhere safe, serene and blessed. Greenland is closer to Iceland than London is, in terms of distance, but on a scale of human experience, Iceland is far, far closer to London than it is to Greenland.

In the evening it was sunny and warm. I walked by the harbour. Ten years ago we'd been slapped about by a violent sea wind walking along here, but today it was calm, and people cycled, ran and walked along the bayside path. As I walked, I noticed a dim grey triangle on the horizon to the north where the sun was getting low in the sky. It could only be Snæfell, 75 miles away across the bay. Seeing it from this far away seemed to me to be a good omen for the next part of my trip: to hike the Laugavegur.

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