By and large I’m adverse to tourist activities. And as someone from a more southern part of the northern hemisphere, I find waking up to complete darkness tough. I thought about this on a dark, dreary winter morning, as I drove down to BSÍ to partake in a snowmobiling tour that I had for some strange reason volunteered to partake in.
Yet as the taillights of my ride faded the hilarity of my situation became more apparent. Holding fast to my sense of humour, I declared in an inner monologue that this was destined to be a great day. I shook hands with Siggi, my guide for the day, and off we went.
Making obvious and benign jokes is a vital part of being a good tour-guide. Siggi’s dryness only made his sub-par jokes more laughable in my head. However, the Australian twenty-somethings bouncing around the back of the van seemed unable to discern when the joke was over. The couple from Barcelona and the Scandinavian mother-daughter pair didn’t have enough English to keep up.
INSANELY CHEERFUL AUSTRALIANS
It was clear from the get-go that the Australians were going to drive me insane. By 8am their cheeriness had grown wings and burst through the roof of the van. I was still in a pre-caffeine state and thus easily agitated. When they began singing in chorus before our first destination, I nearly told Siggi to pull over so I could hitchhike back to Reykjavík. The musical medley lasted the daylong and spanned the gamut from ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ to ‘My Girl’. Out of sheer boredom at some point I started mentally rating their choice in song.
The sun was still noticeably absent when the Australians started clucking about fumes in the back seat. They were ignored initially, but soon the smell was undeniable. I turned around intending to give them the stink eye, but smoke was indeed seeping in. Nordic gods had heard my prayers! The van was breaking down. We were going back to Reykjavík. Unfazed, Siggi got out, fixed the minor problem, and we were on our way.
Awkwardly sliding down the icy path in Þingvellir wasn’t on my agenda for the day. Rather I elected to sit and chat with Siggi learning that he too, is a photographer and has guided tours for four years. After fielding my inquiries he herded everyone into the van and drove to Geysir. The novelty of sulphur-scented erupting water had worn off for me. So I watched as the others recorded videos of water exploding out of the ground.
Around noon it was snowmobiling time. The prospect of seeing the sun had gone from slim to none and the road slowly morphed to trenches of snow. Despite Siggi’s proficient driving skills, the Scandinavian mother braced herself by nervously gripping the window ledge. I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of sleep while Siggi noted the unseasonably warm weather.
We pulled up to metal shed-like structures. Walls of fog replaced the expansive and breath-taking views I’d anticipated. Rain, hail and snow fell. We were ushered into the sheds and outfitted in snowsuits, helmets and two layers of gloves. It would have been smart to pay closer attention during the snowmobile demonstration, but instead I photographed. My uneasiness on the one thousand pound piece of machinery should have come as no surprise. However, my confidence grew and admittedly I started to enjoy myself. I was admiring the dismal surroundings when my snowmobile abruptly soared out of line. I reverted to a childhood memory of bicycle brakes and gripped the handlebars tighter. I went only further and faster off course. Men shouted in Icelandic. Prompted by their cries and a realisation that I wasn’t slowing down I threw my hands up and hoped for the best. Shortly thereafter as young man, who I imagined was quite handsome behind his snow goggles, rescued me.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Two people tipped over and I felt fortunate that I did not. The ride on the glacier, the centrepiece and highlight of the day, was cancelled due to bad weather and lack of snow. If that wasn’t enough of a buzzkill, hail started falling again, this time sharply stinging my cheeks. Icy water pooled in the seat of my snowmobile. My ass and other nether regions (not to mention my hands and feet) had never experienced a chill so frigid. Trailing the lights of the snowmobile in front of me I had only one thought: “This is the most masochistic thing I’ve ever done.” Upon returning to civilisation (the tourist centre at Gullfoss) I high-tailed it to the women’s bathroom to shamelessly defrost my derriere under the hot air of the hand dryer.
Daylight was fading so we drove back to town. Upon arriving the Australians thanked Siggi profoundly for what they said was: “the most incredible day ever.” Siggi nodded and climbed back into the van. We were just two. He turned around and in a moment of mutual understanding we laughed. He apologised for the bad weather and then he drove me home.
The tour described is called ‘Express Activity Tour With Snowmobiling’ and was graciously provided by Mountaineers of Iceland. The tour takes 7-8 hours (depending on season) and costs 24.500 ISK.