So I’m somewhere in the interior of Iceland. It’s cold. Very cold. And it’s snowing. The Tour Guide tells everyone getting off the coach not to wander off the path. Not that we can see the path, but we all follow the Tour Guide across the virgin snow. We arrive at our destination, a snow-lined gully, which the Tour Guide tells us was a location for the TV series of Game of Thrones – in the summer. Once again we are warned not to stray. One of our tour party, a tall woman with long auburn hair, dressed in a floor-length fur coat, ignores the warning and strides down one side of the gully and up the other, and then, arms spread wide, stands gazing up at the sky.
“She looks like the Red Woman from GoT,” I say to my Other Half.
“You can see her too?” OH replies.
Everyone takes photographs as best they can – it’s far too cold to take off our gloves – and then, in order of their tolerance of the sub-zero temperatures, our party start to drift back to the coach.
Except there is no coach. Where it was parked is now a space empty of everything but swirling snowflakes. Everyone stands around shivering while Tour Guide tries to contact the coach driver – mobile phones don’t work very well in the interior. Someone makes a joke about White Walkers. Everyone laughs. The Red Woman sits crossed legged on the snow and shuts her eyes. Is she summoning fire? We could actually do with some fire magic right now. Time passes. Tour Guide says, “Now you know what it must have been like to be sent to the Wall.” This attempt at levity is met with silence. The wind rises and the snow continues to fall.
And then the coach appears out of the blizzard. Suddenly everyone is talking at once as they pile on the vehicle, laughing at the small adventure, because of course, no-one doubted for a moment that the coach would come. When we reach a road-side café (we weren’t actually stranded that far from civilisation after all) the Tour Guide is so relieved no-one is moaning about being abandoned in the frozen wilderness that he buys us all sweets. Liquorice covered in chocolate, which seems to be an Icelandic speciality and is absolutely delicious.
The tour continues, through a fantastical volcanic landscape of rock, snow and ice. Tour Guide talks about Tolkien, Elves and blood-thirsty Viking sagas. We stop at a snow-covered restored Viking farm.
Another GoT location, but after all the talk about LoR, it reminds me of a hobbit house. Behind the farm is a frozen waterfall. I think about the people who lived in this isolated place a thousand years ago. We saw their swords, axes, necklaces, loom weights and cloak-pins yesterday in the excellent Reyjkavik museum. I wonder what they would make of us.
The sun is setting when we make our last stop of the tour. All day we’ve been seeing herds of small sturdy Icelandic horses, and now we get to meet them.
A whole herd of horses gallops towards us and streams around us – a truly magical moment. The horses mingle with us humans in a friendly equine ‘meet and greet’. And when they’ve had enough of us, they simply gallop off again.
And so we arrive back in Reyjkavik. The coach drops us off by the statue of Leif Eriksson, gazing towards the sea. We go to our hotel. Then we sit by a roaring fire and drink Viking beer, much like the Vikings of a thousand years’ ago, I imagine.