Sunday, Apr. 07, 2019 - 7:49 pm.
I made it back from Iceland. The trip was somewhat what I expected, and better in some aspects. I took a notebook with me, and though I could barely write anything decent while at the back of the jumpy camper van, it helped me cope with feelings and keep my thoughts in check. I did some drawings, too. They're just a bunch of lines trying to convey snowy mountains and lakes, but at least I did something.
We travelled on Monday morning, Andrew and I. It took us the whole day to get to Reykjavíc. It snowed a lot that day, but I didn't feel it was that cold. We got the chance to explore a few streets, buy some souvenirs and some groceries for the trip, stop by a coffee shop. This northernmost capital city looks A LOT like like the southernmost capital city in Chile, it feels nice to say that I've seen both extremes. Our hotel room was sweet, and I wished so hard that we didn't have to leave it.
Alas, we did leave it, the day after. On Tuesday we met with Cl and Ca, a married couple from Chile. They're both long-time friends of Andrew. I really like them, but I was not looking forward to spending a week with them inside a van, around the 1300+ kms covered by Iceland's Ring Road. Nevertheless, we got our stupid camper van, filled it with supplies (most of which we brought from the UK because Iceland is expeeensive), and off we went.
The first night was the hardest. The "camping site" where we spent the night was a gas station parking lot among mountains, with -8ºC. The camper van had two surfaces that resembled a bunk bed. Andrew and I took the top surface, in which you could crawl at the most. It was Cl who would be driving the whole trip, and the bottom surface seemed more comfortable. We didn't turn on the heat during the night to save energy. We used the public toilets in the gas station.
That night, I was freezing and I wanted to cry and take a flight back home first thing in the morning. Camping is not my thing. I truly didn't want to be there. Things were out of my control. Cl and Ca weren't complaining so I thought all this was standard camping experience, of which they have plenty.
I just felt this trip was just not mine. It never was. I was just being dragged throughout the island. I was shivering, and Andrew was holding me tight, and I could feel he was miserably sorry and regretful for bringing me here under these conditions. I didn't want to sound ungrateful or ruin everybody else's plan, so I didn't say anything. I kept seeing the plans unfolding in our e-mail chain, but I didn't know where to jump in and say, let's do something else. I honestly did not want to do the camping van thing. And Andrew never asked me.
Long story short, though, we alternated the rest of the nights in the camper van and in nice hostels. I was going to suck it up, after that first night, but it wasn't just that Andrew felt guilty about me, it was that it wasn't his thing, either. He realized he'd made a mistake. He wanted to make us all comfortable.
So we spent Wednesday night in a cute B&B. Then, Thursday night in the van again, parked by a pier, but by then I was roughed up and knew the drill. Plus, public toilets were quite well-kept, that helped a lot. Friday night was spent in another B&B in the bloody middle of nowhere, and it seemed nobody was running it; two sleepy guests opened the doors for us, and we only saw more guests in the morning. Then, we spent Saturday night, last night, in the only pre-scheduled AirBnB of the trip.
The days were long, in the sense that time goes by slowly when you're on a road trip. We saw mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, small towns, the sea, beaches, horses, birds, the back of a few whales(!). Lots of beautiful, barren land. The weather and the landscape changed every hour, but luckily it never rained, let alone snowed, and anyway, after sleeping in freezing temperatures, anything above 0º was mild.
Our fanciest meal was a four-hamburger deal at a N1 gas station, which costed about 60 euros. The burgers were delicious and so were the side fries, but yeah, such amount for a gas station meal. We ate most of our meals in the van at our stops, however, after sightseeing. That was not bad at all. Even if we had little space. There was a table inside the van (which turned into the bottom "bed") which fit the four of us nicely, and Andrew was the cook.
The company was also better than expected. Cl and Ca are quite chill. I've spent time with them, but no more than going out for dinner or something. They've done much for us, like having us stay at their apartment with our two cats before we came to the UK. Cl took Andrew and I to the airport one night, and he took the cats the following morning. And they will be taking 30+ of my books back to Chile, once they're done touring a few more European cities.
Still, I don't know them that well. Based on past experiences, I was afraid Ca would get on my nerves. She did a couple of times with some comments, but it was something that could be easily brushed off. I kept feeling that I was probably more of a bother to them than they were to me. They didn't seem very happy when we booked the two hostels, even though they were on us. Although for the second one, the hostel run by nobody, I think Cl welcomed the chance to stay there, because that day he drove quite a lot and he was exhausted.
At that hostel, too, we saw the Northern Lights. Jesus Christ. It was Friday, near midnight, and I'd given up hope of seeing them at all. They didn't look like in the pictures, though, all green and bright and moving like a cloth. We *were* lucky to catch them, anyway, because this isn't the best season. They looked like white stardust being blown over across the sky, and they did move like a living thing, subtly but non-stop.
The Northern Lights and the whales, even though I only caught a glimpse of both (compared to ideal full-blown experiences), drove me to tears.
Yesterday afternoon, we arrived to our last stop, the AirBnB where we'd spend the night before our flights today. Andrew and Cl dropped Ca and me at the place, while they went to the capital to return the van. In the meantime, I had an amazing conversation with Ca, which showed me another side of her that I wouldn't have guessed from our previous interactions.
More than a conversation, it was her talking, but that's ok. She told me she was indigenous, and I think she was testing the waters to see what my stance was on how indigenous people are viewed and treated in Chile. She needn't worry. It felt like she was coming out to me in terms of ethnicity, the way I'd thought of coming out to her and her husband Ca throughout the trip in terms of sexuality.
(I didn't come out to them. I never found the chance to do it naturally, and I chickened out at the thought of bringing up the topic myself. And I was still afraid of their reaction. For all the great chat I had with Ca about discrimination, acceptance of one group does not necessarily transfer to another group. Ethnicity and sexuality have some common threads but they are different subjects).
I always thought Ca'd lean towards the right on the political spectrum, really. I knew her father was a military man. I did not know her mother was indigenous. Turns out we had a lot of common ground regarding the criminalization of First Nations, and of youth, and being aware of one's privileges, and so on. It was an amazing conversation.
Then the men returned, and I felt our intimacy vanished. It had nothing to do with the guys, I think they also felt they interrupted something. It's just that we kind of returned to our four-people two-couple dynamics.
Anyway. After a somewhat long but uneventful trip back home, here I am. I do say, though, "never again, please" to camping and going on holiday with another couple (I'm not a fan of couple activities altogether). I did resent that going to Iceland was the trip Andrew and I dreamed about since we came to the UK, and it was going to be our last big trip before we leave this side of the world.
It did feel that this trip wasn't entirely mine, but look, it was still great! On the plus side, someone else took the wheel and took us around the country. Cl and Ca had been there before, too, so they knew how to get around and where to go. I just wanted time for the two of us, for Andrew and me. I wanted us to stay in cozy places, and have a coffee here and there. But we still managed to squeeze some of that in our schedule.
All in all, I am happy and very grateful for this amazing week, for everything I learned, and saw, and experienced. And Andrew got me a tiny crystal whale <3