What happens when a group of 25 Indian adventure seekers head to the most isolated terrains of the world and face unprecedented challenges thrown by nature? Iceland, the beautiful and untouched territory of ice, is a destination for brave hearts. Tushar Agarwal tells us all about his week spent in the land of extreme adventures.
By Tushar Agarwal
My Iceland dream was conceived in Berlin when I went for a virtual ride in the super modified red Toyota Hilux trucks at ITB Berlin2014 with my friend Sanjay. It was love at first ride!
In 2015, both of us decided to launch an expedition to Iceland and turn the virtual experience to a real one. We planned an exciting itinerary and collected a group of 25 travelers from all over the country. After a year spent in planning the expedition, finally on a chosen date all of us gathered to discover Iceland. We took the KLM flight and after a stopover in Amsterdam boarded the Icelandic Air flight to Reyjkavik. The ‘Icelandic Experience’ began from the moment we boarded the Icelandic Air flight. The aircraft was painted on the theme of the Northern Lights on the outside and as we walked into the plane, the cabin ceiling was also lit up to give a ‘Northern Lights’ effect. I had never seen any aircraft that looked so attractive.
We touched our destination in a few hours and as we walked out of the aircraft we were welcomed by the extreme cold winds. It was -5 degrees outside and without wasting a second, our scarves, gloves, caps and layers of jackets were pulled out. What’s the point of going to Iceland and not experiencing the extreme cold temperatures? We reached the hotel, got everyone checked in and next morning, took the group to the Arctic Trucks Head Quarters where we were introduced to the expedition machine. Parked proudly in front of the building were seven Super Trucks that were going to be our home for the next seven days.
Our dream journey took an unexpected turn on day two of the expedition. As we were driving on the Langjokull Glacier (the second largest glacier of Iceland) our convoy was hit by a severe snow storm. We faced fierce winds and a complete white out while driving up the glacier in a remote part of the country. Being responsible for the whole group, Sanjay and I were just hoping for the vehicles to keep running and not get stuck in snow. But, it seemed like the ‘snow gods’ of Iceland read our minds and decided to have some fun.
Five out of seven cars got stuck in snow. It took us two hours to pull the vehicles out. Our guide Ingo, was the star of the day, he singlehandedly managed to pull out every vehicle and in the end all he had to say was, “Just another day in office”. It was a very exciting day, nobody was expecting to experience what they had experienced and for some of them, the thrill and the excitement they felt on second day of the trip had already made the trip worth their while.
Every single day spent in Iceland was better than the last one. On one of the days, we drove for five hours straight through an absolutely white terrain towards an isolated mountain hut. Nobody in the group including me had ever seen so much snow ever in their lives. It was surreal; it was like a scene out of a movie, seven red trucks driving through pure white snow as far as the eye could see. On this particular day, there was neither wind nor storm. It was a perfect, calm day. We felt so far away from the world but so close to nature. We reached our mountain hut by evening where we had planned to spend a night away from civilization. A group of 25 Indians spending a night in an isolated hut in the middle of snow country was probably as rare as witnessing the Northern Lights! Our trusted trucks took us to places where no tourist could venture. We continued driving through isolated, snow terrains of Iceland. Ingo even took us driving on the top of a volcano where we all heard the “sound of silence.” It felt magical. That was the best one-minute of my life.
From complete silence to the most thrilling adventure of the journey, one fine day during our journey we geared up in overalls, helmets, snow glasses, gloves and protection shoes to try snowmobile scooter rides. We experienced the thrill of riding these incredible machines on snow going at speeds as high at 60 km/hr exposing ourselves to the freezing temperatures but the adrenalin rush was enough to keep us pumped up. The snowfall started coming down at the perfect time and the whole experience became even more thrilling.
The final day of the journey was spent in the soothing waters of the Blue Lagoon. In -5 degrees, we walked out in our bathing suits and walked into the cozy natural hot springs. The two hours were spent quickly and we didn’t feel like coming out. But all good things must come to an end and so did our experience of the Blue Lagoon.
We switched on the ignition of the vehicles for one last time as we drove back towards the Arctic Trucks Headquarters from where our journey had begun. A lot of things had changed. Iceland had brought 25 strangers together as a team, as a close group of friends and even as a family.
(The writer is co-founder of Adventure Overland)