Quite suddenly, the sky began to darken. From one minute to the next, the clear air turned hazy.
At first we assumed we had driven into a storm. But as more cars in front of us began turning around and driving back in the direction we had come from, we sensed there must have been something unusual about this sudden weather adjustment. Some vehicles were parked on the side of the road, waiting. We didn’t know what for; there was no thunder or rain to be seen. Its was only several minutes later we found ourselves in complete darkness.
The world around us appeared apocalyptical.
Our initial thought was, the volcano must be erupting again. At this point it was located only several kilometres North from us, and our imagination was running wild. After all, we had seen the volcano’s mouth full of smoke up intimately and up close just the day before.
It was the first time since our arrival in Iceland that we were without a guide. It was also the first time we really needed one. We parked on the side of the road, or what we thought was the side of the road anyway. I frantically searched my phone for the guide’s number. We found ourselves calling our families for a second time, explaining them the potentially dire situation we found ourselves in.
There was no one around. We didn’t have anyone to call.
There was panic. We didn’t know what was going on. We could hear the wind blowing ash all over the car. The volume inside was very loud. In the back of our minds we were saying goodbye through these frantic phone calls. “We’re not sure what’s happening right now, this could be a very bad situation. I love you”. There was no one around. We didn’t have anyone to call. Until we remembered our guide’s number.
As we waited for him to call us back we watched floating particles of ash envelop our car. The sun disappeared from view completely. When the phone finally ran, we heard a voice reassure us that the volcano wasn’t spewing lava, despite the heavy gusts of smoke emanating from it. I didn’t take a lot photos during this part of the trip having been distracted by phone calls to family members and concern for our safety. It’s funny to think back on the trip and realize how fearless I felt hanging halfway out the doors of a helicopter suspended above a volcano, compared to the anxiety we experienced while imagining our car being swept away by hot lava.
The guide advised us to drive out of the storm as fast as we could, but this was, of course, a lot easier said than done. We needed to relax, so we decided to crack open the bag of pot, which was gifted to us by a local rock star we encountered on our first night in Reykjavik. We tried using our headlights, but they only made things worse. We drove onwards cautiously making lengthy pullovers along the way until we could see sunrays piercing through the ash again. It took us nearly three hours to break free of the miasma. Once we were out, everything looked absolutely ordinary. The photos on my camera were the only proof of the bizarre scene we had just witnessed.
It was almost 2 am when we arrived at our hotel. It looked traditional, Icelandic. It felt very colonial, and very old. The sun was still out, and looked like it was about to set. It hovered just above the horizon, moving sideways, light bursting through the trees. Spending several hours stuck in ash storm envisioning an unlikely, but nonetheless slightly possible death by lava is considerably mentally exhausting, so we ended the night with a dip in the hotel hot tub, which like much of Iceland was heated through volcanic activity underground, directly beneath us.
Photography. Lane Coder
Words. Aleksandra Klimowicz