It’s a phenomenal place, Iceland. Probably the most lovely locations I’ve ever been. The landscapes are magnificent and serene. You possibly can journey for miles on finish, undisturbed, free to daydream gently as you go. You’re free to pitch your tent wherever you please in that huge empty silence and sit and watch the lengthy summer season evenings slide slowly by.
I keep in mind an expedition I made there fondly as being one wherein I used to be genuinely glad and at peace. I used to be doing one thing I beloved, doing it proficiently, and doing it someplace actually particular. So it feels stunning that the closest I ever got here to dying was on the market in that stunning wilderness. What a disgrace it will be to die at a time like that. However that’s a part of the deal we make, isn’t it? We folks who thrive on journey and the wild locations of the world. We perceive that these lovely landscapes that fulfill us and nourish us can flip and chunk and kill us. It’s a part of the deal we make.
We have been alone. We have been afraid. The river was muscular and our packrafts felt very small.
I used to be crossing Iceland—north to south—by foot and by packraft, with my good friend Chris. Our packs have been heavy, the journey was exhausting, however we have been making glorious progress. We have been actually glad on that morning once I practically died. We have been about to paddle a spectacular canyon. We’d scouted forward. We’d talked and talked and talked concerning the dangers and rewards, concerning the nice line between danger and recklessness, and we’d determined to go for it. It was thrilling.
Down within the canyon, the sky shrank to a slender strip above us. The day felt darker. The river was loud down there, gray and swollen with meltwater from the glacier we had just lately crossed. No one on earth knew the place we have been. We have been alone. We have been afraid. The river was muscular and our packrafts felt very small. I look again now and know we have been silly. We should always not have been there. The river was too huge, too troublesome, too horrifying. However that is one other a part of the deal we make on adventures. We wish to stroll the road of worry. We wish to squeeze each final drop of our nerve, to check the depths of our psychological and bodily capability. However it’s important to try this with out the knowledge of hindsight or the counseling ear of family and friends. You make your resolution. And you then stay or die by it.
I am going first. I push the nostril of my packraft out into the present after which I’m gone. The river grabs my boat and drags me away. I do know Chris is there however I don’t see him anymore. I’m alone. I’m dedicated. Completely dedicated in a approach that by no means ever occurs within the secure blandness of actual life the place nearly nothing is irreversible, the place nearly nothing actually, actually issues. I keep in mind each second. My thumping coronary heart, the hovering rush of adrenalin, paddling with each ounce of energy, judging my route, scanning the rocks, selecting my strains, committing to selections each single second, dwelling with the results, leaving them behind and galloping wildly on to the subsequent one. Hell, there’s every little thing that makes life price dwelling crammed into each magical, maniacal second. There actually is. I’m extra alive than I’ve ever been earlier than.
And I’m about to die.
There’s an enormous boulder forward of me now. I attempt to go proper. The river needs me to go left. I modify my thoughts. I attempt to go left. I paddle with each drop of my soul. Left, left, left! Have I ever wished something extra in life? Have I ever wanted something extra? And now I rise so slowly up this boulder. That is actually occurring. Now. Right here. Me. And the river flips me the other way up and I’m submerged so quick in glacial meltwater so darkish and chilly spinning this fashion and that approach and clinging so exhausting to my boat and holding so tight to the breath in my lungs and no one on earth might help me. Even Chris can’t see me in the meanwhile, not to mention everybody I like on the planet who at this second are brushing their enamel or scratching their nostril or ready for a bus utterly unaware that I’m dying.
No one that has ever lived, nothing on this huge and exquisite world I like a lot, nothing might help me now. I’ve by no means felt such worry. I’m about to die.
However now instantly I’m above the floor once more, hurtling down the river. I breathe exhausting (somebody ought to open a restaurant serving essentially the most scrumptious sensation of that one single mouthful of chilly, lovely air) and I’m hurtling so quick down this river and with some loopy random cocktail of luck and terror and primitive animal energy I pay money for a rock and haul myself to the facet and again to the world and again to this lovely life.
Comply with Alastair Humphrey’s adventures at his web site and on Instagram. You possibly can learn extra of his work in Microadventures: Native Discoveries for Nice Escapes. All pictures courtesy of Humphreys.