I get up. I get off the bed. I’ve a bathe. I brush my enamel. I dress. I am going to the kitchen for breakfast. A boring begin to one other day.
I throw the kitchen window open. Birdsong and recent summer time air bursts into the room. I smile. It’s time to go! I eat a fast breakfast of something within the fridge that can stink if left for a month. I heave my backpack onto my shoulders. Out the door. Down the highway. On a practice. On a aircraft. Within the air.
It’s so easy as of late for many of us to go away our regular life behind. You want solely to decide on to take action after which work exhausting to make it occur.
The aircraft banks left and I look down at England’s inexperienced fields, small cities, and mesh of roads and infrastructure. There received’t be any of that the place I’m going. I suppose that’s an enormous purpose why I’m going there.
I have a look at my buddies, Ben and Martin, sitting beside me. All of us grin. All of us really feel the identical approach.
Seatbelts on. Put together for touchdown.
We glance down.
The Atlantic Ocean, gray and fierce. Even up right here you may see it smashing exhausting in opposition to the black rocks of this empty isle. A rocky shoreline, scrubby yellow grass clutching to the cruel land of ash and lava. The aircraft banks proper and drops in the direction of a small metropolis on a peninsula jutting into the ocean. The aircraft touches down in Reykjavik, Iceland. I’m hungry now. My London breakfast feels a great distance away already.
Touring is like diving right into a swimming pool. On the aspect of the pool, every little thing is protected, regular, acquainted. You may breathe and see and listen to and transfer simply. It’s your setting. It’s the place you belong, the place you all the time are. It’s simple.
Dive into the pool and every little thing adjustments. That straightforward, tiny motion of leaning ahead and setting your self in movement is all it takes. You attain a tipping level, after which headfirst you plunge into the water! You’re however a tiny distance from the place you have been an instantaneous earlier than, however now every little thing is totally different. Are you able to cope? Will you thrive?
We’re in Iceland, however we’re solely passing via. I like Iceland. I’ve recollections right here from among the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever been. I additionally bear in mind dancing till daybreak beneath the midnight solar, costly hangovers, barbecued whale steaks, and a cultured, civil individuals.
However this isn’t the time for brand spanking new recollections. It’s time to go deeper. Onto one other aircraft. A smaller one this time. Ben and Martin’s grins develop.
Seatbelts on. Put together for touchdown.
We glance down.
It’s tougher to see the land right here. The land and the ocean blur collectively. The frozen land is roofed in snow and ice. The ocean is frozen too, right here in these excessive arctic latitudes. White ice floes unfold throughout the blue sea like a jigsaw on a carpet.
The aircraft banks left and I see a handful of pre-fabricated buildings and a runway cleared of snow. The aircraft touches down in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland.
Dive right into a pool and the primary sensations are all enjoyable. That is totally different! It’s refreshing! The bubbles fizz round! However your intuition is to return to the place you belong. Your physique routinely tries to drift again to the floor. It’s time to make your alternative. Return, or go deep.
We’re going deep.
Onto one other aircraft. No seatbelt enforcers this time. No packs of peanuts. No different passengers. No tiny televisions or reclining seats. No safety checks. It’s simply as nicely; we’ve obtained a gun with us now. We’ve left behind our denims, our home keys, our wallets, even our passports. We don’t want any of that the place we’re going. We’re wearing thermal garments and chunky down jackets. I can’t bear in mind after I final grinned as a lot as this.
I peer down and see completely no indicators of human life, simply valleys and mountains lined with snow and utter, ageless silence.
The aircraft banks left. Then it banks proper. It swoops down in a good circle, low over the bottom beneath us. The pilot is looking for someplace to land, free from deadly crevasses. There is no such thing as a runway out right here. The propellers roar frantically as they convey us to a halt on the slippery, lumpy snow.
We soar down from the aircraft, out onto the freezing chilly snow. We haul out all of our gear, after which the purple and white aircraft rushes off down the snow as soon as extra, gathering pace till it lifts off up into the blue sky, and we stand and watch it because it will get smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter till it has gone.
The cruel arctic gentle will dazzle our eyes and blister our lips. Our fingers will burn with chilly. We shall be collectively however we shall be lonely.
We’re alone. Silence. Completely alone.
We’ve got gone deep.
“I’m bloody ravenous,” declares Martin, breaking the silence. London’s breakfast is a distant reminiscence.
We’re in a snow-filled valley within the Watkins mountains, Greenland’s highest mountain vary. Throughout us are steep rocky peaks. They’re oddly striped with horizontal bands of black rock. A lot of the peaks we are able to see have by no means been climbed earlier than. There may be a lot wilderness ready on the market on this planet, as soon as you start to dive a bit of deeper.
Swimming down via the pool you start to battle a bit of. Warning messages ping to your mind. You may’t breathe! It’s getting darker! The stress is constructing! Your physique and your thoughts need to pop again to the floor, however it’s time on your coronary heart to overrule your mind and to swim a bit of deeper.
Our lives out right here depend on one another, and upon the gear and expertise now we have. The temperature is nicely under freezing. The sky is obvious, however storms listed below are sudden, fierce, and doubtlessly deadly. So we take care to pitch the tent completely, secured with ice stakes and tied to our sledges, heavy with weeks of dehydrated meals and gasoline. We’ve got to soften snow every day to acquire our consuming and cooking water, so the gasoline is essential to holding us alive. We received’t wash or bathe out right here. We’ll sleep on skinny foam mattresses on prime of the chilly, exhausting ice. We’ll eat high-calorie, low-enjoyment dehydrated meals each day. We’ll be alert to crevasses, to storms, and to hungry polar bears stalking our progress.
And we’ll stroll. For 12 hours a day we’ll ski, hauling heavy sledges behind us, taking it in turns to guide and to navigate. It’s freezing chilly however we’ll sweat and endure. The cruel arctic gentle will dazzle our eyes and blister our lips. Our fingers will burn with chilly. We shall be collectively however we shall be lonely. For if you march in single file, following within the ski tracks of the lead skier, you may have no person to console you when the going is difficult, solely the stress to maintain up with the person in entrance and to not hinder the person behind you. Destructive ideas spin via the thoughts – that is too exhausting for me, the others are coping a lot better than me. I’m so drained, so hungry, so chilly – I’m holding up the group. It’s little comfort realizing that your friends are actually feeling precisely the identical approach. It’s stunning out right here, however itâ€™s not simple.
And so the miles crept previous, throughout that crisp, frozen panorama, as we trekked additional and additional, previous the Watkins mountains and out onto the huge, featureless Greenland ice cap. In all instructions is nothing. The world is white and flat and silent and timeless in each single course all the way in which to the horizon. I really feel very tiny, very weak.
We’ve gone deep.
Swim deeper nonetheless, overcome these instinctive voices (“Cease! Return!”), and you’ll shock your self. To your physique realizes that truly, you might be superb. You’re coping down right here. You’ve extra breath than you realized. You slip right into a rhythm of highly effective, purposeful swimming. Under you the water is darker and colder and extra tantalizing than ever. You may all the time go a bit of additional. No one may also help you down right here. However the thrill comes as you understand that you don’t want any assist. You’re free and you might be joyful.
It’s a beautiful second.
On our remaining night on the ice cap, I stood outdoors the tent for some time. (Night is a misnomer in a land of 24-hour freezing sunshine). I had by no means been someplace so empty, so featureless, so silent and huge earlier than. It’s a heck of a protracted approach to come to see nothing in any respect. However I had fallen in love with Greenland. I used to be free and I used to be joyful.
We turned for residence. And now, as you push again for the floor, the too-familiar, too-easy regular world that you just dived away from now gleams and shines tantalizingly, and you’ll’t wait to get again to the floor.
To get residence once more, and to recollect to be pleased about the nice and cozy summer time air and the birdsong if you open your kitchen window at breakfast time.
Photographs: Markus Trienke