A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the fact I was going to Iceland on a press trip ahead of the DVD and Blu-Ray launch of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Well I’m back now and, evidently, I’ve survived to tell the tale. If you haven’t already read my diary posts from the trip on MSN Her then fetch yourself a cup of tea and prepare for tonnes of pictures and tales of me being terrified…
I am not a very brave person. Well, sometimes I am, I can do live TV without thinking twice about it and I can stand up and speak in front of large crowds without so much as even bothering to prepare cue cards (that probably says more about my laziness than my bravery, ahem) but there are some things I’m a massive, massive baby about. Put it this way, I cried when I went to Go Ape and had to leave even though I was there to review it. The trees weren’t that high and the people with me were mostly under the age of 14, but I couldn’t do it. I’ve become useless at anything that involves even the vaguest sense of danger recently. I won’t ride a bike, I won’t do ‘fun activities’ on holidays…I couldn’t even stand on a chair to look in a cupboard recently. I know, I know – pathetic.
So when I was emailed about a press trip to Iceland to see the filming locations from Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I didn’t really know what to do. My very first initial instinct was – “OMG, a trip to Iceland!” and I very nearly replied that I’d go straight away. But then ‘Doubting Poppy’ kicked in and I convinced myself that I shouldn’t go. Ice climbing with ropes and axes had been mentioned and this definitely sounded more perilous than ‘standing on a chair to look in a cupboard’, so it seemed more than a little bit out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t know anyone, it wasn’t really ‘my thing’, I probably wasn’t fit enough to take part in anything, I almost definitely wouldn’t like the food and, to top it off, I didn’t own any practical clothes for cold weather. I watched myself go from “YES PLEASE, GET ME ON THAT PLANE” to “no thanks, it’s not really for me” in literally 30 seconds. And then it was actually that transformation which became scary, that I could talk myself out of such an amazing opportunity so easily.
I’d seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (it’s ruddy great, by the way) and – without wanting to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it – I knew that good things came to Walter once he took life by the horns and just got out there and made his daydreams a reality. He went on an adventure….and I could too. So I said I’d go.
I felt more and more sick about the trip with every day that passed. I’d tell people the itinerary and the unanimous response was “that’s not very you”, followed by “sounds pretty dangerous, are you sure you want to go?”.
But I went.
I’d heard good things about Iceland and Icelanders, so I tried to put a positive spin on my general state of dread. I did warm up to the idea a bit once I was on plane, little touches made it clear that Icelanders have a sense of humour…
The first task once we landed in Reykjavik was to head out to sea and do some deep sea fishing (very me, right?!)…
Straight away I realised I was right to come on this adventure.
Just look at how beautiful it was…
I’d managed to find aaaaaaaaall the warmest clothes that Adidas have ever made to keep me snug as a bug in a rug on the trip – although my snazzy Jeepers Peepers sunglasses never made it back to the UK after I fell off a glacier (more details in the next installemnts!). As I’m solely writing about summer garmz now here in the UK, it was nice to road-test my Bobbl hat in the proper outdoors. Boy did I need it too. It was freeeeeeeezing. Teeth chattering freezing.
But as well as warm clothes, it turns out something else can keep you warm on long fishing trips…
We were very lucky to be joined on the boat by two cast members from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ari Matthíasson and Þórhallur Sigurðsson.
Were we going to be expected to do the same? I went to bed that night terrified that we would be.
Waking up in a log cabin in Southern Iceland is something I never thought I would do. Waking up to see a giant polar bear – albeit dearly departed – is *definitely* something I never thought I would do.
After so much worrying about the trip, it was hard to believe it was actually happening. I felt ever so slightly pleased with myself that I’d ‘made it’. But then I remembered what this day would actually entail – driving ATVs through the mountains and off-roading in super Jeeps around a glacier – and I suddenly wasn’t so confident.
Getting dressed felt completely alien. What does one wear for an ATV adventure? Is it really THAT cold at a glacier? Are layers something you actually need or just something mums like to tell you you need?
Getting dressed distracted me from THE FEAR for all of five minutes, then it was time to actually head out to Gigjokull Glacier. *Gulp*.
And badass skills were about to be required, for it was time to head to Vatnsdalur Valley for our ATV adventure.
We stopped off in a cave to warm up with a fire and tell tales of elves (which I believe in now, FYI) and Vikings…
Imagine you’ve been driving an ATV for a couple of hours and you’ve become pretty confident. You’re worrying less and less about dying and concentrating more and more on the fact you’re in the most beautiful place in the world. Imagine you’re doing all of this and then, out of nowhere, a bunch of wild horses decide to join you on your adventure and run alongside you…
We then stopped off at a waterfall (standard procedure in Iceland)…
The ATV trek was done, but we still had a helicopter flight and ice climbing to tackle.
I had a feeling this smile wouldn’t last…
ICE CLIMBING AND HELICOPTERS.
We left Hotel Ranga bright and early to head to the Solheimajokull Glacier, where we were going to be met by our guides who would kit us out with the things we’d need to survive…ya know, ropes, axes and crampons. Usual stuff.
I didn’t talk much on the coach ride over there as I was absorbed with panic. I *really* didn’t want to quit any of the activities on the trip but I knew if I backed out of anything, it would be the ice climbing. Ice doesn’t conjure up nice thoughts for me (unless it’s ice in a G&T, natch) and just makes me think of slipping up, car accidents and general falling over. ICE IS DANGEROUS. I didn’t want to climb it.
As we got closer to the glacier itself we covered more moonlike landscapes…
But Iceland’s natural beauty wasn’t going to stop me panicking. One of the guys in our group pointed out that we hadn’t been given helmets and so deduced that what we were going to be doing couldn’t possibly be that dangerous. It was a fair point and so I breathed easily for a moment. Then the van with all the helmets and harnesses arrived. It was really happening and I really was going to have to do it.
I made my hiking boots even sexier than they were already by fixing on some crampons (I liked to call them ‘feet teeth’) and after a brief overview on how best to walk in them it was time to head up the glacier.
I started off relatively confidently. It’s an odd sensation as you head over the top because obviously your body doesn’t want to fall horizontally backwards off an icy ledge. You’re not actually falling of course, there’s a rope to stop you falling to your death and – as I found out seconds later – that rope is pretty darn important.
I thought my spiky teethy feet had a good grip on the ice but apparently they didn’t, as I fell. I don’t really remember falling, I just remember feeling like I was in a washing machine, smacking my head and then hanging upside down like a bruised conker flailing about at the end of a shoelace.
I heard commotion and was confused as to why there’d been crashing sounds when I hadn’t hit the icy water below. But then I realised that whilst I hadn’t, my camera and sunglasses had. Laaaaaame.
I carried on with my descent after a hefty dose of kerfuffling and then had to shimmy my way through the natural tunnels of ice below…
On a massive high, we headed back for the next scary thing on the list – the helicopter ride.
In the movie, Walter has to be piloted by a man who has been drinking ‘boots of beer’ all day…
The smell of gasoline was pretty overpowering as we got in the helicopter. I described it as smelling “of awesome” and that’s basically what it was like. Intoxicating blokeish petrol smells mixed with fear.
You need headphones and microphones to be able to communicate on board as it’s so noisy once the blades get going…
Because of all the different landscapes, lots of films and TV shows have actually been shot in Iceland. Die Another Day, Oblivion, Noah, Game of Thrones, Star Wars Episode VII, A View To A Kill, Lara Croft and Thor were all filmed there. I thought a lot of the landscapes we saw looked just like the scenes in Prometheus, so it all clicked into place when I learned that Prometheus was filmed in Iceland too. Things I’d seen on the big screen and assumed were CGI were proved to be real places which I could actually visit, it was all very surreal.
I asked Olafur if it was important that parts of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were set in Iceland, as opposed to just filmed there and made out to be somewhere else, and he said he thought the film was great for showcasing the beauty of the country, as well as the talent of Icelandic actors.
All that was left before flying home (not by helicopter, just on a boring standard plane) was a trip around the boutiques of Reykjavik. Much more my usual scene.
I fell in love with 66 North on the trip, especially the Mundi collaboaration pieces…
If you’re tempted to visit Iceland then you’ll find TONNES of useful info here. But either way you must see the movie, it’s great….especially for anyone who has ever been frustrated by writing an online dating profile. The Benjamin Button scene is my fave, so look out for it 😉