Week 2: San Francisco to Jökulsárlón

“Hey, that’s just like in ‘The Terminal’!?” the young lady remarked, noting my creative arrangement of airport chairs into a functional bed. I flashed my best Tom Hanks smile and waved back, but it was half-hearted. The situation seemed much more comical in the movie.

I was reliving this Hollywood scene because the plane coming from Iceland to pick me up was delayed six hours. My night in the air had become a night at the airport. After a two-hour search through all the dusty, unused corners of the terminal, this makeshift bed was the best I could do. Unfortunately, once I discovered that my watch alarm had broken, I had to give up on the idea of sleep altogether. I was certain that I’d miss my 5 a.m. departure if I tried. I eventually made it to Iceland, quite exhausted, and was given a place to stay by a generous Latvian family who explained that their friend at the Keflavík airport had caused the delay by ramming the plane with a luggage conveyor belt. These things happen.

Iceland is a turbulent island. Massive icecaps hide the presence of sleeping volcanoes which come to life periodically, unleashing devastating rivers of lava or creating floods powerful enough to carry icebergs the size of skyscrapers. On the positive side, Icelanders have created one of the world’s most sustainable economies, piping geothermically-heated water into all the houses and using subterranean heat sources to generate cheap electricity. One power plant has created a major tourist attraction by channeling its condensed steam into an artificial pond called the Blue Lagoon. Guests apply white silica mudpacks to their faces and lounge about wearing sunglasses in the milky-blue waters. I joined them for a swim, but with all the black lava, steam swirling everywhere and white faces drifting in and out of view, I felt like I was being stalked by evil clowns in an apocalyptic Mad Max movie.

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