Day one of our Icelandic adventure began in the capital, Reykjavik.
We had three important jobs to do that day. The first was to find Ruben – the mysterious stranger who we had yet to meet, fly to the other side of the country, and find a shop where we could purchase fuel for our camping stoves, before hitting the trail the next day. All very simple tasks, all made slightly harder by the fact none of us had had enough sleep, the nerves had started to kick in, and we had no choice but to carry around our packs, which we were suddenly realising were super heavy.
The three of us (Cadi, Steph and myself) coming from England, were the first to arrive, and we used the few hours of wait we had to find a charger for the Garmin, have a look around the town, and then (inevitably) source some unnecessarily large portions of food to prepare us for what was to come. The city itself had a Scandinavian feel, only with more of a tourist driven feel. There seemed to be lots to see and do – but weighed down by our packs, we decided to leave any proper sightseeing for after the run.
Just after we had finished a couple of hugely expensive and pretty tasty burgers (or just chips for the vegetarian) we got a text from Ruben to let us know he had arrived. Now all we had to do was go and awkwardly meet him in a city that none of us knew very well and was packed to the brim with tourists. Easy peasy.
Luckily (as anyone who has visited Reykjavik will know), there is one landmark in Iceland which can’t be missed (Hallgrímskirkja), a distinctive Lutheran church which extends 74.5m into the sky on a hill above the city. We told Ruben to meet us there, heaved our rucksacks on and left the comfort of the restaurant.
On the walk up to the church I couldn’t help but worry a little about what we were getting ourselves in for. Ruben had seemed perfectly friendly and (relatively) normal over messenger – but none of us really knew what he’d be like. I wasn’t even entirely sure I would recognise him amongst the hundreds of other tourists. All I had to go off was his Facebook profile picture and we all know how misrepresentative they can be.
What I didn’t really account for was the fact that we, as three ladies with packs almost the size of ourselves, dressed in running kit and looking around like we were lost, were very recognisable. As we neared the top of the street that leads to Hallgrímskyrkja, a smiling face appeared and walked purposefully towards us, complete with his own oversized pack. We looked at each other and grinned, this must be Ruben.
Polite (and by polite I do mean awkward) hellos exchanged, we set off together for the domestic airport. We were still a few hours early, but we had kit to redistribute, plans to discuss, and bonds to build, so we thought it was the sensible thing to do. Despite my complete disinterest in being early for anything.
As it turns out, a few hours in Reykjavik Domestic Airport is not a hugely fun way to spend your time. Luckily, there was a small cafe to keep us fed and watered, but that was very much it. Still, it gave us time to get to know Ruben and to take a quiz about puffins. So all in all, not too disastrous.
On the flight to the East side of the island we were blessed with clear skies, which gave us the chance to check out what sort of terrain we would be covering. From the air, the hills didn’t look so bad, the snow looked plentiful and there seemed to be lots of water. There were also volcanic craters, ice sheets, glaciers and deep gorges, which all appealed to my inner geographer. I kept excitedly pointing out features I recognised from the map and genuinely couldn’t wait to be heading out there soon.
The flight itself took just 50 minutes and it felt like we were only in the aor for a few moments before the seatbelt signs came back on for landing.
On arrival in Egilsstađir, we repacked our things as best we could and headed for the campsite (we planned to get a coach to the start point the next day). We picked up some fuel and some food (and some toothpaste and suncream) from a petrol station, and pitched up in the campsite, ready for go tomorrow.
This was it. We had made it (almost) to the start. Six months of planning had led to this and it was finally happening.
I think we all had butterflies in our tummies as we drifted off that night.