Fifteen years ago, I spent three months in India. Before I left, my husband gave me two gifts – a really nice pocket knife, and a Petzl headlamp. Both proved invaluable. Although the knife was later stolen, I still have the headlamp, and I still use it. It has accompanied me to multiple continents. I’ve used it on night hikes, to find the bathroom at state campgrounds, and harvesting vegetables from my back yard late in the season. It’s one of the best gifts my husband ever bought me. He ended up buying one for himself, too.
But when we were packing for our recent trip to Eistnaflug, the heavy metal festival in a remote fjord in Eastern Iceland, I pulled both headlamps from the pile on our bed of things to be packed.
“You don’t think we’ll need them?” he asked in the voice of careful doubt men reserve for moments when they suspect a woman has lost her mind.
“We’re not going to need them,” I answered.
When I left the room, he put them back in.
“They don’t take much space,” he said, tucking his headlamp into his backpack as I pulled mine back out and put it in a drawer.
After the festival, we shared a car back to Reykjavik with another backpacker from the Pacific Northwest. He shared my husband’s interest in quality gear. As we broke down our tents after the last night of camping, we compared gear volumes and weights, and strategized for the best way to pack everything for airplane travel. He laughed and held up a Petzl. “Here’s my trusty headlamp that I never used once.”
It’s impossible for anyone who’s never experienced summer in the far north to believe in 24 hour daylight, but constant brightness is only one of the things about Iceland that confound the mind. Travel literature about the country is filled with hyperbole and oxymoron, and the alternative (“You just had to be there”) is equally annoying. But until you’ve left your valuables unlocked at a campground while you spent four days hailing Satan under the midnight sun at a family-friendly heavy metal festival where the only rule is not to be an asshole, the truth defies imagination.
The sun was shining on the sea
Shining with all his might.
He did his very best to make the billows smooth and bright.
And this was odd because it was the middle of the night.