The Iceland Saga: 1

In Iceland on July 6, 2009 at 12:00 am

iceland vista (2)

Within minutes, we have turned off the main highway and started winding along a country road. But the country is like nothing I’ve ever seen: The black earth extends forever, interrupted only by the fringe of sea and a horizon of copper mist. As we curve around, flying smoothly over flawless pavement, a valley spreads itself before us – and from this green-smeared black valley, a cloud gushes from the ground. It looks like the released fumes of a factory, but there is no building beneath the cloud. Curling itself into an ethereal serpent, the cloud is reflected in a glassy body of water below – too large for a pond, too small for a lake. We pull the car over, parking on a dirt access-road. Leaping out, we sink into the soft silt, leaving craters for footprints. The ground is so untouched; not a single candy-wrapper or soda can litters the area. We take pictures of ourselves latched onto cliffs, standing triumphantly over that sprawling valley, the cloud rising in the background, the lake glistening. Jorge walks gingerly over the crags, while I scamper up pillars of compacted rocks. With not a house in sight, the car parked a few hundred feet away, the land is as lifeless and untouched as land can be, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we are discovering this. No-one has ever walked here before. This is the last valley.

We climb back into the car and drive. Jorge is more adventurous by the minute – and when I suggest splitting off the main road, he quickly agrees, gunning right. We bounce along a grittier road, laid with dense gravel, and as we rise again, crawling toward the sea, a smooth grassy hill rises ahead of us. Near the bottom, a tiny white house crouches in the fields. Around the house, a wooden fence encloses some land, where black ponies are grazing on brown grass.

Higher up, a whitewashed brick lighthouse rises from the hill; the lighthouse is punctuated by a conical red roof. We stop long enough to take a picture. The morning sun is blinding, and I can’t see my photo in the little digital screen. But it will become my favorite photograph – a cottage, a hill, a lighthouse; both lonely and comforting, layered with subtle hues, like a watercolor landscape, wisped with clouds.

“This is what I love,” Jorge says. “Just exploring.”


Excerpt from The Legend of Pangkor, ©2008 by Robert Isenberg


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