Iceland: The Abandoned.


Have any of you seen a film called Bokeh? I know so many of you are into the postapocalyptic genre and this film counts but in a weird way. It’s on UK Netflix and it’s about a couple on holiday in Iceland who wake up one morning to find everyone has vanished.

It’s the most depressing film I’ve ever seen but it fascinated me. The two people behaved in completely different ways; one embraced the freedom of having a whole country to yourself, the other went immediately into practicality mode, trying to find survivors and get supplies while raging at the situation.

While I like to think I’d be as practical as possible, stockpiling things into several houses and preparing for any scenario I could think of, at the same time I’m almost certain I’d embrace having Iceland to myself. I’d be more concerned about surviving the winter and learning life skills for the future- like farming and preserving food- what if the local libraries only stocked books in Icelandic? Luckily for educational purposes, in this particular scenario the internet still worked- just all the people and animals had gone. (I now have a sudden terrifying vision of me chained to the computer watching cat videos and suffering from kitty withdrawal.)

Going out in Reykjavik often felt surreal- it was partly due to the lack of people, but also my body clock telling me it was daytime but in fact it was closer to 11pm. I was, for the most part, wandering around a near-abandoned city yet unlike the famous “deserted London” scenes in 28 Days Later, this felt peaceful, not ominous. I was free to smile like a lunatic, reach out to touch sculptures and buildings, stand and stare.

These are from my first night in the country.
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This ship sculpture reminds me of this knife I’ve wanted for years but can’t get in the UK.
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As we began our trip, circling the one main road around Iceland, we found many things that looked abandoned and yet were open and inviting. Look at this picnic table- it looks as though it belongs. People collect their rubbish here, so after we ate we picked up every dropped bit of cucumber and added to to the ‘car bin’. Here, looking as though humanity has not visited for years is a good thing- it is the goal!
Gondor has no bin. Gondor needs no bin.

Back to Bokeh…
One scene involved one of the places that was on my list but I didn’t get to see; the famous abandoned plane. It’s the wreck of a plane that crashed in the 70s and it’s just sitting there, white/grey and in half, on the black volcanic beach. I’m dying to look around it. One of the characters takes the other to see it, and notes how beautiful it is. The other says numbly, “I don’t think we’re looking at the same thing”.
Photo found on “”

I love being able to find the beauty in the places I visit. People who look at my photos and say nervously “oooh, it looks a bit spooky…” weird me out. I’m lucky enough to travel with teams who understand, but sometimes I forget when I post my pictures online amid a sea of pastel-tinted photos of slim, floppy hat wearing women walking into azure pools. (Or in front of a quirky coffee shop, for something ‘a bit different’…)

Have you ever felt the same? Is there anything you find beautiful, that other people just don’t ‘get’?

This is an abandoned bridge, destroyed by a combination of volcanoes and glaciers, with two huge glaciers behind it! It’s one of the (very) few graffiti-ed spots in the country and I was impressed to see the paintwork confined to the twisted girders and nothing else. On the grey cloudy day we were having, I appreciated the colour!40515541_551814288587594_3168729151892881408_n

As I saw a variety of weather including the grey and cold, I started to wonder; how would somebody actually cope in long stretches of gloom, with only a single companion? Even worse, Iceland only gets four hours of daylight in winter. I know the phrase “shades of grey” has been kind of ruined, but I think they’re beautiful and something many people just don’t seem to ‘get’; the different shades and tints and colours you still see on a gloomy day. The colours are still there- they’re just more subtle.

I guess being trapped is just as frightening and frustrating no matter where you are in the world and whatever the weather is. And speaking of the weather, it began to rain. Still, we’d pulled over by a tiny path leading to the sea and though we sat there for ten minutes waiting, things got no drier. So we got out and braved the rain. As we passed the troll pool I mentioned in my last post, we saw a shape that resembled a giant dorsal fin or, perhaps a broken plane.
Unfortunately for the team, they were trapped….. with me. 😉
“I’ll just be five little minutes, I swear!”
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I don’t know whose house this was or why it was abandoned. It looked very old indeed. And melancholy. Even in the absolutely freezing drizzle, I wanted to stay there for just a bit longer- but I’m glad I was dragged away before things got too dangerous-  by the time I got back to the car, my clothes were already drenched and the adrenaline was wearing off.
Exploring tip: Leave when you’re cold to the skin. If the cold gets in your muscles you’ll be miserable and by the time the cold reaches your bones there’s nothing you can do except eat hot food and sit in a hot bath- otherwise you risk hypothermia. A warm car just isn’t enough once you pass that point.

Over the days, we made our way back to Reykjavik, where the film (and our trip) began. I’m what they call an “extroverted introvert”: I love people and conversations but I get my energy from being alone. After a week of intense travelling, not much sleep and overwhelming adventures, I was looking forward to spending the final night on my own, watching Netflix. I’d been for dinner with the team before we went in our separate directions, and I was on my way back to my hotel (via a cute grey cat that tolerated a few seconds of head rubs) when I saw the famous Reykjavik cathedral which I hadn’t had the chance to see. Luckily my hostel was just over the road. So as the sun went down, I took myself on a quest through the slowly clearing city. It was about 10pm but the sky looked like this.
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I walked slowly and took the time to examine everything that looked interesting, even as exhausted as I was. As the city began to empty I began to feel my energy trickling back. Reykjavik is a very safe place and so I wandered; finding sculptures and watching clouds as I made my way to the cathedral which would mark my “almost home” point.
Another sea-related sculpture from earlier and the concert hall, which lit up in a shimmering display (and was surrounded by rock piles which I think were actually allowed).
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As I carried on, making my way back into the city, I realised that I had somehow overshot the cathedral and had to go back for it! And here it is!
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After standing for a few minutes, tiredness caught up with me but I was unwilling to leave this strange new situation where outside was quieter than inside. Still, I started moving again and discovered a frozen yoghurt bar. I have no willpower in the face of frozen yoghurt bars.
I thought I’d be all cool and choose my toppings without bothering to asking for a translation… which is how I ended up with salted liquorice powder on fresh strawberries (EURGH!) Still, when I got down to the candyfloss flavour and fifty or so cocktail cherries, things were good again. 😉

I got back to my hostel relieved at the chance for sleep but also missing the abandoned city before I had even left it. I wasn’t ready for London’s crowds and night time darkness. When I got home I slept for most of the day, and by the time I woke up I could hear the voices of people passing my boat and the noise of the nearby road. It was 8pm, and the sun was already setting.
I guess I’d do okay in a deserted city for quite some time before true loneliness caught up- as long as that city was cold or temperate! As a not-quite-prepper but definitely an apocalypse-fan, I planned and considered my hypothetical options on the way to the airport. I’d probably have started in the exact same way the couple in Bokeh did; sending out communications while upgrading and stocking up on everything. As for the rest of it- who knows how long I’d take to get lonely? The trip had brought me a good few “sunset moments”- it’s a good bet then, that I’d get to drive this off into the sunset at least once… 😉

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