ESSAY Susan Richardson

NWR Issue 97

And the Talk Slid North....

I crouch to re-tie my bootlace, taking care not to bash my knee against a jag of lava, then re-shoulder my rucksack and plod on into the wind. I’m in Iceland, at the start of a three-month journey in the footsteps of an eleventh-century Norsewoman called Gudrid, versions of whose adventurous life feature in two Icelandic Sagas and whom I like to think of as one of the most intrepid women in history. My journey will take me from Iceland to Greenland to the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, and thrilled though I now am at having reached the area – the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a gnarled, arthritic finger of land probing the North Atlantic – that shaped Gudrid’s early years, I’m also feeling a tad tired after the past few days of travelling.

The combination of a plane, a bus, two smaller bus-vans and now this trek through a lava field has brought me as far as the coastal settlement of Hellnar. I’ve hiked past a series of eccentric cliff formations – a blowhole, with sea surging in the bottom and the stench of great black-backed gull guano rising from the top, and horizontal stacks of basalt that look a bit like the tubular chocolate-lined wafers that are sometimes served with cappuccinos.

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previous essay: Islands on the Edge: Orkney
next essay: In Cartagena


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