Would somebody please turn out the lights…
After a week of adventures in Europe and a couple of days relaxing on the ferry to Iceland, we finally arrive in the East of the island, get our bikes off the roof rack and ride off into the sunset in search of the mythical Lagarfljot worm. But we can’t find the worm, and worse still, there is no sunset….
Time for bed everyone…
It’s 11pm and we’re all in the tent, lying side by side, wide awake. There’s no kicking, tossing, turning or fighting; that finished an hour ago, but there’s no sleeping either. It’s not the Lagarfljot worm that’s keeping us awake, nor the noise of other campers; it’s desperately quiet here. Surprisingly so in fact. We’d been warned Iceland was ‘full’ in summer, that hotel rooms would be impossible to come by and campsites would be bursting at the seams, but not here in East Iceland. The campsite at Attlavik is almost empty and even the mythical Lagafljot worm seems to have gone on holiday.
But I know we’re all tired; it’s been a long day. We’ve ridden a rolling 35km out of Egilstadir, starting late in the day in cold, wet and misty conditions. I know everyone’s in need of sleep, and it’s way past our usual bedtimes, but it’s just not coming.
It’s more like early evening…
Despite the hour we can hear a few more campers arriving; pitching, cooking, chatting, playing down by the lake – like it’s early evening. It doesn’t matter that the camp rules say no noise after 10pm, that it’s almost midnight, you see it just doesn’t feel late. So why would you behave like it was?
On other tours we’ve been accustomed to the sun marking time. We know when she drops in the sky it’s time to look for a campspot, when the sky turns pink there’s half an hour to pitch, when darkness descends we’re in trouble. But these rules don’t apply here. Not in Iceland. At least not in summer.
Midnight sun and no limits?
Here the midnight sun says there are no limits; you can ride as late as you like. Till three in the morning if your legs will let you. Get up early and ride late. Get up late and ride until early. Start late and stop early. Whatever you want. There are no light limited rules, just subtly shifting hues that suggest the difference between day and night. There’s nothing to tell you when to start or stop but yourself. Which is a little unusual. You see we’re simply not used to sleeping with the lights on.
In some ways it’s liberating. To know we don’t have to worry about getting caught out in the dark, needing lights, pitching in the black and waking up in someone’s front garden. But it is disorienting. And the kids need a lot of convincing that it really is time for bed when it’s still as light as day. It’s a hard thing to explain away and the kids have many questions.
“Why doesn’t the sun go to bed here?”
“What happens to the night?”
“What does the moon do when there is no night?”
I lie amongst the questions, eyes scrunched tightly shut, but have only one question of my own.
“Could somebody please turn off the light?”
This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We spent summer 2012 exploring Iceland and The Faroes, researching what’s on offer for adventure seeking families. We’re grateful to Smyril Line for help with transport, to Berghaus and Thule who helped equip us for the journey. All experiences, views and opinions are however, as ever, our own.
You can see a map of our journey on The Family Adventure Project Punkt! and view some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of what we got up to.