The cold morning woke us up. Caterina retracted her hand inside the sleeve of her jumper and wiped the steamed-up window for a clearer view. The rising sun covered everything around us with a beautiful golden veil: the mountains behind us, the sea before us and the lighthouse on the cliff, closing its working day.
We had been on the island for 20 days and I had spent most of the time with my head elsewhere. The constant feeling of vastness and solitude in this country with its 3.4 inhabitants per square kilometre, attracted me and overwhelmed me at the same time. I suppose I wasn’t really aware of what I was signing up for when I decided to travel to Iceland.
But, despite everything, it was going well. We’d rented a cross-country caravan so that we could cook between volcanoes, swim in the island’s glaciers, sleep in its valleys and use my camera – my other great travel companion – to capture the most beautiful landscapes I’d seen in my life.
We spent hours and hours in silence, watching the wind drawing new and constantly changing tracks over the stony terrain from the shelter of our caravan. After hundreds of kilometres in this old-banger, seeing hardly a soul, my fears were slowly being dispelled and I had entered a state of excitement that came before an immense calm. What had started out as just a holiday had become something else. I felt small, but complete.
That house on wheels had become another travel companion. It was old, one of its indicators didn’t work and the radio-cassette player was broken, but it was full of charm. It had put up with the nuisance of Caterina’s sprained ankle, had sheltered us from the rain and cold of a climate that was as changeable as the landscape, and had protected us when another car drove into us because the driver hadn’t seen us indicating.
The caravan had been a witness to my change and our change. I would like to think that, just like the surface of that small, great island, the wind had shaped mine and Caterina’s perspectives, freeing us from the prejudices we’d had when we arrived.
The photos I took with my camera show Iceland in all its indisputable splendour, but I’m not sure that they really capture its essence. When I think about that trip, it is not these images that come to mind, but rather those of that home on wheels: beautiful, wise and imperfect.