June 28

28 June, Iceland – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’

Having been to Iceland once before I was aware what an empty and remote place it is. With a population of only 300,000, most of whom live in the South-Western capital of Reykjavik, once you’re half an hour or so from the airport you really do start to feel like you’re on an alien planet. As you pass through the desolate moss covered lava fields that extend out from the base of imposing craggy volcanoes, any house you pass begs the question “What on earth is someone doing living out here?”

By the time our 3 and a half hour journey to the North-Western town of Holmavik was over it was starting to get late. Not that you’d know it, as this time of year the island experiences 24 hour daylight. After an interestingly eclectic buffet in what appears to be the town’s only restaurant (I won’t be eating raw smoked lamb again any time soon) we headed to our guest house and tried to bed down for the night as light flooded around the edge of the ill fitting blinds in our windows.

None of us had a particularly satisfying night’s sleep, but you couldn’t hold it against Iceland when you looked out of the window in the morning and saw the glorious green hills and crisp sparkling ocean. It was time for Chris Johnson and I to go head to head in the Strangeness Games.

By the time we’d got down the road to the nearby Sheep Museum there was already a smattering of people hanging about who seemed quite excited that the BBC had taken an interest in coming to the edge of the world to witness what the locals get up to here. They pride themselves on not taking life too seriously and staying in touch with their childish side, and just over a decade ago started this competition which includes welly boot throwing, a screaming contest and cone football. Chris and I dealt with the welly boot throwing and screaming fairly well (the Icelanders seemed particularly impressed with my lung capacity as I out-screamed everyone there), but cone football was something else.

It’s a standard game of football, but all the players have a long foam cone attached to their faces. As a result you can only see the ball when it’s in the distance. Once you get up close it’s a case of hacking away and hoping for the best. It must look hilarious, as the crowd couldn’t get enough of us running in the wrong direction or floundering around as the ball lay next to our feet. I’m surprised the ball didn’t end up in the sea, as the pitch was right on the edge of the coast, and as the weather changed and wind and rain rolled in I found myself, as I often do when making ‘All Over The Place’, thinking “This is DEFINITELY the weirdest thing I have ever done in my life.”

We got waved off like old friends as we got in the bus back to Reykjavik – a journey that was a bit stuttering due to the fact that our Icelandic fixer Toto kept being violently sick. We all thought back to the strange seafood soup we’d been given for lunch and crossed our fingers that we weren’t about to enjoy the same experience…

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