Sometimes life just doesn't work out the way you want it to
The view from the breakdown.
It's around 3pm on a Saturday afternoon in June. I'm hunkered down in a large ice trench while 30mph winds batter across my head.
Behind me, a broken-down soviet missile carrier, belches thick smoke across the sea of white which makes up the second largest glacier in the world.
Dressed entirely inappropriately for the weather, I'm clutching the sleeves of my jacket over my numbing hands, whilst a large hole in my left trainer gradually fills with icy sludge.
To put it lightly, I'm fucked.
Rewind to a few hours earlier and I'm climbing aboard a coach at Reykjavik's KR-völlur football stadium. My fellow passengers are almost exclusively middle aged Americans dressed in a mix of arctic jackets and rave accessories. A girl in a unicorn onesie is sharing a can of lager with a man in a Regatta parka. We're all on our way to Langjökull, Iceland's largest glacier, where we'll be partying 25 meters underground, as part of Secret Solstice's satellite event, Into The Glacier.
Myself and our cameraman, Ricky, are here to make a video about the event, which will be DJed by the most recognisable voice in UK dance music; the celebrity pizza-deliverer extraordinaire and, actually amazing DJ, Artwork.
Now given that I live in London and Artwork is a particularly prolific DJ, I can probably catch him live on most weeks and I can tune into his Rinse show every Friday, but since we were in Iceland and he was throwing a party inside a real life, fuck off glacier, we thought 'yeah, lets definitely go film that'.
Unfortunately for us it was a little bit more of an ordeal that we expected.
After two hours on the coach, travelling ever deeper into the beautifully desolate Icelandic wilderness, disaster struck. The bus lurched to a halt, everyone flew forward and the overhead compartments rained bags and coats.
What we at first assumed was an engine problem turned out to be a little more serious. The road had collapsed underneath the weight of the coach and now three of our four wheels on the righthand side were buried in rock.
After a few minutes of tentative 'what the fuck do we do now' chatter, the driver decided we should probably get off the coach - very slowly - from the back.
"Not again Eric, you bloody madman"
Fortunately the bus ahead of us saw our plight and pulled over to offer some assistance. Here you can see both bus drivers having a good old giggle about it.
Slowly we got everyone and everything - including the many cases of Viking larger needed for the party - off the bus.
We stood around waiting for a replacement coach, joking and taking photos. Zero fucks were given. After the second coach arrived we completed our trip to basecamp, where we would board our snow mobiles.
The Snow Mobile.
That thing above is an ex-soviet missile carrier and would serve as our snow mobile / deathtrap for the day. As we drove off road onto the gentle incline of the glacier, my fellow travellers began taking hats, gloves and winter coats out of their bags. The temperature began to noticeably drop. This is when two quite bad things happened to me all at once. 1) A particularly savage hangover from the night before began to take hold, and 2) I realised that I was travelling into a glacier with nothing but a light jacket and hat.
Those fears were to prove minuscule compared to what came next. Just as the last visages of civilisation disappeared in the white haze, a strange smell began to fill the vehicle. The smell was soon followed by a faint vapour, which very quickly coalesced into a think, noxious smoke. As our guide began to reassure us that nothing was the matter, the smoke started stinging the throats and eyes of everyone on board and a very real panic descended. The vehicle stopped as more and more smoke flooded in and everyone rushed for the single door.
Ricky enjoying the desolation.
Any relief I felt to get out of the smoke immediately evaporated when I was greeted with the icy winds and endless white of Langjökull. A quick chat with the guide did nothing to ease my fears as he calmly confirmed that we had no radio and that if we tried to walk anywhere we would "definitely die". The only thing for it was to wait, so we waited, huddling together on the ice until the vehicle finally stopped smoking, when we retreated back inside.
The Rescue Snow Van
About an hour later, rescue appeared on the horizon in the form of a pretty snazzy snow-van. We climb on and floor it off over the glacier. As we're speeding over the ice, everyone begins to relax. Talk turns to the party. The performer in the Glacier has been kept a secret from the public and my fellow travellers start to discuss who the DJ might be. "Oh my God, I hope it's Aoki" says one of the Americans.
I was mentally debating whether to tell them it would be Artwork providing the sounds, when we hit a particularly deep trench and the van came within a breath of flipping. My heart still in my throat I concentrated on looking out the window, and suddenly there it was - a large cylinder of corrugated iron, sticking out of the ground like a giant discarded beans tin.
When I get off the van I find my smiling and ever-calm guide waiting for me at the entrance. He points me into the large winding tunnel that will take us into the heart of the glacier. Water drips off the roof and walls, as the faint thud, thud of dance music drifts up from below.
As I emerge from the tunnel I'm greeted with one of the most magical sights I've ever seen. A small cavern, glowing blue from the edges, a steady stream of indoor rain pouring on the dancers below. The sounds of disco-tinged house reverberating around the space.
I make my way to the front and see a man in a unicorn mask at the decks. At the end of the journey Artwork has taken on the literal form of a unicorn, it's a bizarrely satisfying end. He removes the mask and speaks into the microphone: "ladies and gentlemen, I've just been informed that there's a storm on it's way and if we don't get off the glacier we're all going to die, this next one is my last song."
Two vehicles destroyed, a close shave on a glacier and a strong possibility of frostbite. For one song.
Was it worth it?
Well that last song was Prince - "Do I Believe In God", pretty much the best song ever, so of course it fucking was.
See you next year!
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05 Aug 2016