I literally jolted straight upright from the unfamiliar bed, uprooting the tangled quilted covers from around my wildly askew limbs in the process.
‘What kind of hour is this?!’ was my first immediate thought, my mind too sleep-ladened to shift gears out from the grogginess of slumber into alertness. My eardrums hummed, the shrill ring was piercing in the pitch-black darkness. Hmm. My alarm must have gone off for some reason.
The reasoning became clearer as a quick scan of the room revealed the shadowy outline of a small suitcase carefully balanced against the wall near the bedroom doorframe. Of course! I was travelling to Iceland.. in 4 hours.
My next thought was that of self chastisement. In a bout of utter naivety (or stupidity), my friend and I had neglected to chivvy each other to bed in light of our VERY early start, instead intent on working our way through a midnight feast of pizza, comedy movies and hilariously deprecating stories of our shared youth. The room I was sleeping in was unfamiliar because due to the early timing of our departing flight to Iceland, my friend had offered the use of her home as a base to make the early hour commute across London to Gatwick Airport.
If anyone reading is like me though and has a highly detailed morning routine involving a plethora of cleansing, toning and moisturising lotions and potions, then you’ll understand why an unfamiliar uneasiness set in. Had I remembered to pack my PurOrganica retinol serum? My hyaluronic acid moisturising cream and seaweed-infused cleansing facial wash? For the next thirty hurried minutes, my friend and I stumbled past each other bleary-eyed in the hallway, stopping only once or twice to stare at each other and telepathically communicate the foolishness of our late-night antics. Words were definitely beyond us at that time of the morning.
The crunching of the Uber driver’s tyres against the gravel drive were the only audible sounds as we pulled out into the dim country street, reminding us (as if we had forgotten) that we were off to a VERY early start. I must have dozed off on-route because I only remember getting into the Uber and then my friend not-so-gently elbowing me to indicate our imminent arrival at Gatwick North Terminal. We’d made good time in the Uber and with no bags to check-in, we sailed straight past the Easyjet check-in counters offering pitying glances to the queues of disgruntled passengers having to remove item upon item from their luggage to adhere to the budget airlines stringent luggage weight allowance.
The smell of bacon, eggs, hash browns and rich coffee beans had us rushing upstairs to the upper food courts in the North Terminal and after a quick perusal of the dine-in menus, we decided not to risk ordering and waiting for a full English fry-up (however tempting the Garfunkel’s breakfast menu was!) and headed to Pret A Manger for our caffeine fix.
Suitably fed and alert now, I could practically feel the excitement bubbling. Or that might just have been my stomach reacting to the boiling hot coffee I’d gulped down at lightning speed. Either way once the departure gate flashed on the information screen, we practically skipped our way down to the gate and onto the aircraft where we had been allocated seats right at the back, in the last row. We then had the fun challenge of wiggling ourselves and our carry-ons down the narrow Easyjet aisle past scores of passengers … some of who are clearly NOT morning people.
Reaching for the handle of the overhead cabin locker, a flight attendant warned me to be extra careful. Not really understanding why extra precautions were needed to open a locker, I tugged enthusiastically at the locker handle and was met directly in the face with a metal buckle from a fellow passengers coat. Ouch. The sheet volume of oversized outwear crammed into the small cabin lockers left no doubt that like us, our fellow passengers were preparing for conditions akin to the frozen wastelands of Antarctica. I could see the flight attendant smirking in my periphery and was henceforth contrite in our subsequent dealings.
Now, flying on a budget airline is always an experience. I’m roughly 5 feet 7 inches / 174cm tall and by no means can I be called Amazonian but what I lack in height, I make up for in posterior padding that never fails to propel my knees directly into the spine of the poor passenger in front. For the next three and a half hours, I got to know Seat 35B’s vertebrae intimately and my knobbly knee caps probably gave her the loveliest custom in-flight massage she’s ever had.
I love travelling with fellow Christians. My friend and I solemnly bowed our heads in prayer before take-off and I led a prayer against any principalities that may work against the pilot(s) and cabin crew’s abilities to deliver us safely to Iceland. When turbulence (the kind that attempts to squeeze your stomach contents like a child squeezing on a Capri-Sun drink) struck, we prayed again. It was then that I saw a peak of a mountain. We scrambled to push up the window blind fully before the sight escaped us but we needn’t have worried. The mountain range below us reflected sunny glares off of their pristine snowcaps, looming larger and increasingly more prominent as the aircraft made its final descent. My friend and I hugged in sheer glee, excitement and apprehension as wheels touched and glided across the gritted Keflavik airplane runway.
We were in Iceland.
TO BE CONTINUED…