POV

Global Odyssey: Iceland, Toying with the Extreme

Our friend Eric Hill has a mission: “To visit all 194 U.N. recognized countries in world record time and film and document the exciting journey to show that awesome exists in EVERY country, especially with the people.” Eric’s journey will be one of full cultural immersion, while simultaneously raising funds and awareness in partnership with a variety of charity organizations. CBK will be reporting on his progress as he moves along. Check in next time for another tale from a great adventure.

By Eric Hill - http://gowitheric.com

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

As you could imagine, the summer heat of the Sahara Desert in Sudan left me looking forward to cooling off in Iceland, my next stop. After a few short days back in the US visiting some family in Chicago. I had some business to take care of and a BASE jumping parachute to pick up in Utah before I left the country again. Unfortunately, my original flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City got canceled. I made it out to Utah with less than twenty-four hours to repack and get everything done before my flight left for Europe.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

After I finished what I needed to do, I ended up with only half an hour to frantically repack for a two-month leg of the journey. Needless to say, I did a poor job of packing and left a few important items behind. Not the way I wanted to start the next leg, but hey, I was on my way to Iceland! The BASE rig was mainly for a cliff I’d been dreaming of jumping for years in Norway, but since I had it, I figured I might get creative in Iceland with it. I ended up doing a type of jump that had never been done before in Iceland!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I met up with my contact Gísli. The original plan was go paragliding, but we ended up quickly becoming friends when we started talking about the “what ifs” with the BASE rig I had. A simple paragliding trip turned into a plan to do a cut away BASE jump from the paraglider (well, technically a skydive from a paraglider with a BASE rig to be exact). It would work like this: we would start at the top of a mountain, like normal paragliders do, and run down the steep slope to get airborne under the parachute. Except this one would be a tandem wing, big enough to fly with both of us harnessed to it. I would also be wearing my BASE jumping parachute. So when we would get far enough away from the hill and I had at least four hundred feet to the ground, I would jump out of the harness into a free-fall before I’d pull my parachute to safely make it to landing. As we drew up the plans, we were both laughing with excitement. This would be the first ever paraglide cut away in Iceland!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

We set out the next morning with several of his other paragliding friends who came to fly and watch the show. We got to the place, but the conditions weren’t looking good. The wind was nearly nothing and we needed at least ten knots to stay high enough for me to jump out. We climbed the hill and launched anyway. And like we thought, we sunk out of the sky until we landed at the foot of the mountain. Even though it was a beautiful thing just to make a paraglider flight in this incredible green rocky landscape of Iceland, you can imagine there was a little disappointment that we couldn’t make the jump. To add to that the next few days forecast was pretty much guaranteeing there would be no chance to make it until the weather cleared.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I saw this as glass half full since now I could explore the country I came to see. Gísli turned out to be an awesome host and guide on top of becoming a new friend. He and my other friend Bergdísa showed me what Iceland was all about. From the crazy food to the alien landscape my days were packed full of new experiences.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Gísli even introduced me to a traveling circus group called Cirkus Cirkör one of his friends worked with and (dream come true) I got to try out all the circus tricks before a show started one day. I got to try out the aerial silk, climb around the scaffolding to help set up the trapeze and even stand and have knives thrown at me. I figured the guy had done this plenty of times, but I’ll admit I couldn’t wipe a nervous jaw-clenched grin off my face as the sharp blades whizzed passed my head and stuck in the board behind me!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

In between destinations, there was endless, beautifully odd scenery. Though it was pretty amazing seeing a massive waterfall, active geyser, a creepy two kilometer lavatube and some other treasures of the island, the part I liked most was what there was most of: the landscape all around. There seemed to be an infinite blanket of spongy moss making everything in sight an intense green in an other otherwise barren black lava rock island. The moss is so thick and spongy that I could literally bounce on it like a trampoline. Even flopped right on my back and couldn’t feel the jagged lava rocks underneath. I would just sink into the softness, such a cool feeling.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

One night after some exploring the island, Bergdís cooked a delicious salmon and vegetable dinner, but the night after the menu changed dramatically. Gísli suggested I try Iceland’s craziest food before I left. Of course, I agreed. Dried fish dipped in cold butter, cured whale, lumpfish caviar, blood sausage; cod oil and fermented shark were all on the menu. And, surprisingly enough, these are all common enough foods in Iceland that it only takes one stop to get everything on the list!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Everything we tried was an interesting culinary adventure to say the least, but hands down, the craziest thing I have ever eaten ended up being the fermented shark. Hákari, as it is called in Icelandic, was a violent shock to the senses. It had the consistency of overcooked carrots, but imagine that texture interwoven with tough sinew that you can’t bite through. This was my first try so, naturally, I just went for it. It’s meant to be taken in small portions, and I quickly found out why. First of all when I cut open the vacuum-sealed package with the chunk of meat inside, immediately the room began to fill with a sour smell of old meat and a strong ammonia odor. “Eat it quick, so we can get that out of my house!” Gísli said holding his nose and laughing.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I tried taking a whole mouthful in one bite. I was able to bite through the soft-carrot consistency, but the sinews wouldn’t let me pull the bite off the chunk of fermented meat. So the rotten shark was just sitting under my nose. That might not sound like a big deal until you try to understand how overwhelming the taste and smell was and how clearly most of my brain was screaming not to eat it. The smell was the most overpowering. The ammonia smell was no less intense and burning to the nostrils than smelling salts (usually used in first aid situations to wake people up that have fainted). I was definitely awake at that point. And the taste was just like the smell; like drinking concentrated Windex mixed with wasabi and menthol.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I finally had to give up on biting through it. I took the chunk out of my mouth to cut the pre-bitten piece off before chewing it again. The whole time, the mush of potent stink-meat coated my mouth and the fumes burned at my nostrils. Can you believe this is actually food?! I finally got the chunk back in my mouth. Then I chewed and chewed for more than a minute for sure, then finally muscled it down the hatch. Whew! That was intense! I washed it down with some cod oil, just to test how much I could take, then after feeling like I’d moved too far away from classy and into the silly, we cleaned up the mess and called it a night.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I guess the intensity of the shark might have helped prepare me for what was to come the next and final day in Iceland. After failing two more times to get a flight high enough for the paraglide cut away, we decided to give it one last try. As you can imagine, in a project like this I have to always be on the move. Sometimes I have to skip what I want to do most. Still I really hoped to get this jump in. It was hard to remind myself that I had to walk away if it didn’t feel right. This is not the type of thing to try if you’re not sure it will work out.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

After practicing on simulator we set up at Gísli’s house, we felt ready.
Conditions still weren’t promising. Gísli and I reached the top of the mountain pretty worn out, so we took our time setting up the parachute. Then all of the sudden the wind picked up. It was flyable! We immediately changed gears and got everything ready for launch quickly. We latched up the harness and ran down the side of the mountain and… Takeoff! The altimeter kept beeping higher and higher indicating we were finally gaining altitude!

“This is really going to happen!” I yelled back at Gísli. We got to a point where we stopped ascending so it was time to fly away from the mountain and over to the field below. We were crossing our fingers that our decent would be slow enough to be at a jumpable height when we reached the field.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

After a minute, it was clear we had it… barely. We were sitting at about five hundred feet and I promised myself I wouldn’t jump if we were below four hundred feet. So I unstrapped myself, did a quick gear-check, climbed out of my harness and turned facing Gísli who would stay piloting the wing. I was only attached through my grip on the bottom of the lines. My feet dangled as Gísli unlatched my harness to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t hit it when I let go. We fumbled with the harness for a while, but couldn’t get it loose. I was already committed. We were descending quickly; it was now or never. I decided I would go for it. I looked up at him one more time and said, “Here I go! See ya on the ground!” And I released my grip.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

The biggest worry for this jump was that I wouldn’t get my body position right. Since most of you reading this probably aren’t BASE jumpers, just understand that I want to be falling belly down or the risk of things going wrong with the parachute opening go up significantly. Since we couldn’t get my harness out of the way, my face knocked it as I fell sending me backwards. I kicked at the air to turn around and got belly down almost immediately, I was in an extreme head-down position, which is also not ideal. So when the parachute violently opened… WHAP!… the lines which are connected at my shoulders sent my body into a snapping swing motion as if I was going to do a backflip from a handstand that sent my feet almost up into the lines. Man that was rough to throw my chute right then! But it was my only option. I only had four hundred feet to figure it out.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

After the body whip, it was smooth sailing. I had a huge, open, grassy field to land in and still plenty of height to sink in where I wanted. Touchdown. I didn’t even notice we had a crowd of friends watching. They all hooted and hollered and excitedly ran over to me. Meanwhile, Gísli slowly descended with the oversized wing. As soon as he touched down he threw his rig off and we ran towards each other through the grassy meadow like a scene from some cheesy movie of long lost brothers reuniting. We were seriously excited though. Everything worked out! We felt like we were on top of the world. We were full face grinning and laughing as we jumped into a big brotherly embrace. Sheesh that was scary for a couple seconds there! But we did it! The first paraglide cut away in Iceland and my first ever!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

 

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

One Response to “Global Odyssey: Iceland, Toying with the Extreme”

  1. jgirl says:

    These pictures are fabulous, he lived life to the fullest, my what a loss of a fabulous man, RIP Eric, we truly will miss that fabulous smile.