“Stories that Stuck” is a series of posts devoted to recounting moments from past adventures that have stood the test of time – contrasting with my normal habit of posting about everything I felt/ate/saw/smelled/touched/drank/did almost immediately after each trip. And you can trust my memory is shit-bad, so for these stories to have made it into long-term memory… they should be at least a little bit interesting. But I guess you can be the judge of that.
The first installment of “Stories that Stuck” is titled:
Bad Life Decisions, continued.
Before I begin, I need to get something off my chest…….
………… Justin Bieber may or may not have been more than 80% of reason I went to Iceland. *pause*
Before you chuck your computer/iPad/phone/whatever-you’re-reading-this-on, hear me out. THIS:
THE ICELAND OF THIS VIDEO IS – AS MODERN YOUTH SO ELOQUENTLY PROCLAIM – “LIT AF”. So, really, how could I not?
I am merely a Belieber via cultural osmosis. There are many individuals in my inner circle (okay, really just, like, two, let’s be real I don’t have that many friends) that are self-identified Beliebers and… the many times we’ve hung out I’ve been subjected to the corporal punishment of (1) Watching the most regrettably excellent Bieber documentary “Never Say Never”; (2) Listening to the most regrettably excellent Bieber Christmas album (“Mistletoe” – HAVE A LISTEN).
I know; I hate myself.
That said, the best scene of the “I’ll Show You” MV was when he skateboards down that abandoned plane wreck LIKE A FREAKING B0$$. (@ 2:15)
After I watched that video, there was no question – my unemployed ass was going to assume a full-time position channeling my inner JB.
So that’s what happened. The first morning after I arrived in Iceland from Ireland, I woke up at 4:30AM, checked the weather for the day – which I later learned means nothing because you are guaranteed all four seasons of weather in the span of 10 minutes standing in one spot – and hopped into my rental car…. which, btw, smelled overwhelmingly like vomit the entire time and had a layer of dirt (I hope it was dirt) crusted on the steering wheel when I received it. Fair Car Rental of Keflavik Airport <– you’ve been warned. I then proceeded to drive three ridiculously barren/lonely hours in darkness. It actually reminded me of a drive I did at 4AM in New Zealand a few years back, except for the one smallllll difference – the roads in Iceland were just casually covered in black ice, nbd… Me the entire drive:
Let’s not even talk about the fact that driving directions online to even get to the plane are extremely cryptic and confusing, so I actually wasn’t even guaranteed to find it after driving the 200+ kilometers in pure darkness.
Three hours later whilst looping the unnecessarily giddy LaLa Land soundtrack to quell my fears, I finally turned into a surprisingly large parking lot. At 8AM, there were only 2 other cars in the lot. The sky looked something like this:
BEHOLD. The Icelandic Gods showering me with light and glory.
So I started walking down the 4km trail towards the plane wreck/southern shore of Iceland – huge drone in one hand, cellphone in the other, to what I hoped would be the JB Plane Wreck.
We interrupt our normal broadcast to bring you a little history lesson on the wreckage: On Saturday, Nov 24, 1973 a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing (go figure). Luckily all crew members survived the crash, but the airplane’s fuselage was abandoned. But I guess now its most recent claim to fame is “Justin Bieber playground”……? smh
Okay, back to the story. I was walking on the path that seemingly had no end, winds whipping me in the face, only about 15 minutes into a (projected) 50-minute hike to the plane wreck, and I look up at the sky.
Oh help me Icelandic God – if you are listening, please do not – I REPEAT, DO NOT – let the rain/sleet/snow pour down onto me, my extremely non-waterproof gear, and my very exposed drone.
My plea, uh…… got lost in translation? Rain immediately started pouring down at a torrential rate, at once soaking me, my terrible, non-waterproof snow jacket, and the drone. As illustrated, time and time again, I am not so smart.
I decided at that very moment that really the worst thing that could happen (like, after hypothermia) was that I’d battle my way the full 4 kilometers to the plane wreck only for my drone to short-circuit in the rain and for me to lug a ginormous, useless, larger-than-life BRICK back another 4 kilometers back to the car. So I hunched over the drone like Quasimodo and started RUNNING down the rocky path, a ridiculous sight to behold – a true hot mess dropping my gloves and phone a few times along the way.
About 10 minutes later battling the elements – I KID YOU NOT – in a matter of seconds the skies cleared up into this wondrous early-morning blue, the only clouds visible in the far distance.
So here I was, drenched to the core, freezing my ass off in low-thirties weather and wind, pleading to the Icelandic God why he hath forsaken me.
Yes, guys. The first rule of Iceland: do not try to rationalize weather.
Teeth chattering but still determined to get to that damn plane, I braved on.
30 windy minutes later, I see a little shadow in the distance that was not just black pebbles.
COULD IT BEEEEEE????
…… Nope just another big rock.
OH WUT NO IT’S THE PLANE.
I resume Hot-Mess-Express-Mendi and start bolting towards the plane.
And there it was…… in all its glory. The plane that Justin Bieber – the man himself – skateboarded down, the sunrise in the distance.
It was truly stunning, after everything I had gone through physically and mentally the last few hours. It felt as if a higher being planned for this plane to crash on these very shores, providing for ideal photographic opportunities for decades to come. It was right on the southern shores of Iceland, a beachfront view in the distance with barren black sand and rolling hills surrounding.
At that time, there were just three guys taking photos with the plane. I stood there in awe for 10 minutes, admiring the sight. One of the guys spotted my drone and asked about it. I also asked them about the possibility of climbing on top of the plane which they said, yes, possible, but definitely sketchy… I guess I failed to mention Justin Bieber being my inspiration? Oops. An honest mistake?
So I wait there patiently while they finish up their photo shoot… and the moment they wrap up, I power up my drone, with a silent prayer that it hadn’t short-circuited in the Icelandic-God-summoned-storm.
… OH THANK ICELANDIC-GOD IT WORKS.
I fly it over/around the plane for about 3 minutes when I realize…..wait, I definitely should get ON THE PLANE.
At this point, I am the only person in the entire area surrounding the plane wreck, something I realized doesn’t happen, like, ever. I leave the drone on the ground next to the plane then take the controller and phone with me.
I walk up through the interior of the plane into (what was left of the) cockpit. Trust me when I say that path through the plane is VERY PRECARIOUS – one misstep and SURPRISEEEEEE frayed metal stabbing you through your shin.
Alright. In the cockpit. Now what.
The guys told me to hoist myself through the roof of the cockpit to get onto the top of the plane. What they failed to mention was that (1) It would be way easier if I wasn’t a 5’4″ Asian girl with stubby legs; (2) I have zero muscle to hoist myself up through *anything*, let alone a flimsy metal roof; (3) If I died doing this, no one would know, at least for the next few hours.
The interior of the plane, as you see in the photo above, was also frayed and rusted. Thank God I got my tetanus booster shot a year ago.
I decided: FUCK IT. MENDI, YOU’VE GONE TO ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS. YOU’VE BUNGEE JUMPED TWICE. YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU CAN RISK DEATH ATOP THIS ROTTED, “LIT AF” PLANE.
With that, I mustered enough courage and force to push myself up through the roof of the plane and sat at the corner – feeling the metal compress considerably as I sat. Um so am I gonna be the one who breaks this roof, falling 15 feet and breaking both my legs…?
I sit in that position, afraid to move – but also take the time to admire the view. In the distance I spot the three guys from before. They wave at me, and yell something I couldn’t make out, but they were clearly surprised and excited I had decided to climb up. Yep, me too. Me. Too. What have I done…
I finally decide that however much the metal seems to move and unhinge under me, DIS GIRL WILL NOT BE THE ONE TO BREAK THIS PLANE. So I push myself up and am finally gain my bearing to stand on top of this massive plane.
The below photo shows the cockpit hole I climbed through. My ass rested on the portion closest to the front of the plane, so you can imagine how flimsy that felt under my body weight. 40 years of wear, tear, and rust supporting 26 years of fear, desperation, and plea.
Walking down the body of the plane was no different. Every step resulted in another compression in the metal. And I was quickly reminded: yo, it just rained TORRENTIALLY half an hour ago, aaaand the winds are a-blowin’….. the metal was slick and any slip would result in a 15 foot tumble. Not a soul in sight to save me. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?
….. *shrug* well I’m here now if I die at least it would be…. kinda a cool story? ALRIGHT LET US FLY DA DRONE.
Hahaha, those colorful specks in the distance are the three guys walking away. Other than that, not one person around.
Sounds so cliché but I honestly did feel like I was on top of the world. This plane wreck and the views surrounding were incredible. Like I was the protagonist of a dystopian wasteland. Tris Prior from Divergent, if you will (I was once a total geek for that trilogy…)
After the drone ran out of battery, I lied down along the top of the plane, staring at the sky. Clouds flew by like someone was fast-forwarding through life. But I already knew that, having experienced Icelandic-Mother-Nature’s wrath earlier.
After about 10 minutes, I heard people chatting in the far distance, probably 400 meters away. It’s crazy how far you can hear amidst the silence of nature. I guess all good things must come to an end; I should make room for the next set of travelers.
…..BUT WAIT HOW DAHAIL DO I GET DOWN NOW?
I walked toward the cockpit again and slowly peered down the hole in the roof. Um nope there is no way I’m making it down the way I came up. My heart rate elevates and panic sets in. Holy shit, am I…. stuck?
I look up and down the body of the plane and realize that the cockpit is much higher than the tail of the plane. So I walk to the tail and look down the side. Oh god, the only way down is to jump. It was about a 12 foot jump.
….. well if I die at least people will find me now.
So I did what Tris Prior, a true Divergent, would do: slid as far as I could down the side of the plane and then kicked off as hard as I could, eventually stumbling onto my feet and into a graceful somersault.
(…. dude of course I’m jk about the somersault – I am clumsy af. But knees, ankles, wrists, hips all stayed in tact, though!)
I was alive.
It was such an amazing, triumphant feeling walking the 4 kilometers back to the car. Along the way, I passed by over 45 people, folks eager to see the plane wreck. What they would probably miss in their experience, though, was the solitude and wonder of being there by yourself, no thing and no one around. It was a feeling unlike any other.
This was only Day 1 of Iceland. I had 15 to go – there was so much more to come. I was absolutely elated the moment I reached my car.
……. that is, until I remembered that it still reeked of vomit. fml
But you know what I am proud of myself for, though?
The simple fact that Justin Bieber DID. NOT. ONCE. CROSS MY MIND WHILE I WAS ON THAT PLANE.
(Gotta celebrate the little wins in life.)
NEXT INSTALLMENT OF “STORIES THAT STUCK” COMING SOON!