THE Langjökull glacier looks like a giant sea of milk. Visibility, it’s fair to say, is pretty bad. But the colossal beast of a truck ploughs on regardless.
The former Nato mobile rocket launcher has eight vast tyres the driver can inflate and deflate on the move, depending on conditions.
The get-up needs to be pretty special, as the second-largest glacier in Iceland — and, for that matter, Europe — is fiendish to drive on.
It has to be treated as though it’s alive, constantly moving and cracking.
Repurposed rocket launchers aren’t the usual vehicle of choice in Iceland.
Most of this extraordinary, sparsely populated country can be covered in a normal car.
The Langjökull glacier is an extraordinarily beautiful adventure destination that is hard to top[/caption]
As a self-drive adventure destination, it is hard to top.
Head along the south coast and you get giant looming cliffs, with waterfalls and strange-looking, near-luminous lakes.
Go north, and the main road runs close to fjords. Head inland, towards the giant glaciers, and it’s an astonishing volcanic landscape.
Massive lava fields of black rock and hardy, tufty moss stretch across the horizon.
Forget about traffic lights and multi-lane junctions. The minute you are out of Reykjavik, Iceland is a road trip through wild, eye-popping weirdness.
There are more people in Bristol than in Iceland and the vast majority of a country 20 per cent bigger than Scotland is more or less empty.
Once you reach Langjökull, something special is needed — hence the dolled-up military equipment.
Power-driving across the glacier, however, is only the first part of the adventure. Next, we go inside . . .
Into The Glacier isn’t a particularly inventive company name, but digging into a glacier then building a network of tunnels through it is pretty imaginative.
The tunnels have LEDs behind them, so the ice walls light up, looking startlingly otherworldly.
At 550m long, this is apparently the longest man-made ice cave in the world, and it took teams of up to eight people 14 months to dig it out with a diamond-tipped drilling machine.
But it requires regular maintenance, as can be deduced from the water dripping down from the cave roof.
The age of the ice in the walls is often given away by the black lines running through them. These are layers of sediment thrown up by volcanic eruptions.
About halfway down, there’s a particularly prominent stripe, courtesy of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption that caused havoc with transatlantic flights in 2010.
Heading deeper inside, the sounds become even more remarkable than the sights. Higher up, it is like a dripping tap.
But with 40 metres of ice overhead, it sounds like a plumbing system going at full chunter. Remarkably, that’s effectively what it is.
Warm back up after your chilly adventure while you marvel at true Icelandic architecture complete with logs and an open fire[/caption]
We stop at what is apparently one of the most dangerous things you can encounter while walking on a glacier — a moulin.
It’s a pipe-like channel that the rainwater and ice melt has cut.
It goes disturbingly deep and carries water to the bottom of the glacier, where it acts as the lubricant that the ice shifts around on.
The final surprise is a little chapel carved from the ice, with a few wooden benches laid out.
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Weddings are held here — which have proved tricky when the bride has opted for high heels rather than crampons.
But the acoustics are astonishing. When the guide launches into an Icelandic lullaby, we are transfixed.
It looks like some sort of magical elf palace . . . and now it sounds like one too.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Discover The World’s four-night Northern Lights, Glaciers & Waterfalls trip is from £483pp.
Includes three nights at the Hotel Husafell and one night at Hotel Frost & Fire.
Return flights from £70pp, see icelandair.co.uk.
See discover-the-world.com or call 01737 214 291.
OUT & ABOUT: The Into The Glacier tour costs from £150 per adult. See intotheglacier.is.