Working with Polaris Off Road Vehicles, ‘adventure’ is a familiar term – it’s what the products have been built for – so when the opportunity arose for an all-women expedition across Iceland as part of an initiative to showcase this, it’s safe to say that it caused a big buzz amongst the women riders selected for the challenge.
Now, I’m certainly not a seasoned explorer. In fact, I think the last time I stepped foot in a tent was 19 years ago, but something about the promise of a back-to-basics, self-sufficient experience across the beautiful landscape of Iceland with nothing but our Polaris vehicles and camping equipment to keep us going, had us all excited.
The flight to Reykavik from London Heathrow was busier than expected, full in fact, with people dressed in technical layers and carrying duffle bags; North Face, Columbia and Patagonia in every direction. It seemed all the people boarding this flight were all keen to explore Iceland too, and I couldn’t help but think I was a little underprepared without even a waterproof cover for my backpack, or a coat in my hand luggage for when I stepped off the plane on the other side. Turns out, it was cold and I was unquestionably underprepared.
Luckily for me, we were welcomed with an abundance of Polaris kit on arrival; essential riding kit like helmets, rain suits, winter gloves and base layers, plus items from the lifestyle range including puffer jackets, gilets and t-shirts; all of which I wore every day, all together: I might have felt like the Michelin Man, but at least I was warm and ready to ride.
As it turns out, travelling across Iceland is no mean feat. Whilst the more famous ring road is mostly tarmac, the route we took was almost entirely unpaved, weaving between two glaciers to reach the mountain passes in the north. In adverse weather conditions and during the winter, these routes are completely impassable and therefore closed, and when they’re open, only experienced and skilled drivers should take on these routes. This uncertainty is precisely what gave this expedition across Iceland an air of mystery; it is ideal for those with an adventurous spirit who want to see Iceland in all its natural, untamed splendour.
We were lucky that we could experience this in our off-road vehicles – the Ranger 1000 Nordic Pro, the General 1000 Deluxe ABS and the RZR XP 1000 – all of which excel in different areas, and all of which overcame this terrain with ease. The team collectively have been working with Polaris for many years, so we knew what these machines could do before we embarked on this trip, but the route showed us first-hand what Polaris really means when it advertises these vehicles as ‘capable’. To think that these are all legal routes in Iceland is as surprising as it is inspiring. Definitely not for the faint-hearted but these vehicles are built for durability with high ground clearance and huge suspension travel – you can’t help but gain confidence every time it crawled over a boulder without hesitation.
It’s not like our route was impassable by any other vehicle other than a Polaris side-by-side; yes, we could have completed it in a Jeep or other off-road orientated SUV, but I feel like, at the end of it all, we wouldn’t have had that same feeling of accomplishment. It’s a totally different and unique experience – imagine having the freedom and heightened senses from being totally exposed to nature that you’d get on a motorcycle, mixed with the comforts that a car offers, like plush seats, enclosed cab and even a heater in the Ranger Nordic Pro!
One thing that stands out about Iceland: It is a sea of rocks in every direction. Out there in the volcanic plateau, it would seem almost endless if it weren’t for the ring of ominous mountains in the distance. It’s like there has been a sepia filter applied to the landscape – everything a mix of grey, brown and black. It’s easy to wonder if this part of the world is even alive, almost like we’re the only people to ever have ventured here. In fact, you could easily mistake it for an exploration of Mars if you’ve seen enough space-related movies – and for that, it is magnificent.
According to Icelandic folklore, trolls live high up in the mountains and will venture out at night, but if they’re caught in the sunlight, they immediately turn to stone. Whilst driving around the country, we certainly saw a number of unique stone formations along the way that make this a very comprehendible concept – especially when we were up in the mountain passes with the fog creeping between the rocks; your mind can easily be lead to thinking they are shifting around in your peripheral vision. I must admit, it’s something that I got a little obsessed with; everywhere we went I was searching for the faces in the rocks, and I even witnessed a stone-turned troll-crocodile, which I believe to be very rare.
Although September technically falls within summer, there were little signs of summer on our week-long journey. There’s a saying in Iceland that is, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”, which proved to be very accurate in the ever-changing autumnal weather we experienced. Even on the brightest of mornings, low clouds would begin to encroach over the mountain and within minutes, it was as if all of the world’s colour had been blown away and we were back to the sepia-toned scenery that we’d become accustomed to, but expectations and enthusiasm remained high as each day brought new riding challenges, exciting new natural wonders to explore, and even more trolls to discover.
To think this all started with a view to showcase these vehicles in the dramatic landscape of Iceland, but it turned out to be so much more than we could have imagined – it tested our willpower and strengthened our bond as a team. We rode harder and endured longer than we ever have before, and that will be something we will all remember like a badge of honour in our memory book. Without a single breakdown or incredibly, not even one flat tyre, it was easy to forget that this expedition was a test of the vehicles’ strength, but rather our own.
What we didn’t account for is the strong feeling of wanderlust after we returned. It’s hard not to daydream about where we could go next when we look back on the pictures from Iceland – they’re not just another photograph from a postcard or a set-up photoshoot for a travel influencers’ feed, we were actually sat inside those vehicles, darting around to avoid the big rocks, laughing into our Cardo comms units, following those yellow waypoints with every fibre of our being so we didn’t get lost, all while lovingly gazing at the beautiful view each and every mile.
This is truly what Polaris means by its tagline ‘Think Outside’.
(Words: Lauren – Motocom)
Why not try this adventure for yourself? Check out Buggy Iceland for off-road tours in a Polaris RZR.