Braided streams of silt weave against scorched and blackened rock, 1,000 feet below. The cessna’s propeller hums in a tight, responsive buzz as it pulls us steadily across the rugged Icelandic Highlands.
"Michael," Our Pilot glances my direction, "You got an Astronaut Scholarship, yeah? But have you done this?" Suddenly the plane’s nose drops toward the river valley below. My stomach does a backflip and I barely have time to register what's happening. The compass I wear around my neck is now floating at eye level.
We level out immediately.
My compass, notepad, and everything not tied down clatter back to an approximation of their original position. Haraldur "Volcano Pilot" Diego lets out a great barking laugh, as if his stunt was the greatest prank under the sun. Without thinking, I laugh as well. I look over to Zach, OROS' steadfast photographer and friend.He's grinning ear to ear. The moment sets, crystallized in my mind, I won't soon forget it.
Haraldur is one hell of a pilot.
Zach brings the camera back to his eye, the shutter clicking in rapid succession. Immediately I remember what we're doing here and the beauty of this incredible landscape hits me full force.
In the brief moment of my distraction, Iceland saw fit to change completely.
The twisting, sediment streams have transformed into solitary, impossibly green mountains; rising up out of jet black earth. Haraldur scans the horizon, impassive behind his dark glasses, calling out notable formations of stone and earth. The “Volcano Pilot” has been flying over Iceland for 27 years.
He loves this land.
He loves to fly.
Perhaps above all, he love to share his passions with other like minded wanderers.
We begin a meandering, ponderous circle around a particularly dramatic emerald coned mountain, giving Zach an opportunity to capture some incredible images.
"It won't do it justice," I think, "It can't."
I have been fortunate. Creating and testing OROS gear has landed me in many remote and rugged locations, but I have seen nothing like this before. Even in Iceland. It is clear when working with Haraldur that he gets tremendous satisfaction from his work.
"After having flown with so many immensely talented photographers," Haraldur says, "I've come to appreciate my country in a different way. Not many places on earth are as blessed with unique scenery as Iceland is.
We bank around the mountain for the last time, leaving its orbit for a stark sheet of pale blue and white. What I at first mistook for surf is revealed to be a massive shelf of cracked and foreboding glacial ice. We are immediately flung out from our primordial world of black and green and in to a land of ice and snow.
The Volcano Pilot never flies alone these days, he says it's "selfish." Sharing the adventure is what is most important.The smiles and awestruck faces of his passengers is its own kind of reward.
In this modern age where "adventure" is rarely more than a hashtag and an image on a screen, I am taken aback with appreciation for Haraldur "Volcano Pilot" Diego.
So much of what we do is curated.
Our music, our media, our possessions; they all seem to need to speak for us. We travel across the globe to take pictures (of ourselves, no less), in the exact same spot that 1,000s of others have done. At what point do we question what "adventure" means? That is what makes Diego, and his trips so special.
There is a wildness to it all.
He offers the unknown, the unexpected, and the unfathomable. Moreover, he is an example of the adventurer's spirit, and proof that is alive and well.
Find Your Beyond