Vatnsnes

We decide to go looking for the troll while fuelling ourselves with petrol-station hotdogs and strong kaffi and, in our excitement, forget to fill the car.

We’re returning from Reykjavik to our northern fishing village. Markus, my Viking best friend, suggests the detour across the Vatnsnes peninsula to where the fifteen-metre monolith – a mythical troll turned to stone by the rising sun – crouches in a briny fjord.

The needle on the fuel gauge creeps lower. We pass snow-whitened farmland and plump horses grazing on pale gold grass. We see no one. We are far from the gas stations of the main ring road now and the troll is further away than we thought. Markus has to work tonight and we’re starting to get nervous. Bad weather a few days earlier closed roads across Iceland; our trip down to Reykjavik featured black ice and white-knuckle driving. If we encounter a road closure out here we may have to turn back, rather than re-joining the ring road further north.

We cross a river thick with cracked ice slabs and watch the fuel-gauge needle judder to the red line. We figure we’re thirty kilometres from the ring road and another thirty to the next gas station, but much further if we have to double back.

‘Is there a warning light?’ I ask.

‘I don’t know. Man, I don’t want to turn back. We must be close.’

We are. We see the turnoff.

And the yellow and red traffic blocks: lokað – closed.

I wonder if we could walk to the troll. Then Markus points ahead.

‘Are those car tracks?’

I look again. The traffic barriers have been moved aside and the lokað sign is merely propped against one, instead of being strung across the road on a chain. Whether it’s by human intervention or the weather, we take it as a sign we’re allowed through.