The 'Driving in Iceland with Elfis' video has to be one of the funniest instruction videos I have ever seen in my life. I swear to god there was so many dad jokes and puns in it you just couldn’t take it seriously. I was made watch the video before I was given the keys to the jeep I hired. Anyway, at one point in the video it says that the most dangerous animals in Iceland are the sheep. There are more sheep maulings per year in Iceland than there are people killed by car accidents in India. I won’t lie, I just made that up. Apparently, one of the most common causes of car accidents in Iceland is people swerving to avoid sheep that are on the road.
So, when an oncoming jeep swerved violently into my lane, barely missing me, I presumed it was some city slicker trying to avoid a sheep. Well, the first thing that came to my head was the word 'gobshite', and then came 'it must be a sheep'. After my middle finger had been withdrawn from an upright position and my hand put back on the steering wheel, I noticed it wasn’t a sheep at all, but a swan. I flicked on the winking light and pulled over into the grass verge just down from where the swan was sitting. A German girl in another car pulled in just behind my jeep and got out as well. It was an odd sight and she was as curious as I was as to the situation.
We walked slowly up to the swan. Like most people, I had a healthy wariness of swans. As children, we were always told to never go near a swan. It could break your arm, we were warned. Despite this, I stretched out my right arm and inched towards the swan, trying not to make to sudden of a movement. It didn’t seem to take any notice of us. I looked back to the German girl to see what she thought. She could only contribute a shrug of her shoulders. She was as confused as I was about the situation, it appeared. I decided, feck it and began to gently rub the swans back. There wasn’t a peep out of him. Not even when I rubbed his head. At this point it was pretty clear that he must have been in some sort of accident. With no signs of any external breakages or damage the swan must have sustained internal injuries.
Now we had the predicament of what to do. Neither of us wanted to just leave it there. We were worried it would get hit again, or worse, cause a serious accident like what nearly happened to me just moments before.
I gave the girl a look of ‘well what do you think?’ She gave a returning look of ‘why the hell is he looking at me like that?’ and then asked what I thought we should do. There was only one thing for it really. Pick up the swan and carry him off the road. Not the greatest of ideas at the best of times but I was willing to ignore that due to the swan's poor state. I was just about to suggest playing rock paper scissors for the honours of picking him up when I noticed the girl had already retreated a few steps back. Guess it was me then.
I stood behind the swan. I felt it would be the hardest place for him to peck me if he did decide to turn. Taking a crouched position, I prepared myself. It would be the biggest bird I had ever lifted and I had no idea how heavy it would be. So with one hand under each of its legs, I braced myself. One, two, three…. Hup!
The thing weighed nothing. It was like I was holding up a chicken. I couldn’t believe it. I turned to the German girl to see her standing there laughing. The whole scenario was a bit ridiculous. There I was, standing in the middle of a road in Iceland, with my arms outstretched, holding up a swan in the lashing rain. Not your usual morning to say the least.
I carried the swan to the side of the road and gently placed it down on the grass. Unsure what exactly to do, I tried to make it as comfortable as possible. He began to bow his head. Every now and then he would get a surge of energy and bring it back up, only to bob back down again. It was as if all it's cares had gone now that it was in a safe place. At this point, it seemed only a matter of time until the inevitable happened to the poor fella. So the German girl and myself stood near the swan giving it rubs. Anything we could to comfort it in its final moments.
After about five minutes the poor guy eventually gave up the ghost. We laid him in some high grass, hidden from sight.
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry