Alden Boon

Haukur Thorsteinsson: Life on the Off Road


6:10am and the lazy sun has yet clambered to its zenith. Haukur “Hawk” Thorsteinsson is already up. He downs the famed Icelandic hotdog — his sustenance that fuels him for a nine-hour day of adventure — and washes it down with a glass of water straight from the tap.

He tends to his tawny, jaw-framing beard. So luscious and conspicuous the beard is that it has been a part of his identity for 20 years. “I’ve been growing it on and off since I was 15 years old, and it was around then I got the nickname ‘Hawk the Beard’. It is very wild, and it takes some time to tame it in the morning. Between that and my handsome mustache… it’s a 10-minute routine.”

Almost a necessity that supplants a scarf in Iceland’s frigid weather, Hawk’s beard recalls the stout Vikings of yore. Icelanders are no stranger to Nordic mythologies, and many grow up hearkening to sagas of valour. “I am especially intrigued by the way Master JRR Tolkien connects the Nordic mythologies with his own stories.” Hawk’s obsession du jour is Grettir the Strong, honoured in legacy as one of the strongest Vikings that ever lived. Such stories the 35-year-old tour guide enthusiastically regales his passengers with.

It is now 7am. Hawk runs a mental checklist: GPS navigation device, ropes and shovels — all checked. He has a long day ahead. A day of traversing glaciers and exploring stratovolcanoes and the like on a modified 4×4 jeep. Getting stuck in knee-deep slush is common and extrication is not a task for mere mortals.  The vagaries of Icelandic weather also mean a snow blizzard could happen anytime. As a safety precaution, Hawk always travels alongside a buddy tour guide, the latter of whom is hosting another group of tourists himself.

From his home to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is an hour’s drive. Between 8:30am and 9am he makes his rounds and picks up passengers from their hotels. “They come from all over the world. What I love most about my job is that every day I get to meet new people. I enjoy making people happy and helping them live their travel dreams. My goal is to have my passengers return from a trip with a smile etched on their faces.”

Unlike the usual tour arrangement where multitudes of tourists are herded like sheep, Hawk’s groups are usually small and imitate. “In my jeep, good vibes abound and people get to talk and share stories freely. I am one of those people who give a lot of myself, and therefore I enjoy it when my passengers reciprocate.” And unlike typical tour arrangements that run like clockwork, Hawk can make special sightseeing requests happen.

“I sometimes go on multi-day tours, and I get to stay in hotels around Iceland.  These are fantastic tours because I get to know the passengers better. But it can get a little difficult because I’m also a huge family man. I try to talk to my wife and three sons on the phone or via the internet.”

Standing in the silence of Icelandic highlands. "When it is very cold and everything is covered in snow, it gets extremely quiet. One has not known real peace until he has stood there and enjoyed it."

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.