Across the Interior.
Those who have been following our route on the map will have noticed that so far we have been confined to the edges of Iceland. This is because that is where the roads are. However there is not much point in bringing a 4x4 campervan to Iceland without making some forays into the interior. The route we chose was the diagonal crossing from the north east to the south west via the F88, F902, F910 and F26 (red on the map). The central part of this route (the F910) is a "Special 4x4 only" road and was officially closed until this week.
Because the fuel station at Grímstunga is no longer working we had to return to Reykjahlíð to fill up with diesel before starting our trip to the interior. (160 liters in the tank and 80 liters in Jerry cans giving a range of 1200km on tarmac and about 500km on soft sand.)
The first 60km of the F88 to Herðubreiðarlindir is a good "4x4 only" road, a few rocks and a bit of black sand, but only one river crossing. Our first night was spent at the foot of Mt. Herðubreið (1682m) - the "Queen of Icelandic Mountains", in the official camp site. Although there are thousands of wild camp sites along this route, the National Park rules require you to camp only in the official sites. Unfortunately the top of Mt. Herðubreið was obscured in clouds/fog.
Our second day's drive was a 90km side trip via the F902 to the ice cave at Kverkfjöll. This cave (reputedly 1.5km long) is formed under the edge of the Dyngjujökull glacier by thermal activity melting the ice to produce Iceland's greatest river the Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Because large chunks of ice frequently fall from the roof of the cave you are not encouraged to explore it! Once again we camped in the official camp site a few kilometers from the ice cave at Sigurðarkáli.
On day three we re-traced our route to the F88 and then continued south west to Drekagil and the "dragon ravine".
This should have been the point to visit the nearby Askja caldera, created in 1875 when two cubic kilometres of tephra were ejected from the volcano, but weather conditions (rain and mist) made the climb very uninviting.
Drekagil is the start of the F910 (a special 4x4 only) road to Nýidalur. This road was easily the most challenging we had encountered in Iceland. The first third crossed large areas of fine black volcanic sand. When the sand is hard you can drive at 60kph, when it is soft you grind slowly down thru the gears till you are plowing along in 5th at 15kph, and hoping it does not get any softer. The track is marked by posts every 100m, when an occasional post is missing doubts begin to creep in...
Steam was rising from the black sand when the sun came out, and was wafting across the scalloped surface like a genie escaped from his bottle. We have miles of flat black sand, with blue glacier-topped mountains in the distance - it's beautiful and hypnotising. There is sun on the glaciers, but rain over us, for most of the afternoon and evening. The afternoon is spent driving very slowly, no road, just a track across the sand and sharp rocks marked by poles which are sometimes difficult to see for a few moments. We had a road made of the tops of big lava tubes for a while! Sometimes there were broken ones.. Their surfaces were crowded with curls and waves of lava, folded and roped. Now we're in a grey monotone lunar landscape, restful to the eye, and it would be very peaceful to the soul if it weren't for the small worry about getting through intact. But it is a strong, elegant, powerful place and I can see why people get hooked on coming to the interior of Iceland. And still, there are clumps of tiny pink flowers here and there. Heavy grey clouds are lowering over us, settling in for a night of rain.
The second third of the F910 is very slow going (between 10 and 15 kph) over convoluted lava rock and volcanic ash.
Here (N65° 0.779 W17° 7.699) we find an ordinary two wheel drive car abandoned amongst the rocks, I suspect it will not be going any further, but to have got here from either direction is impressive.
Our third night is spent wild camped by the F910. In total we have seen six vehicles coming the other way, none going our way.
The final part of the F910 slowly changes from near sterile lava to sparse vegetation, the road improves and we encounter our first significant river crossing of the trip. Although not over the top of Mog's wheels the water level would certainly have been above the door sills of some of the smaller 4x4s we have seen coming the other way.
Lots of visual impressions today - rushing streams lined with lime green thick squishy waterlogged moss, ropes of twisted and gnarled lava, some lined up in nice even lines, some looking like folds of thick fabric, broken lava tubes, giving us an enticing glimpse inside of them, and an idea of what we are always driving over! Crinkly handfuls of white lichen tossed on the rocks. Small lakes with broad beaches of green. Big rocks shattered into dagger-like slivers and shards, or sometimes perfect layers. What force has done this? This lunar floor is sometimes a perfect mosaic, a terrazzo floor, soft under foot. Scarified rocks of cliff faces, looking like elephant hide. A massive rock - several tons - tidily split into sections which are a perfect work of modern art.
Near Nýidalur the F910 joins the F26 and soon civilization returns in the form of a fuel station, GSM phone signal and eventually tarmac.
|Stephen Stewart and Patricia Warburton.|
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