A Photographic tour of Iceland.
April 2014. Part II - The North.
Monday 7th April.
Hvķtserkur turned out to be a disappointing location for us. Access at sea level is not easy, involving a scramble down a loose cliff to a black beach below. The light was still flat and not at all favourable on that evening.
I took a few shots and hoped for better in the morning. At least we did get some up disturbed sleep that night but the morning was not much improvement.
Don't get me wrong, this is a location with some potential it just wasn't right when we were there.
Moving along As the light improved I decided to get a shot of some of the horses that are found all over this land. They may look small but I'm told that the Icelanders get annoyed if you call them ponies. These are horses, and hardy ones at that. The Icelandic climate is a tough one at times but these horses are one of the few domestic animals able to withstand the harsh winter weather.
I had stumbled across some pictures of a place called Kįlfshamarvķk online and it looked intriguing. Twisted basalt columns surmounted by an interesting lighthouse, what's not to like.
It was a bit off the beaten track but that was even better because it hadn't been photographed as much as some of the other hot spots.
We set. Off down a clear gravel track only to be confronted with a snow drift. It wasn't a big drift and it had tyre tracks running through it already. I decided to try it slowly and carefully. Mistake. The sump lodged itself firmly on the bank of snow in the middle of the road lifting the wheels and stopping the vehicle in it's tracks. It wasn't much, if I had hit it faster our momentum would have carried us through.
So we had to dig ourselves out. We had a small dust pan, a few rocks lying about but nothing long enough to reach the sump area that was actually caught except for my tripod.
Now I've always held that a flimsy tripod is a waste of space. I'll add to that now. A tripod that is not strong enough to dig you out of a snow drift is no use to man or beast.
A short while later we were on our way again.
Kįlfshamarvķk was well worth the effort but unfortunately, due to the time we lost and the fact that we had booked a cabin for that night, we had far too little time here.
Without that booking to consider we would have stayed the night for certain.
We have barely scratched the surface of this very interesting location.
We met the same drift on the way back and hit it at a reasonable speed this time. Sure enough, no problem.
We passed through Siglufjöršur on the way to Ólafsfjöršur where the cabin was.
The cabin was far bigger than we needed but I booked it for two reasons.
The fact that it had a geothermal hot tub right on the veranda.
And the view from that hot tub.
A plan with almost no drawbacks.
Unfortunately, it was on the edge of a small community, so when the Northern Lights made an appearance while we were enjoying a good duty free wine in the tub, it was slightly degraded by light pollution from the street lighting behind us.
You can't have everything can you?
Tuesday 8th April.
Next day we visited Akureyri. mainly for supplies but also to visit a mobile phone outlet. I had bought a SIM card on the plane for my mobile WiFi but they sold me an ordinary phone and data SIM instead of the Data SIM I needed.
It seemed convenient at the time but I shouldn't have assumed that the trolley dollies knew anything about SIM cards. My mistake. This meant that we had been at the mercy of the weather and the brief reports we could get at garages. With internet access things were at least, a little more predictable.
So far, the snow had only interrupted our plans on the way to Kįlfshamarvik, at Gošafoss there are normally two sides that the falls can be approached from but it was clear on this day that the side I wanted to be on would be not be safe on this occasion. That left me with the light, which was quite strong, coming from the wrong side as well. Not ideal.
We took a few pictures and advanced our plans by heading Eastwards earlier than intended.
The road to Dettifoss was still showing as impassible on the road authority website so we desired to take a look at the Myvatn area which we had meant to bypass.
Myvatn is a popular spot in the Summer by all accounts but didn't seem to offer much out of season it appeared.
The area around Krafla seemed much more interesting.
Wednesday 9th April.
We stopped not far from another geothermal area I was keen to see, Hveraröndor Hverir.
This was our coldest night. At dawn the temperatures were -5°c on an open plain with no shelter but the van itself.
Not uncomfortable but a little cool.
Hveraröndor Hverir turned out to be one of our highlights.
Powerful fumaroles and smelly steaming mud holes.
Everything a good geothermal area should be and no more than a few essential fences to get in the way.
I must say that the Icelandic approach to health and safety is refreshing.
There were a few signs to say “This is dangerous.” but by and large the attitude seemed to be “We have warned you, so if you are stupid enough to put your hand into a superheated fumarole or a pool of boiling water, then that is your own problem.”
I can live with that, it seems perfectly in keeping with Darwinian theory as well but I suspect such an attitude would soon attract a festering swarm of ambulance chasers in the UK.
By this time the status of the road to Dettifoss had been upgraded to "difficult" and with the warming conditions we decided to give it a try.
There were a few small drifts but they were fresh, thawing and already rutted by heavier vehicles. No problem with careful driving.
Dettifoss itself was not safe to approach. Deep sloping ice covered snow, with uncertain cornices overhanging a precipitous drop into churning water. Again, no signs or fences, but the Darwin Awards awaited anyone foolhardy enough to push their luck.
Selfoss was another matter. Although caution was still required, it was at least possible here to see what sort of ground the snow was lying on. There were also some interesting shots to be had in the canyon between the two falls. After this we were ready to move East about a day earlier than we had planned.