Iceland – Day 4
“Möðrudalsfjallgarðar” – East Iceland
“When hell freezes over the Earth shall be covered in snow.”
The theme of this day is snow, never-ending snow, floating snow, drifting snow, skin biting snow. You see, today we headed into the north of Iceland. As we awoke in the town of Egilsstaðir, light snow had already fallen overnight and dusted the world in white. The forecast showed the snow would be ending by mid-morning.
That was my first mistake, there is no such thing as a long-term forecast in Iceland, and a large arctic storm west of Norway was pushing cold air and moisture towards Iceland. Roads that started snow-dusted soon turned to ice and, as we ventured ever higher into the mountains which divide East and North Iceland, we ran into a continuous series of storms which created white-out conditions.
I should note that our rental vehicle was a 4×4 with studded tires. I wondered, “Why the studs?”, when we picked it up that rainy morning a few days ago. Now I know. There are no salters here and we only saw two snow ploughs on our 170 km drive, despite the horrible conditions.
This was to be our shortest drive on the ring road trek, but ended up taking much longer due to the ‘white knuckle” road conditions.
Despite this, we still had a great time and made many beautiful photos along the way, including Dettifoss and Snelfoss, two massive waterfalls that flow through an enormous fissure running through a wasteland of volcanic rock. That 24 km drive down the Dettifoss road was more of the same: icy roads and constant snow drifts. If roads at home were like this, I would not venture out.
As we neared the end of the day, having survived the roads, thus far, we headed for the Krafla Geothermal Plant, at the base of Krafla, a 818m high volcanic dome, with plans to drive to the viewing area at the top and take in the beautiful emerald-green pool that fills the cone. When we arrived, we found the access road closed, due to poor conditions. We sat in the car till yet another squall passed over and decided to hike the 2.5 km road to the top. Half way there we had reached the lead edge of the peak and were greeted with +100 km/h winds and stinging snow. In the distance, another squall loomed close by. Since there was no shelter at this height, we decided it was safer to head back down, rather than proceed.
I can’t say I have ever experienced nature in such a raw form.
Our final destination for the day was the Grjótagjá Cave, a series of caves containing hot springs, too hot for human use, filling the caves with warm steam. It is also quite amazing to realize the caves were caused by the collapse of the land within the valley, creating visible cracks that define the edge of the volcanic formation below.
I ended my day with a fantastic lamb and mushroom pizza and a lovely Icelandic Porter at a local restaurant. I seem to be ending each day with food?
iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/4167 sec; f/1.8; ISO 20
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I think that you are actually taking your life in your hands travelling around Iceland, but its so wild and beautiful!
I grew up driving Canadian winter roads. I think that helps 🙂 On our whole drive we only came across on person clinging to the edge of the road. They must have been going too fast and hit a snow drift. Inexperienced.
Well, if you grew up in Canada, you must be very familar with these sorts of roads. In the UK we are not and have a collective “meltdown” if we get an inch of snow, because irt so rarely happens.
As your comment to Emma indicated, we’ve had a lot of experience in driving in these kinds of conditions. I certainly don’t like it, but that’s a reality of winter in Canada.
What makes Iceland different though is the distance from one ‘safe haven’ to the next – and as you say – those winds! Stay safe out there in this grand adventure!!
I’m curious about how short the days are right now. What’s your current hours of daylight?
I was surprised. The sun currently rises at around 8:00am and sets around 5:30 pm. But, we are loosing 6 1/2 minutes of sunlight every day!
Wow – the days are still much longer than I would have expected!
I was surprised. Sun rise and sunset are also much more extended than we are used to.
Wow, this sounds amazing!
It certainly was. A 10 day tour of Iceland.