Monday, May 4, 2015

Iceland: Highlands Crossing

After completing our stint on Vestmannaeyjar, Murphy and I cruise off the ferry and back on to the mainland. Before we've covered too much more ground, we have left the coast and started across the highlands.

Rad way to see the country; good job guys!

Could explore for weeks

We've barely covered any ground before the paved road gets narrower, then turns to dirt, then becomes a poor dirt road. Not to despair; it's still a state highway! In reality, it's one of the better roads across the highlands; many of the others require armageddon-ready 4x4s and feature treacherous river crossings every few km. So, really, we've got it pretty good.

Sorry, Hertz #sorrynotsorry

We eventually figure out that the trick to the potholes is to not drive too fast, but to also not drive too slow. Classic Goldilocks scenario. Otherwise, you have to drive so slow that you'll never make it anywhere. Seriously.

Escape from the fierce storms that scour the highlands

Endless ribbon across the landscape

We post up for the "night" at a roadside pullout in the middle of nowhere and deploy our tent. It's darker than expected as the weather is atrocious, and the combination of thick cloud cover and incessant rain allows us to sleep more peacefully than normal. The weather is kind of a bummer, as I've been really looking forward to seeing the highlands in their surreal glory, but hey, you can't win 'em all.

Water everywhere

After a few solid hours of sleep, we start driving through the potholes again, and before too long, we've made it to Hveravellir. Hveravellir is an awesome little outpost literally in the middle of bloody nowhere, and it features lots of geothermal activity, a little lodge/cafe, and a variety of trailheads that head off even more into the middle of nowhere. Most importantly, though, "geothermal activity" = "hot springs" sucka!

Alien rock farm

Yeah, things grow here, but they might have a rough go of it

The hot spring is largely a Choose Your Own Adventure type of place, with two pipes running into the pool. One pipe feeds cold water, and the other pipe feeds near-boiling death water, so it's up to the users to best mix them according to taste. And safety.

Geothermal feature

After a hearty dip in which our flesh stays attached to our bones, we go for a wander through the geothermal attractions. A key piece of guidance is to stay on the paths, as any diversions may result in hilariously grotesque hot water- and steam-related injuries. Around one corner, I spot the overgrown roof of a cool hut, take a closer look, and then run back to the car for the flash. Murphy does an excellent job of lighting the place, and I leave smug about the #neverleavehomewithoutalight mantra I've been on about while traveling.

Oh what's that?

Good job Murphy

Finished product

We finally continue down the "highway," bouncing along and fording puddles instead of rivers. Around every corner is the hint of an incredible vista, and sadly most of them are locked beyond highly unpalatable weather that either robs visibility or hinders movement. Probably the most unfortunate thing is that now we have to go back and catch some better weather; the secrets of those highlands may never be known in full, but I'd like to have another crack at a few of them!

Cold-ass stream

Can't feel my legs

When we emerge back into civilization on the north end of the country, we point the car towards Sauðárkrókur and count our lucky stars that we haven't run out of food or fuel or gotten swept down some glacial river or driven into an ice block.

First sign of civilization...awesome Icelandic horses

Behind-the-scenes aka how to get horse slobber on an expensive lens


We pause in Sauðárkrókur for snacks, coffee, and wi-fi before continuing out to Reykir where we'll spend the night before a mission to Drangey...up next!


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