Icelandic Adventure, summer 2016.. Part 3

We pulled away from camp after breakfast and retraced our route back to the main road 15 miles or so away along the shingle and rocky road re-crossing the river crossings again, I thing we will enjoy this!.

73                                             Sign posts? No not many at all!

 

77                         Pete takes the crossing with ease..not very deep today!

 

78                                             Low cloud today…again!

 

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Disappearing into the clouds on the distant left is the Myrdalsjokull ice cap

 

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                                                   Photo stop

It was an overcast day with plenty of cloud but we had no rain. This F- road was nice and easy to drive and graded often due to the three camp sites it led to, we saw three of four high axle small coaches and several 4×4 vehicles in both directions yesterday and today. I don’t think they will tarmac it as it appears to be one of the many routes for the melt water as it made its way to the sea, so in early Spring I imagine the water levels to be a good deal higher than the present low levels.

We turned back onto the tarmac and turned west on it for a few miles before turning of again onto another F road, another sign warned non 4×4 drivers of the difficulty of the road.

76                                                               Warning Sign 

It was actually tarmac up to the airfield, the airfield was one of several strips that took tourists over the mountains and the ice cap in small aircraft, after which the road turned to gravel and small rocks. we were maybe five or six miles across from the track this morning however between us lay four or five deeper rivers. Over this side it was little greener too, the road began to climb  quite steeply as it made its way over the hump. It was all loose and not too wide so I dint stop to take a photo, it needed a bit of concentration! On every crest I did pause to jump out with the camera though. At one place it was quite green with grazing land, it certainly looked out-of-place with all the black and grey bleakness! Over the next hump we saw a huge HUGE horse shoe shaped valley. The edge was a cliff edge the size of our coastline, straight and tall it stood and made a massive horse shape. I stopped to sit and stare, I’m sure the others were as gobsmacked as I was. It was so HUGE I could just not take the view in.

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 We are just a few metres from the cliff edge which ran on for miles, as we drove along it and higher the horse shoe took shape below us.

 

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                            The higher we drove the more of the horse shoe we saw

 

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I was always glancing across to my right to see the massive high ice cap, it was ANOTHER view I found difficult to absorb! The ice cap was actually taller than the mountains, how mad is that??

 

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                                Part of the horse shoe cliff wall on the right

Miles further on and the colours changed from grey and black to browns and tan and smeared with patches of green, the track wound its way down now and into the valley before long we came the the neck, just to our right stood the very imposing cliff edge, now we were at its base just an hour earlier we were high above staring down at it.

Stopping for lunch an a huge scrape hole we made a circle of trucks and got busy with tea coffee and food, the breeze was quite bitter and demanded a fleece be worn. the lads took a quick pee but for the ladies it proved a bit harder, there was no bush or shrub or anything to offer privacy so the ladies had to wander off a bit further. The scrape we were in looked to have been used by a digger shifting stuff onto the track for the never-ending grading work.

 

83c                     Im just nipping behind that bush for a pee darling…

 

84         The 110 surges across one of a dozen river crossings today

 

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We dipped out trucks in several rivers on our journey north. We passed a large group of walkers making their way from A to B, they had back packs and long Gandalph like sticks to help them especially as they had to ford the smaller rivers, we saw a group putting their boots back on just up ahead, I bet the water was icy cold!

87              Another small patch of greenery at another river crossing

 

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Trying to pronounce some of the  place-name had me speaking like the Swedish Chief from The Muppets as I tried to curl my tongue around some odd-looking letters. Thankfully we didn’t see many pedestrians to ask and offend with our poorly pronounced attempts! 

 

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         The South Coast boys making light work of the river in their 90

 

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        Team leaders Jo and Pete checking the river before we followed

 

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A river crossing first then up and over the next hump before going back down again to the next river crossing, all fab 4×4 stuff!

 

100              Safely across a wide river we lined up and followed suit

We were having a great time in the Icelandic “countryside” crossing a dozen or more rivers on our journey until the next river….

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                                                         Trying a different route ..

The next river crossing was quite rocky and proved difficult to get over, but large boulders beneath the surface stopped his progress. It was difficult to say for certain what was actually stopping him, boulders or large pothole?  We attached Daz’s winch hook to pull him back. Others put boulders against his wheels to anchor his 90 on the shingle. Pete tried a another couple of times but it want happening. Today was going to be a big loop back to the tarmac. We would turn around on this occasion and head back to the main road back along the same track. This could happen any time it all depends on the water level/flow and condition of the track. Its not do or die mission it’s just an adventure!

It didn’t take quite as long going back, we didn’t have to get to the next camp before it got dark, coz it doesn’t GET dark her on Iceland but we did drive a little quicker and kicked up a little dust and got a bit more excited. We saw stuff we missed coming back this way too.

90                    This lump didn’t look the same coming the other way!

It wasn’t long before we hit the smooth tarmac again and got our foot down to the next camp. a 100 miles or so up the road at Grindavik, here we would stay for two nights.

The camp at Grindavik was excellent grassy smooth and flat with good facilities, in that it had a laundry/ drying room, showers and a communal cooking block. we would spend the next morning washing some kit checking the truck over  and have a drive around in the afternoon and possibly do a bit of food shopping. But for now it was dinner a few drinks and chill out with the others before bed, it had been a great day on rugged and dusty F roads staring at some really amazing scenery, lots of cloud again, a bit of a cold wind, but not a drop of rain, we sat about in light trousers and a fleece to keep the evening chill away.

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                           This was taken sometime around midnight!!

Morning came and it looked exactly like 12’00 midnight, it was impossible to guess what time of day it was, for example last night I was browsing FB and it was 01.30 in the morning!! Hence this morning it was a late start and a slow breakfast, folk had different plans for the day and came and went at their leisure.

We did the chores until lunch time, waited for the laundry to do took ages because of a queue so took a walk around the small harbour.

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                                                            Grindavik harbour

 

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                                                     Grindavik harbour

Finally the clothes were washed and dried so we took ourselves off for the afternoon exploring the area. Not by using the road signs really as they took a long time to read!

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                                             Pronunciation please!

I had to see some of the famous Icelandic horse’s so I was looking out for stables, soon enough I spotted them and drove to them up the little track….Here’s a little factoid..On Iceland there is a horse for every four persons and twice as many sheep as people!

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                                                                Icelandic horses

 

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Attempting a selfie with the locals

 

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They are just how I imagine them to be

Heading back east we saw the ancient monument sign so turned onto the narrow track to find the site of a fishing village from the Middle ages, even I could recognize bits of wood that used to be part of some kind of dwelling. The narrow track was quite sunken with white coloured moss covering the ground, we stopped to have a closer look and upon touching it I found I could push down about 4 inches, underneath it was warm and damp, so I thinking the bare lava cools and solidifies, moss begins to grow as dust is blown in, seeds on the wind maybe get trapped in crevasses and take hold in the damp warm moss and life begins..bugs..flies..birds.. little animals and so on..just like that! I’m assuming I’m looking at how our planet began, for certain it got me thinking about how the earth began. We would see a lot more as the tour turned inland and things looked even bleaker!

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       Staying ON the tracks was always an important thing to remember

 

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The white moss, soft and spongy to the touch, and upto 6 inches thick with a warm damp underside, the red alpine type plants were often the only thing growing in many more barren area.

Turning west now we pointed toward the coast line again passing through the small town again and out the other side onto a road that didn’t exist, well not according to Sat Nav anyhow! Sometime when exploring we leave the Garmin on to show us exactly where we are when there is nothing obvious to help get our bearings, especially in places like this. Here we were driving on a small tarmac road yet the screen was white it showed the road end and start again another ten miles further, perhaps we had driven into one of Star Trek’s sub quadrant space anomalies? Good job we use it only as an aid! Ah well it was a pleasant circular trip we took and spotting the famous Blue Lagoon (hot springs)tourist spot. Everyone comes to bathe here and no doubt take a pee, We gave this a wide berth as neither are keen on full-to-the-brim tourist spots,or pee….

They have hot springs here in Iceland as well as volcano’s and ice. Its harnessed by the people for heat, sometime we come across  a small shiny complex emitting a large amount of steam that can be seen for miles, I don’t know exactly how but the harness it and send it on to their industrial plants and homes via shiny overland pipes, these run across the grey black surface like long threads of spiders silk, perhaps they leave it so obvious as to show off?  So it’s no surprise that 90% of Iceland’s homes are heated with this geothermal hot water, pretty good considering Iceland is the second largest island in Europe, about 25% bigger than Ireland yet only has a population or 338.000 similar in fact to a large English town apparently 8000 of these are Polish workers many involved in construction projects. Most folk live here in the south-west with over a third living in and around the capital Reykjavik, when we see the middle of the country we would so understand why hardly anyone lived there which at the moment was a bit of a puzzle!

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Typical Icelandic housing…clean with brightly painted schemes (having a red roof was very common) Many composed of wooden sectioned walls topped with a metal corrugated roof. 

It was just after nine we’d just had the morning map meeting, Today we were leaving the southern coast and were to go north but cut inland a bit more. Id had my morning entertainment watching Ian wrestle with his little one man tent, it was one of those that collapsed to a circular dinner plate shape, sounds lovely but there was deffo a martial art to making it do what one wants! Id like to congratulate Ian for persisting with it even if he cried out for help on the first few occasions!

108b          Ian goes through the morning wrestle with his fantastic collapsible bstarding folding tent

We drove back the way we had come for a few miles before taking the shale tack to our left and drove up the hill past all the white sponge moss, climbing up and over the top we dropped down again and soon left the white moss behind to drive past lush green grazing grass fields how amazing it changed so quickly!

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                                                   Driving the white moss track

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                   The moss soon gave way to lush grazing grass

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                                       Daz and Rosie come by in the tidy 90

 

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WHITE moss to GREEN grass to BROWN soil!….Welcome to amazing Iceland!

Suddenly we were back on the old route 1 again at least for the drive around the outskirts of the capital then we turned off again  and head into the Pingvellier National Park making our way to a massive geological fault-line between the America’s and Europe. There is a giant rip in the landscape and can be walked down in places wide and straddled is places narrow, naturally its a tourist favourite. So with gritted teeth I ignored the sheep like tendencies of the visiting tourists and tried to photograph not so many folk! It’s wonderful for the tourist board and the Icelandic folk working here were actually smiling and engaging with us lot! The tear was fantastic to look at, it looked as though a giant had cleaved the edge of the cliff with his big axe and the slice was falling away oh so slowly.

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The broad ragged valley that runs in the photo from bottom let to top right is the tectonic rift…the plates between the America’s and Europe, see how the left hand side is slowly peeling away?

 

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Here is where one can stand with one foot in America and the other in Europe

 

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This massive split was covered by a large concrete path where thousands off tourists every years made their way down to the lower level.

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Turning round from the above view to view the lower level. The white building  is the old parliament, Alpingi and the oldest established parliament in the world established in 930 ADWorld leaders visiting Iceland today are brought here first to meet apparently. Another first for Iceland is that their explorer Ericksson was the first European to discover North America, almost 500 yrs before Chris Columbus..so they say.

Oh well time to get out of this busy place, for the next few miles the road ran close to the edge of the rift and crossed it finally as we pushed on, stunning to see shame about the football sized crowds milling about though. Pretty soon we were back into the open and empty spaces of the raw wilderness.When they say two-thirds of Iceland is uninhabitable it was pretty easy to take that as the truth after the tour. The only folk in the interior are the park rangers and us daft tourists and there are no toilet attendants whatsoever.

Odd of me say that you might think but its true, many tourists and outdoor adventuring types come here all the time and there no toilets except on the few camp-sites and occasional tourist hotspot. So I frowned deeply when I saw a something on the internet recently that Icelandic officials are warning visitors not to defecate on their land! You cheeky c*nts! was my first impression, So come on then what are we supposed to do bag it and tag it? If so where is the free shit-bag station? (Tesco or Iceland…Bum Bum…) Or the free half sticks of dynamite to blow a hole in the ” hard as fook” lava to blow a hole in order to bury the shit in question. The old shovel is no good out here that for sure, and the stuff is sharp as fukc and would rip your arse to shreds if you tipped over! We did see just ONE shit-house on one of the days and it was being cleaned by two long-haired yoofs with the radio blasting out full tilt. Daz dared to go and give it a go, he came back disgusted coz the pan was brimming with summat akin to very lump ox tail soup! We on the other hand were in camp mode so did our ablutions only at the camp sites, If we’d got caught out it would have been the most cautious crap ever!

 

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                                                           Back to the spongey moss

 

163Looking like the entire mountain was covered by old army “scrim” netting..you know the kind they throw over vehicles and tanks that are parked up, to hide them away from prying eyes.

 

165                                                        Our kind of tourism!

 

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                            Short pee stop…for short people..thats me then!

Hey did you know….JRR TOLKIEN author of LORD OF THE RINGS (no pun intended) Its said he spent a couple of years in Iceland whist writing his book and used a lot from old Icelandic and Old Norse mythology…

It seems today was a day on the tourist trail and our next stop was at the Great Geysir, rammed packed full of tourists again but hey the effort was worth it, we walked from the car park along the stony path across the hot steamy ground to the site of the big one. Fissures in the lava leaked steam, some of it was lightly fenced off but for the main part common sense had to be used. A big sign warning of the dangers greeted us which I thought was hilarious, “DONT TOUCH”signs usually makes folk reach out and touch! As we did and it was hot but not scalding, we dipped our finger in practically by the roadside in the little trickling stream. I laughed when I read the very last line..

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  WARNING SIGN

 

169                          No not a gas attack! Just the natural hot springs 

 

167                                           Little Geyser. Good joke but very true!

 

168                                                           THE GREAT GEYSER.

We stood with the rest around the thin rope perimeter and waited a few minutes when Whoosh! It was quite hot and if you stood too close as some did you got drenched, the ground we stood on was warm and we were 30 yrds away at least. The gush of spray shot up very few minutes and has done every day 24/7..7 days a week.. every week since god knows when? Its said geyser became active 10.000 yrs ago, the first active recorded on Iceland was 1294. They begin due to earthquake activity, Its said when this one was waning they dug a channel to alter the water table and added soap which got the old geyser going again but the environment folk decided using soap wasn’t such a good idea any more! It all sounds like something out of Monty Python doesn’t it?

Time to move on again just a dozen miles or so up the road this time to a massive cliff edge and the long wide waterfalls of GullFoss, which was another site to behold.

174                                               The magnificent GULLFOSS

Well worth the steep walk down the wooden steps, we took the photo from the furthest point to get it all in and the air was damp with the spray, so those guys on the rock to the left there must have been soaked to the skin!

Watching some of the Icelandic vehicles fair took my breath away especially those with the balloon snow tyres. We saw one such vehicle coming towards us so took a photo with ours nearby, yes it was another Land Rover Defender 110 but with those special tyres, and I thought we had big tyres….

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                      Y’ need step ladders to get into this Icelandic Defender!

 

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See the blue pipes sticking out of the wheels? these are airlines and allow the tyres to be inflated /deflated at the flick of a switch from inside the cab. Many are rentals and tour trucks that take folk higher up onto the ice and snow.

 

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Another capable looking truck, I can’t say the same about his caravan though!

A herd of Icelandic pony’s where just down the road and caught our attention we took a stroll down whilst everyone else took in the trinket shop and the waterfall. Julie got chatting to a Danish woman who was here on a pony trekking holiday and loving every minute even though she was worn out every evening! I got myself ready with the camera as the reserve pony’s came out of the corral and trotted off up the road side track towards their next stop. The trotted with a difference, up here its called a tolt, have to say it looks uncomfortable and probably would be how Id look on a ponio back home!

 

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           Julie chats with Danish pony trecker..who happens to live in England

 

176                                             Reserve ponys resting in the corral 

 

181               This is where John Bon Jovi got his idea for his hair style Im sure!

 

182The reserve ponios actually lead the way, the nearest guide is at the head of the tourists, about half way down the herd!!

 

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I took this mid’day shot of the magnificent horizon, we’d be skirting those mountains later in the day.

We left the car park on time everyone had seen and tasted the waterfall and had a look in the tourist shop.We left the tarmac just up the road and drove on the shingle track for a good few miles.

183Nobody stuck to a particular order when travelling, now we were  behind Ian’s silver 90.

 

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                   Sheep we noticed always stood about in  groups of three

The sheep I have to say were quite sheepish when we came close in the truck and they mostly bolted further away from the tracks unlike sheep back home who hardly move when a vehicle comes close. Maybe its was because it was mostly a mum and two youngsters? ALWAYS we came across three sheep never two and never four, always three! Did you know……There are twice as many sheep on Iceland as there are people so Im thinking lamb is on the dinner table quite often.

We didn’t have far to go now to the next camp, it was on the slopes up ahead and handy because of its location for the next leg. Breezy is how Id describe it! A couple of wooden building which housed the office and living block for the owners, a small restaurant and toilets. The showers where few and about the size of a small shipping container, on the side was a lean-to with a long trough like sink a tap controlled the warm water and folk stood to wash plates etc, I was washing the remains of our dinner when some guy from South America began to wash his socks at the other end! “Oi fella, your washing your socks in my dirty dishwater, why don’t you wait a minute?” Hot spring pools attracted folk,  their white bodies looked odd against the dull sky green grass and slate grey shingle. We wanted to camp at the side of the truck so had to be in the parking area on the gravel along with the rest of the team and not on the grass…no vehicles allowed! Just about everyone else here came on their cycles, not just youngsters but mature folk too and all barking! Id kicked away the larger stones before gently laying the tent out and put the truck in the lee of the breeze, this was what Id call bleak but like I’ve said ideal for the next days adventure. Everyone had gone into the restaurant for dinner except us, we were absolutely fine cooking at the side of the tent and had dinner done in no time, its at camps like this that I was glad we had tinned stuff, it was just a cast of heating something up for the night. I thought it probably got a bit wild around here, I thought this because I saw some of the outbuildings were lashed down with truck straps! This evening though it was just a bit cold and breezy  and on our slope the view was long and vast BUT pretty plain and feature-less to photograph so I didn’t today.

 

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   Well ALMOST feature-less!

We turned in about 22.00 hrs to read or in my case nod off pretty quickly, there wasnt much chit-chat with the guys tonight, it had been another long driving day and the few tinnies hurried along the sleep it was still just as bright at midnight as it was at 07.30 the following morning. Julie got up during the “night” and said it was as bright as day!

Breakfast was out of a tin and wet-wipes out of a bag this morning, then with woolie hat on I pried the pegs out of the solid ground and the morning ritual started again as we dropped then rolled up the tent after we had packed the contents away onto the various shelves in the truck, Julie had folded the beds and chairs away and stowed them in the truck, my job was to fold and roll the tent and chuck back up on the roof then climb up after it to strap it down. It wasn’t cold at all when you were doing something, standing around in the breeze probably was!

The morning map meeting was pretty straight forward owing to the lack of tracks and no roads at all today! I was glad to be leaving this quite barren site this morning, we pulled up the slope and back onto the shale out of second and into third gear we went, so what’s it store for us today?