I never thought that I would still be writing about this trip over a month after it ended, but here I am with my nose in my notes vomiting forth yet another episode of Driving Iceland. Luckily for you, dear readers, I have only one more Iceland post following this one, and then we can talk (I will write – you will read) about our upcoming trip to Joshua Tree National Park that will probably be ruined by the ineptitude of the governing class – thanks for the birthday present you assholes.
Let’s get back to better times, like August the 29th, when the US was only threatening to bomb the beards off of Syria and Blondie and I were hitting the road after breakfast to see everything we could in the Myvatn area before an early fall blizzard turned the highlands into a mess of blowing snow and trolls and probably elves, but they usually tend to stay in when the weather is iffy. We started out west of Reykjahlid at a small geothermal area called Hverir that may be the stinkiest place in Iceland. The fumaroles and mud pots spurt forth all sorts of nasty gasses and super hot mud. Blondie only made it a few minutes before she was overcome by the stench but I am a mountain man and a little earth fart doesn’t bother me.
From Hverir we basically crossed the street and drove up to Krafla, a rather active volcano area that now serves as a geothermal power station. Where else in the world would a power plant be a tourist attraction – hell, where else would the government allow people such close access to a major piece of infrastructure? Iceland is not like your country or mine and thank goodness for that.
The next leg of our trip will be talked about for years in our little family. We decided that we would do one more F-road run but this time to Askja, a large volcano that at one point exploded so hard that chunks of rock fell on Mainland Europe. The distance to the crater is 108km (70miles) long so it was going to take a big chunk out of our day, but we felt that we owed it to ourselves to get way out there and see something that most people who visit the area don’t get to see . We took F-88, which is the more direct route following the western shores of the river Jokulsa A Fjollum, and only saw six vehicles on the road – one of which was a gigantic garbage truck.
The speed limits on most F-roads are around 60kmh so we figured that we could get out there and back in five, possibly six, hours with some time to spare to get a sunset view of Dettifoss before hitting the bar at the Gamli. Anyone who knows me personally and has had me cook for them knows that if I say that dinner will be done at 19:00 it will probably be 20:30 before any forks go to work – the estimation we made on our travel time to Askja fell right in line with my usual underestimation of everything. By the time we hit Route-1 again a full nine hours had passed and the two of us had gone through every stage of every emotion related to frustration and fear by the time the tires were back on pavement. The trip down F-88 wasn’t scary or dangerous but the man, who must be a sociopath or possibly just a dick, who graded the roads did such a terrible job that if he did the same thing on gravel roads in Iowa he would be taken out back and beaten with a log chain til he learned his lesson. Just beyond the yellow sign in the pic above the road turns into a very regular corduroy pattern and that only ceased at river crossings and at places where silt had drifted into the road. We only crossed the 30kmh point a few times during the drive down because if we went any faster the truck would get squirrelly and we didn’t dare get out of control while so far away from help. At this point you must be asking yourself why we didn’t just turn back and find something else to do – well the simple answer to that is that we are stubborn and had faith that at some point the road must be smoother up ahead. It was not smoother up ahead, in fact it got worse and at one point I pulled over because the vibrations had completely loosened the gas cap and at some point we lost a lug nut but by the looks of it we may never have had one on that stud to begin with – who thinks about checking these things when some strange man is giving you the keys to a piece of junk at dawn in a foreign country?
As we got closer to Askja the clouds were increasing and the sky was taking on an ominous brown color, which turned out to be a weird dusty fog as we climbed in elevation. Looking back on it all now I think that this would have been the time to turn back because obviously we were going to have a hard time seeing the volcano and all its goodness.
We did finally make it to the volcano after all of the troubles we had getting there, but couldn’t spend as much time as we wanted because we needed to get out of the desert before dark. The walk into the crater is 2km and we didn’t say much to each other on the walk out, but the exercise did us a lot of good and by the time we got back into the car we were friends again. The crater lake in Askja is super deep, about 210m, and was formed after a lava chamber collapsed and filled up with water – there is a smaller viti-crater lake next to it that is filled with an opaque pale green water that apparently is nice to swim in as long as you don’t inhale the CO2 that settles on the surface and pass out – we chose to stay dry and take a few snaps.
On our way back we decided to take our chances on route F-910, which would get us to pavement in a shorter distance and couldn’t possibly be any worse than F-88. Actually it was just as bad and at some points worse because fine silt had drifted into the road in many places and unless you had a good head of steam you would get bogged down and stuck. Luckily I kept the car moving forward through these dusty traps. Since I was bent over the wheel in absolute concentration and Blondie was doing her best to keep me from running over boulders we have only a few pics from this portion of the trip – it’s a shame really because even though the road was terrible the views all around were out of this world.
It was about 20:30 by the time we made it back to pavement. Our hopes of getting to Dettifoss or up to Asbyrgi were dashed, but I think that the pure lonely adventure of the trip out to Askja and back was more than enough excitement for anyone. We didn’t want to miss the dinner hour at the Gamli so we went straight there rather than cleaning up first – we wore the filth of the day as a badge of honour and even though no one knew what we had been up to during the day I am sure they could sense the vibes of satisfaction we were sending into the cosmos. It really was an adventure.
We are off on another expedition this afternoon so check back in about ten days for the final installment of Driving Iceland. Hopefully by then I will also have stories to tell about all the good times we had in Vegas and at Joshua Tree (fingers crossed for ending the gov’t shutdown).
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