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An Ambitious route to Askja - Day 3, Herðubreið, Askja, Nýidalur

Pictures are at the bottom...

30 July - 2 August, 2010

...Continued from Day 2

Christina decided to leave us here, when she worked out what our actual plans were. She (rightfully) decided that trying to hitch back to Blönduos from Reykjavík on Monday night, when she needed to be at work on Tuesday morning was going to be a long shot. She decided to enjoy the sun at Reykjahlíð for a while longer, then hitch back across the north. But she thanked us for the lovely day and night first, then bid us adieu.

We headed east, into the nothingness.

At the turn south, onto F-88, where you leave the nothingness of the ringroad, which is still civilisation, onto the nothingness of the highlands, there was a sign that said, "next petrol, 198km" We assumed that meant Hrauneyjar, and after a quick check with the car's computer estimate of remaining range, and how much extra we had, we plowed happily onwards.

It's a very heavily corrugated road, but otherwise no real problems, and under fluffy clouds decorating a deep blue sky, we headed south, with the really truly beautiful Herðubreið rising up towards us. Herðubreið is often talked of as being the queen of icelandic mountains, and it really is a beauty. Big and bold and rising evenly out of the flat highlands.

We stop briefly at the first river crossing, which has a lovely helpful sign indicating the way to go, and the speed, and a phone number to call if you get stuck. It's a rather small little stream really, but it was a nice touch. Earlier we'd seen signs in english, italian and icelandic, in the same handwriting, carefully reminding people not to drive off road, so it seems the area has a caretaker of it's own, and not vegagerðin (iceland roads authority)

But it was a beautiful little stop. A stream of green, and a cute little waterfall and a truly irresistable pool. I jump in for a quick dip, before we head on south, to Herðubreiðalindir.

Herðubreiðalindir are some springs at the eastern foot of Herðubreið, providing water and vegetation for a hut and campground, and in the past, another one of Fjalla Eyvindur's mountain hideouts, allegedly his worst winter ever, with no fire, living on raw horsemeat and hvönn (angelica)

We took a short walk across the lava to where the river Kreppa meets Jökulsá á Fjöllum, both big dirty glacial rivers. It was a nice walk across the lava, not as dramatic thundering water as I'd kinda hoped, but neat nonetheless. The walk back was beautiful though, as it followed the outlet of the springs back upstream to the campground, and that was a beautiful strip of greenery and cool air amongst the lava fields. We also saw our first pumice here, washed downstream from Askja no doubt.

Speaking of Askja, time was wasting, and it was already sunday. We headed off down the road, into the white pummice and dark grey lava fields around Askja. It is a magnificent drive, and we had stellar weather. Pulling into the carpark at Viti, where we were planning on an afternoon swim, I even had to smear on some sunscreen, I was starting to feel a bit burnt.

Of course, that meant that it slowly clouded over. But we walked out to Viti, to look over the great lake in the caldera, and have our swim. The view is stunning, so many colours rippling the walls of the caldera, it would be great to have a few extra days to go for a walk, and enjoy the changing light.

The swim itself...? Well, it's not bad, it's certainly a scenic locale, but it's not really quite as warm as I would have liked, or at least, nowhere I found. But the setting really is pretty fantastic. :)

With evening starting to fall, we had a bit of a consider of the distances still left, and the time left in the weekend, and decided that although we'd love to stay here for the night, have a nice dinner, and explore Drekagil in the morning, that left us 115km to Nýidalur, then another 120km to Hrauneyjar, then the rest of the normal roads home, all for monday. That seemed like a bit much, so we headed off for Nýidalur, leaving Askja at 8pm.

Beautiful light, sunset on Snæfell, glowing evening as we cruised across Dyngjusandur. But at Askja, we'd also realised the full extent of our fuel concerns. The sign back where we turned off the highway did _not_ mean Hrauneyjar. Rather than 186km from the ring road, it was more like 300km to the next petrol, and this was going to be quite a bit closer....

The drive across F910, through Ódáðahraun was beautiful, but not really much time left in the day, we didn't stop much. Beautiful swirls of lava out the window, gradually disappearing under the veil of night. If you want to see what it looked like in the daytime, check out this trip from two weeks later. Eventually, we rejoined the road north/south, and briefly considered turning away, rather than run out of petrol, but that road was completely unknown, and our rough estimates still made it ok, so we pressed on.

We had some adventures crossing unknown rivers in the dark, but the jeep powered us through them all. We were mostly all enjoying watching the trip computer say "0km to empty" for about 5-8km, before we came to another river, and decided it was time for the reserve tank, rather than have to attempt refueling in the middle of the night in the middle of a glacial river.

We pulled into Nýidalur around 1am, and I immediately set to work making some pasta. Logi had driven an epic journey, and was desparately in need of nourishment and wine. After wolfing down some food, we crashed out, with just the regular drive down Sprengisandur back to Hrauneyjar and civilisation left for monday.

...Continued on day 4

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