Day 2/10

Akureyri

The idea to go to Akureyri in the north became stronger and stronger yesterday evening. Now I’m looking at the road conditions this morning, it’s looking a lot better than the previous days Road Conditions and Weather in Iceland. If you select for instance North Iceland then all the lines around Akureyri were blue and even pink and red. Today they are primarily green, yellow and white.

I already wondered about the meaning of those numbers within the rectangles at ’Since midnight.’, but I guess that these are the number of cars that have past here. During the previous days these numbers where usually very low and often 0. This morning they are between 20 and 40. If a car passes every 20 minutes on average at midnight, then there shouldn’t be any problem going there. Even in the case of a break down, enough cars pass by for help.

I remember a ’small’ rainshower in june during my first trip to Iceland, during which I couldn’t see anything at all. It looked more like a tropical storm. Large mud streams came down the slopes around me. You feel very small, driving a car in a world like that. Yesterday, the wind also was extremely hard. I almost never experience that at home, while I didn’t get the idea that it was special in any way to the people here.

The guy at the hotel desk told me this morning that the day before yesterday they had the worst snow storm since 2000. That’s the reason that all these roads where impassable. This is still the case in the western fjords area. They must have had a very bad time so exposed on the coastal shore, I guess.

It would only be irritating to discover halfway that Akureyri is out of reach, but as long as I can return to Reykjavik there is nothing wrong. I could lose money on the hotel reservation, but furthermore it is limited to some lost time. Getting stuck in a remote place is something different entirely, a red line in front of you and another one on the back. Snow, ice and wind here cannot be compared with those at home. So it’s vital to check out everything before going and think of something else if in doubt.

As I’m looking at hotels in Akureyri, I see that there aren’t that many and rooms available are few. Better to book in advance knowing I have a sleeping place tonight. I book Hotel Kea in Akureyri for 2 nights. Bit pricy but shared bathroom and without internet is not my cup of tea.

As soon as it’s light I’m on my way. It’s about a 400 kilometer drive, so that must be possible. Then I think of the GoPro I’m having with me. Everytime I see something I like, I shoot a short videoclip. More often than not I do not remember all the details of these longer drives and these clips make that a lot easier.

The road is easy to follow up to the point that is indicated on the website. Sheets of ice on the road and lots of snow are blown across the road. Sometimes so much, that visibility drops to zero. Reason is that the slopes along the road are loaded with snow and the hard wind blows lots of it from the slopes over the road. I’m surprised by the amount of grip the special tires with spikes have. It takes some time learning to rely on them.

Suddenly I notice a kind of canyon with water running through it and blue ice. While I’m thinking that this could be a very nice photograph I’m already passed it. The road is quite narrow here and is about 4 meters higher than the surrounding landscape. Nowhere a possibility to turn around. Several kilometers further down the road I think about letting it go, but it would actually be a shame not to shoot there. Somewhat further even, I find a spot where I can turn around. Back we go, it will take a half hour max.

This time I do have to turn in the middle of the road, because there is no alternative. It takes quite an effort because I do not want to come too close to the edges with the wheels. One little mistake and you crash beside the road.

Close to the canyon, the road is a little wider so I don’t have to park it in the middle of the road. With tripod and backpack it’s a couple of hundred meters walking for the photos. More difficult than expected, looked much better from the car. Because you’re going faster, it’s much easier to find the right spot for the best composition. In the end I do find what I was looking for.

Miklagil

Hands are getting cold very quickly in these vicious winds. Next time with gloves. Then back in the car.

After 6 hours driving I arrive in Akureyri. This is the 3rd time I’m visiting and it feels like visiting a friend. Here it’s a big mess with all that snow as well. The hotel I find quickly.

After relaxing for an hour it’s getting time for some action. Godafoss is about 50 kilometers to the east and Dettifoss 169. The latter is too far for now, but 50 kilometers is not a problem. There will be light for another few hours. Godafoss is a very handsome waterfall and I’m very curious what it will be looking like in winter.

Akureyri is located at the inner end of a fjord en I’ve driven along the west end when getting here and now I have to cross and drive along the other. The airport is close to the city and while I’m crossing I notice an airplane approaching for landing. The pilot has a lot of work to keep it straight. You can see the gusts just by the corrections. The nose sweeps to the left for about 20 degrees every time and then back again.

Back along the fjord on the other side, the road ascends. About 200 meters away from the road are houses here an there on cliffs that are several hundreds of meters high. Typical that these people are living here. Always wind and especially during a storm it seems quite scary in such a little house so high and in full wind. You wouldn’t get it into your head to swing a couple of underpants over the clothesline here.

Further down the road there is even more snow, then down again. This is really a steep pass. Then I notice a sign for Husavik. There I have been on a couple of whaling tours. They even do these in winter. I can’t even start to imagine how cold that must be now, out there at sea.

Finally Godafoss. I do recognize it, but had another image in my mind. I’m standing high above the waterfall on the right side. It’s a big mass of ice and very slippery. There is a ferocious wind here as well. I seem to remember that last time I have been very low close to the water on the left side. Weird, but this doesn’t seem even remotely possible now. Both sides have almost vertical snow- and icewalls reaching into the water.

First shoot a couple of photographs. It’s quite difficult. Besides the fact that the floor is slippery, I also have to be very close to the snow covered cliff edge at around 10 meters above the water. Luckily I can find a rough piece of stone to stand on. I do worry about the tripod with these gusts passing by. It would be bad to lose it so early in the trip. Let alone to lose a camera as well.

I’m wearing warm clothes, thermo, but have to take my hands out of my gloves every time to operate the camera and to screw filters on and off the lens. After only two minutes without the gloves, your hands get unusable. So, put on the gloves, warm up the hands and try again. I notice the cold is seeping slowly into my clothes. The temperature isn’t even that low, just below zero, but that wind is the real problem here. Bit by bit it takes your warmth from you and carries it away.

Godafoss

Godafoss

After the photos I quickly shoot a couple of videoclips and then as fast as possible back into the car.

The way back goes smooth, although the snowlayer on the road has become an icelayer in the mean time. Unbelievable how fast some people drive. Going up is one thing but to drive 70 kilometers per hour over an ice covered road with a 15 degrees down slope, I find risky. I’m driving not faster than 25 here, thereby irritating some other drivers a bit (-;

An hour before sunset I’m back in my warm hotel. Better put on an extra layer tomorrow. The sky is still completely covered with clouds despite better forecasts. So, here as well in the end. I do see a spot of blue sky though. Hopefully there will be more of that in the morning.

Still curious whether there is also a road towards the left side of Godafoss (Foss=waterfal and Goda=Gods, thus Waterfall of the Gods). I think with this ice cover it’s just impossible to descent safely without crampons and ice axes.

Tomorrow I go to Dettifoss, a very large waterfall while passing Myvatn, a thermal area. Most certainly I will check out Godafoss again, because it’s on the route, maybe even on both ways.

Slowly I’m starting to find out how many clothes I will have to wear during a Northern Light show: many, many layers!

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, Iceland Winter 2013, Day 02

Download the original gpx file here.

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