Today turned out to be epic, in every sense. I left at about 9am and expected to punch out the 350km to Hofn and arrive by about 4pm, having had a few stops along the way. However, as I drive past the first turn off for Dettifoss, I figured I’d regret not trying once again and so went for it. Thankfully, the roads was just passable and my little white snowplough got me there (25km off the main road).
From the parking there was an 800m hike and then a great view. With a lot of snow ‘lips’ around the edge of the viewpoint and some very slippery mud, I was very careful. The snow around the lower ravine made getting a good view difficult and the conditions were not conducive to walking around an exploring. That would have been far too dangerous, as it was not clear what was underfoot (if anything at all). I took a few frames for myself, the inevitable couples shots (if you look like a serious photographer people always pick you to be their holiday photographer!) and headed back. While I am very glad I saw it, I feel that Godafoss is the more exciting of the two. Its much easier to get to, your viewpoints are far more flexible and despite being smaller, it felt more impressive because I was able to get closer. The wider Dettifoss area has some amazing ravines and rock formations, so a future super-jeep tour of the area is on my wish list.
70-100km later and the landscape became BIG in a truly uninhabited and remote way. The road was precarious due to melting snow, ice and sporadic deep slush, so I had to concentrate like a learner driver to ensure I did not get caught out. I did not take any photos in this area, although I passed very many ‘shall I, shan’t I’ viewpoints.
Instead I pressed on for quite a few hours only to find that Route 1 to Hofn was impassable due to snow. I had not checked the route statuses as the road conditions had improved greatly by now, but I had not figured on one final high pass (which was blocked). At this point, there was a fairly large ‘oh, carp!’ moment, when I realised I had just lost two hours of driving (I’d taken photos as well, of course) and that the alternate routes may also be blocked…. meaning a more than 1000kms detour the other way round. Gulp! After 45mins as fast as I could safely drive to get back to the next major junction, I checked in with a service station and the staff confirmed that the coastal route, which takes in the eastern fjords was open. This meant that the 350km journey I planned in the morning, had risen to 400kms (adding Dettifoss), 500kms (blocked route 1) and now about 600kms (navigating fjords is not exactly A to B driving). Oops.
Although hardly planned, this detour meant that I got to see a lot that I would not otherwise and there are at least three images that will make the colour portfolio that would not have been taken had I not driven down route one until it became blocked! I also discovered that the eastern fjords are beautiful and the area about 60-80kms east of Hofn is absolutely breathtaking. The light was spectacular and it killed me to have to drive at breakneck speed to get to my accommodation before they all went to bed. This is by far the best light I have seen in Iceland (ever) and some of the best I have seen anywhere in the world in a decade. Such luck! However, I would be lying if I claimed not to have stopped a couple of times to grab a shot Formula One pit stop style!
I also had one of those ‘is that really what I think it is’ moments, when I spotted what I thought were skulls and antlers far below on a little spit of land. I brought the car to a halt and hiked down to what was indeed a cluster of reindeer heads on the rocks. I am guessing that the hunter had used this area by the water to butcher the carcasses and left the heads there. These animals had clearly been hunted for meat, not trophies. The lower jaws were in a pile, which I am guessing means the tongues were removed? It was a very odd, somewhat macabre scene, but also one that made some sense. It’s hard to describe, but in this wild place, seeing the remnants of hunting reminded me of ancient times. The scene could have existed 5,000 years ago. With distant snow capped mountains, there was nothing to speak of the modern era. A Viking could have arrived to claim them and it would have ‘fitted’. It’s a bit like visiting some of the old villages in Afghanistan. Alexander’s men could march over the nearest hill and you’d barely blink. Such an even almost seems more congruous than arriving there in a modern vehicle.
The low point was hitting a goose. They tend to sit in the middle of the road and usually move on. This one, daft as it was, was on the side of the road and perfectly safe. However, as I approached it decided to take flight across the road into my path. I had slowed down hard from 90kph to about 30kph at which point it hit my windscreen right in front of my face. There was a big thud, it remained in the air and managed after some major wobbles it continued with its partner off to a lower lying field. It was flying, which means no broken wings, so maybe it will be OK. After all, feathers are good padding and it is basically a winged pillow with a beak at the front. There are HUGE numbers of waterfowl here and you have to be very careful. Had I hit it at 90kph it would have been very different for the goose and for the car/me, I suspect. Thankfully I have seen nothing larger close to the road, but reindeer are also a hazard that one should be aware of.
So my plans have changed. I am now going to spend another night in Hofn and explore the coast to the east, after which I will head west to Vik. I doubt I will stop by Jokulsarlon for long, if at all, as the boat trips on the lagoon are not available due to ice and snow (and I feel no real need to add to the beach shots I produced last time). I was really looking forward to the lagoon, but hey ho. The area between Hofn and Vik could be incredible, light depending, as will Vik, Dyrholaey and the stretch towards Skaftafell. Fingers crossed for a tremendous last four days!