„Get lost in the right direction.“
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After some fantastic, still a bit uncomfortable trips with the Zebra, we decided for another run to Iceland. Not a difficult choice, we still have not seen all of the island anyway. Plus, it keeps changing so much there will be enough to see for several lifetimes. Counting the travelogues, this is the fifth trip, but we are already planning for the next. Everybody was excited when we finished booking our rooms on the ferry and we were ready to rumble.
There was one massive change this time. Instead of sleeping in a ground tent, we bought a roof tent. A good one with a hard shell that can be erected in some seconds with a pulley and all sleeping backs can stay inside. We even bought duvets and cushions, naturally with zebra stripes. It was surprisingly comfortable. The only real problem we encountered was the additional height, it was impossible to find a parking garage close to the hotel we booked in Hamburg. Instead, we traveled a bit further to the middle of northern Germany to a hotel close to Rendsburg. 1000km and the last kilometers were blocked because of construction, no detour signaled. Well, the Zebra helped us sneak by.
The rest of the drive to Hirtshals was quite uneventful and we decided to visit the large aquarium again. The North Sea Oceanarium is really interesting with many different animals.
Friendly shark says „Hai“.
The largest tank contains 4.5 million liters of salt water, making it the largest of northern Europe. Most of the time, fish just swim idly round by round, although some seem to be more curious.
Here we are, standing in line to be boarded onto the Norröna. The roof tent is clearly visible. We thought about giving it a zebra design as well, but that would mean we remove zebra body parts when we take it off. So we decided against and it remains cargo. Driving with the roof tent will cost you some top speed, but because Autobahns in Germany are getting more crowded every time, this is not really a problem. Other than the tent, we had a new cooler box, a good one from Dometic. Other than the usual Peltier based boxes, this is using a compressor, making it consume much less energy and also more powerful, you can keep it way below freezing point easily if needed. A bit more expensive, but a good investment.
Absolutely the small zebra was participating on this trip again, with it’s usual lookout position. The elk was sitting at the back window, but maybe we have to give it a more convenient spot, it fell frequently.
Leaving the harbor we looked forward to calm seas, hot dogs and duty free shopping.
This time, we did not stop over on the Faroe Islands, just watched how the ship was unloaded and loaded.
The Zebra was build for that. No, it was born for that.
On Iceland, we quickly headed for the highlands. Naturally after we went shopping in Egilsstaðir where we bought some vegetables and lots of lamb for our barbecue grill. On the first bigger stop, we launched the drone to capture some aerial footage. On the coastline, drone flights are getting more restricted and we follow the rules. Breaking them only means more rules in the end.
The eastern part of the highlands still is a very desolate place without a lot of vegetation. And not a lot of people, most of the tourists traveling in from Reykjavik do not get that far.
Road conditions in that area are great, no big potholes or washboard road.
Obviously we would encounter more difficult roads (turned out, much more difficult), but back there, it was nice and easy. The Zebra even managed to remain clean for some time.
The roads will give you access to an area where you do not meet a lot of people.
„Frank standing on a stone“ (Imagine that text to be spoken in true Top Gear manner).
On the way to Askja, you have to cross this river. Luckily the bridge was still there, even late in summer the water is raging.
Be careful not to treat on those small patches of vegetation. Life is hard for them.
We intended to visit Holuhraun again. Weather was very different compared to the last time we visited. Instead of a change from snowstorm to hot desert climate the weather was mainly cold and wet.
It did not matter, still it was beautiful.
When we came close to the lava field, the road changed drastically, though. Suddenly the plain was covered in very fine and light sand and there was a lot of water.
Shortly before of those signs, we met a rescue truck that just helped two really large pickup trucks to get out of a river. They warned us from driving to Holuhraun, saying that the rivers were impossible to pass.
Even without those signs, you listen to those people. Typically I try to talk to as many rangers as possible. First of all they have extremely helpful advice and also because it is a great opportunity to thank them for their work – it is all voluntary. At this junction it was obvious that we will not take this road. The Zebra is tough, has good tires and can wade 80cm, but there is no reason for taking stupid risks. The rest of the island will be tough enough already.
So instead of taking this road…
…we follow the other one. Not too shabby either.
The weather remained a bit on the non-sunny side. It did not matter to us.
It was cold, it was wet and it was perfect. Rarely did I feel so alive as in that moment.
Yes, that is road. There is a stake in the ground indicating that it is. Still those parts have been brutal, we followed some very tough terrain for some hours only discover that at the next junction we had to turn back because both road options were blocked. Later the road had massive lave grooves making driving hazardous. We had to keep the wheels on the elevated parts of the roads at all times, meaning one side on the middle patch and the others on the roadside. Slipping meant we would have been stuck for good, the grooves were more trenches and really deep. Driving like this is tricky, because sometimes you get boulders or tough bushes blocking the side of the road, so you have to find a good balance of forward-looking driving and making sure your wheels stay where they should be. We got some bad scratches on the top of our fenders when the Zebra was pushed into the embankment. All of us felt pretty relieved when that part was over and we reached tarmac again. Well, not really tarmac, road was still dirt roads.
In the past, I really loved that waterfall. It is wild and beautiful and because it is rather distant from the main roads, there is not a lot of tourists. Unfortunately now I have mixed feelings about this place, because I crashed my drone. Flying a wide circle around the waterfall, I was distracted by a lady that started asking questions and I did not sufficiently paid attention how close I was to the cliff side. Suddenly I heard the sound of bursting plastic and the screen went dark. The drone crashed to a small part on the side of the river that was impossible to reach, wading through the waters was too dangerous. I gave it a good thought, but the risk was just too high.
My drone was registered with Icelandic authorities and the next day I gave them a call to ask what the proper procedures would be in such a case. I dislike leaving junk in the landscape, but had no real option to remove it myself. Unfortunately it turned out that although laws abide you must register, there is no procedure to follow in case of such a crash landing and I had to abandon the drone. Without insurance of the drone itself (I absolutely have a proper third party liability insurance for drone accidents), I had to write off that damage. After the vacation I bought a used drone of the same type as I still had all the equipment for it.
The drone was also properly marked with my name on a sticker, unfortunately I did not hear anything about it any more. I would have loved to at least getting the movies from the memory chip. Well, that’s life.
Traveling further, we got into areas with sheep. One of the other modifications on the Zebra was the new horn. A proper one from a truck. Maximum legal noise. I was hoping to get the sheep moving from the streets, the original was just too meager. Although the new horn really is a massive improvement over the old one, the sheep are not impressed. Not one bit.
If you would follow the link on the top left corner of the home page, you can identify the company I’m working for. Quite an old German one, founded in 1847 and pretty large as well. The color that this stone is showing in the enclaves is surprisingly close to the corporate logo.
When solidifying, lava often forms hexagonal columns. They look like a funny playing board.
Close to those geological formations we found an old village as well. The cove is called Kálfshamarsvík and the area had a fishing station and a hamlet with some small houses around 1900. The houses have been completely abandoned by 1940, so not even 100 years later, this is all what remains to be seen.
Seals at Illugastaðir on the Vatnsnes peninsula. They seemed to be very busy with watching seagulls and ducks. And enjoying the sun. And sleeping. Extremely busy seals.
Took some time for taking those picture. Hvítserkur is a hotspot that many tourists visit and I try to avoid having people in my photographs.
Same here. I can assure you that to the left, there is a ton of people that look at the famous rock.
There is also a large number of arctic terns nesting in the grass. We saw quite a lot with little fish that they caught and brought home to their offspring.
Weather changes fast in Iceland. Here is some weather that comes from the other side of the hill.
Time for a picture of the Zebra again. Quite a bit more dirty now.
In some places, we parked the truck and went hiking a bit into the wilderness. No danger of getting lost in this area, although the old proverb is getting dangerously imprecise, the new forests are growing fast and I’m sure that it will not take that much more time until „standing up“ will be insufficient for finding your path.
Still here, is was more fields of flowers.
Coming back to the Zebra, we found that although it could be identified as a zebra still it was about time for a wash.
Our traditional visit to the Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík revealed two new inhabitants. A bit on the scruffy side.
Right next to the cage with the foxes, we found some free roaming chickens. A remarkable piece of irony.
For some change, we decided to go uphill a bit. There was a small track leading up a hill that looked like the Zebra could manage it. We did not make it all way up, at some point we decided for turning around.
Naturally not before taking some pictures of the scenery.
Turned out that we have been very lucky making this stop. Our taillight fell out and was dangling only held by it’s cables. All of the fastening points had broken. Not much more and we would have lost it. We fixed it with some duct tape, still the most important material you need to pack.
Puffin time. This time we arrived relatively early and were massively disappointed by the low number of puffins we saw.
Luckily it turned out that it was only a matter of time. Later that evening, they came back from fishing and we had many of them posing for our cameras.
Attentive observers might recognize this setup from the South Georgia travelogue. Two birds looking towards each other, away from each other, to the right and… and… and… unfortunately the setup is not quite the same, one of them decided to take a leave.
Birds came and go.
Seeing them walk is hilarious.
And every once in a while they talk to each other.
But mostly they try to look cute and photogenic. Well, until a colleague is trying to photobomb the picture.
We also unpacked our video cameras and stayed until late into the night.
Although on Iceland during that time of the year, „night“ is overrated.
This beautiful sunset happens at 11pm. It does not really get dark either.
Back to the Zebra.
This time, the trip took a toll, unfortunately. Driving to the Hveravellir Lodge wilderness camping ground famous for their hot water springs, the road conditions became pretty bad. Most of them turned to heavy washboard road with the vibrations applying brutal forces to the Zebra. Usually you have to find a speed where the car will start moving smoothly again, essentially hopping from one bump to the next. This time, it did not work. With the new roof tent being connected with 4 screws exactly in frequency direction, chance was high that something broke and it did. 2 screws sheared off completely and one was badly bended. Luckily we found a couple of people willing to help us take the roof tent off and the lodge gave me an power drill and some drills. Somehow, I had to remove the two stumps from the holes, so I tried to drill holes in a line into them so that I could remove them with a screwdriver. The drills were already on the rusty side and really not that sharp so work was difficult. The other campers took bets whether I would be able to remove them or not. Unfortunately nobody put their money on: One successfully removed, one left in the hole.
Luckily the screws in the back did not need full length, so I could use the broken ones from the front to mount the tent on the back and move the ones from the back to the front. Well, at least on one side, because of the broken piece I could not remove anymore we had to improvise. We also limited our top speed back on the Autobahn, as it was impossible to find spare parts on Iceland. Next time, I will bring screw extractors and two sets of spares.
We also encountered a very stupid driver that did not slow down at all when we crossed. His tires were throwing stones high into the air everywhere and one of them cracked on our windshield.
And because the picture fits well in this sequence, here are the „repairs“ of our backlight. All in all more damage than on our other trips. In total, still pretty harmless, nothing stopped us from traveling on. And what happened is pretty good for story telling.
Usually we really celebrate the first of August. This time we had to do all those repairs, so we decided to postpone our bottle to the next evening. Vegetables from the pan, lamb from the barbecue, a nice bottle of french champagne, lots of dust and cold temperatures. What more do you want?
The small zebra was totally unimpressed by all of this and just enjoyed the trip (and likely organized a lot of parties while we were sleeping).
The lodge itself was a pretty nice place with great infrastructure. You actually could get cake or waffles! Showers were a bit brutal. I’m used to cold ones, but in this place, the cold water was running out and the shower went scalding hot. They also offered power plugs, so we sat down inside, charged batteries and ate cake. Pure luxury.
We also listened to other travelers‘ stories. But best of all was a young couple that approached the barkeep with a number of questions. First one was, whether the sheep were dangerous and would attack them or their car. The whole lodge suddenly went completely quiet and everybody was starting to listening in to them. The very friendly girl behind the bar managed not to raise an eyebrow and pointed out that most of the sheep here were actually really, really harmless – with the exception of one that liked to bang it’s head against the kitchen door to beg for some bread. The couple expressed their relief and told her that their rental car company tried to „rip them off“ by selling them insure for damage induced by sheep. But because they are clever, they refused, assuming that sheep would not attack their car. Well, nobody dared to tell them that this insurance wasn’t about sheep running into their car, it was for their car running into sheep. Which is a fairly common and expensive accident.
All the other guest started smiling a lot and turned back to their piece of cake. Fortunately entertainment continued and the couple asked about the distance to the next gas station. Turned out that they did not have sufficient gas in their rental any more, missing the mark by more than 20 kilometers. The barkeeper was offering some diesel for a fairly reasonable price, but the couple refused because to their opinion, cars would always cover a larger distance than on display. Nobody was pointing out to them that this might be correct on tarmac, but certainly not on a dirt road in bad shape.
Right next to the lodge, there are a number of spectacular hot water springs.
Some of them work like little geyser.
Others look like miniature volcanoes.
It certainly was another opportunity to unpack the video camera. Several tourists approached me and asked for which studio I worked. One family actually did not believe me when I told them that all of that was for private use only. Especially the mother was insisting on getting more information from me. To do her a favor I told them that I cannot really tell them who I was working for and she triumphantly turned to the rest of the family telling them „I told you he is working for television“ in German. Well, being quite capable of speaking German (based on being German), I tried not to laugh too much.
Because we stayed in the area for more than one night, we also took a fantastic hike to the large crater south of the lodge.
We met a very friendly couple from around that area that gave us great insights. For example that one of the mountains has a different name given by the people living south of it than the people living to the north of it.
This time as well, we visited Strokkur. We actually visited twice and while I did photography on day, I did video on the other.
One of the highlights always is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Although it gets more crowded every year.
Seagulls on the icebergs are watching the tourists or is it the other way round?
No, this is not a bunny in bad disguise.
And seals were swimming in and out from the ocean as well.
On the black beach to the ocean, there was a lot of ice this time. Not only those small pieces.
The beach was really packed with them. And they were moving a lot with the waves hitting at them. Which did not stop some tourists to climb them to take selfies. Wet ice that is not only super slippery but moving as well with tourists standing on them being distracted from how to properly smile into their smartphone. What could happen?
We traveled further the south coast and one evening, we got our top shot. Every once in a while you encounter a marvelous view like this, where the golden sunlight and the dark clouds play together, illuminating a fascinating landscape.
Being close to the end of our vacation, we did not have the opportunity any more to follow this road into sunset. Some other time.
An oystercatcher! Those birds truly mean a lot to us and we learned that their specific whistle can be very different from one area to another. The ones we like most definitely life on the Faroe Islands, but all of them are a welcome sight.
This one was very lucky and caught a worm. Even pretty late in the day, certainly that was not the early bird.
Down in the south-eastern corner of Iceland, you slowly get out of reach of civilization again.
Close to the end of the trip, there is still no looking back. Only fond memories and planning for the next one.