I needed to get out of town, and I'd promised Sandra to take her out a few times in the past. She wasn't working this weekend, so it was on. We were headed to Hjálparfoss, on the approach roads to Sprengisandur, in the Þjórsá valley. We were hoping to get to Stöng, an old settlement age farm site, and Reykholt, a swimming pool, in the area as well.
Not the best weather, warm, but grey and a bit windy, sandwiched between two absolutely stellar days, but still, it wasn't raining, so you take what you get.
After the generally boring drive across the south lands, it was turn off time, onto route 32, a road I'd never been on before. New roads are always exciting. The small towns around Flúðir and surrounds seemed huddled right up against rock scarps, more sheltered, hiding from trolls and monsters, much more secretive than the wide open careless farmers along the south coast. We were in the proper country here. This is not the golden circle.
We stopped early by following an unlabelled "tourist attraction" sign. It led to a picnic table, and a short track leading up to a scarp looking over the road and Þjórsá. A classic case of icelandic tourism.
Onwards the road skirts right by Þjórsá, and under short scarps on the other side. Another wild remote area targeted by further damming. There's already three dams on the Þjórsá though, so hard to convince anyone to care.
We reach the turnoff for Reykholt. There's a swimning pool sign which is reassuring. This road was dirt and dusty, but seemed to have very recently been rolled, or something. It made for a railway track almost for the micra to roll through. Just a bit wider than the car, but nice and smooth, and only a bit loose.
Eventually we reached a fork in the road, with a sign post, but no sign. We followed our train tracks, and eventually came to a gate, with the tractor that had left the track we were following half way across a green (wet) looking field, not moving. I decided the micra did not need to visit the tractor, and maybe we should check the other fork.
This fork followed a set of giant old cairns, the old Sprengisandur? Seemed a good sign at least. The road got wider, bumpier, and dustier though, and after a short drive we reached yet another fork. Wide (four lane wide) dusty tracks left, and one lane hardpack right. The micra, feeling alone in the wilderness, chooses right. (I should really get a shovel)
Right doesn't seem to be a good choice either. This is nice and firm, but drops us out beside a river bed, facing mud, and then a road into a river. From here we can see what we can only assume is Háifoss, and it's neighbour, Granni. Looks like a good destination. I didn't even know about it before I got here.
Not really feeling like much more Dakar Rally, we head back out to the main road, maybe we'll have better luck with Stöng.
Or not. The road to Stöng is marked as impassable, and has big jeep tracks going around the sign. It looks a lot damper than the last road. Perhaps not. Oh well. Hjálparfoss is readily accessible.
And very well worth while! This is a really nice waterfall. A bit grey overhead, but the rock formations, great big spirals of columnar basalt lining the falls, along with the black, red and yellow rocks and gravel around the area are quite nice. Totally deserted of course. We're further from town than the golden circle, and there's been a lot less to see so far. This was a nice find though.
Just up the road is Þjóðeldisbærinn, a recreation of a settlement age farm. It's largely based on the excavation at Stöng, our aborted destination from eariler. It's operated by the power company, and is closed for the winter. It still being pretty early spring, at least up here in the foothills, it's still pretty brown. A pretty big place though, a lot bigger than I would have thought, but I don't know how much inside space it has.
No more planned destinations, we have a bite of lunch in the car, which Sandra has kindly brough along. I normally just get something to eat at a service station, but we don't really have any of them out here. :)
We drive up to Hrauneyjar, the last petrol before Akureyri if you continue up on Sprengisandur, just to have a look. Not much really. In fact, at this time of year, you can't even get petrol. We pass more power plant installations. Turning around, I take a detour up a rather fancy new bitumen road that's not marked on our map. It has a nice new bridge right beside a very interesting old bridge, and is completely unmarked.
After 4-5km, we reach yet another fork in the road, one marked "Staff only" and the other marked with tiny yellow and white arrows. I guess the power company has more dam plans. They certainly like building big fancy roads.
We head home via route 26, the other side of the Þjórsá, passing the turnoff to Landmannalaugar. My road handbook comes in handy here, pointing out the turnoff to reach Fossabrekkur, a lovely cascade just 300m from the end of a short 800m side road. You would never see this without exploring. Very tranquil.
Nothing else though. A small wish to have had a bigger car today, which is unusual, but the remote approachs to the highlands, very early in the season is probably not the best time to go exploring in a micra anyway :)
Not a lot of physical exercise, but a very nice day out in the country anyway.