12-15 August, 2010
Bjöggi had been planning a trip to Gæsavatnaleið ever since he got his jeep, and we finally had a date, a weekend after he got back from Greenland. We started with two jeeps, full of people, but well, things happened, and we ended up with just the one jeep. And just Bjöggi, Ásta and I. Which meant Gæsavatnaleið was probably wishful thinking, as it's normally only done with two cars for safety. But we would deal with that when we got to it. Most importantly, we were taking off on a thursday for a long weekend jeep touring in the highlands! Weee. This was going to be the second good proper jeep trip in three weeks, after a couple of years spent merely probing the edges, and exploring the lowlands.
After the last trip's "excitement" with petrol we filled up the tank, and an extra 30L of jerry cans at Hrauneyjar, and headed off towards Nýidalur, to give us a good headstart for Friday. It was night time, but we saw even less of the road than normal, due to some reallllly thick fog along the F26. We ran into a cyclist around 11pm, trying to decide whether he could make it to Hrauneyjar, or whether he should just give up for the day and camp out in the damp and the fog by the road. He was not having a good day. Corrugated roads, shit weather, all the good things in life.
Despite plans of an early departure from Nýidalur, (8am or so) to beat glacial melt on the rivers across gæsavatnaleið, we had a leisurely breakfast, and didn't leave til about 11:30. Gæsavatnaleið was recommended against, as it had even higher water than normal.
From here, it was just us and the germans. We didnt' meet another icelander (or _any_ other nationality) until Askja at 9pm that night. Bjöggi got to have fun seeing how close to drowning he could get driving us across the rivers flowing out of Tungnafellsjökull, particularly in Langadrag, but the Sled performed admirably, and before long we were across the last major river for a while, and approaching the critical decision of the day, to attempt Gæsavatnaleið or not.
First, we took a detour up to see Gjallandi, a waterfall on the headwaters of Skjálfandafljót. It's quite pretty, and you have it entirely to yourselves. Dyngjujökull behind, and just barren highlands in all directions.
At the junction of Gæsavatnaleið and the "regular" Dyngjufjallaleið (F910) were more signs warning of impassably high water. Looks like we were not going Gæsavatnaleið. But, we didn't want to go the other way either. Instead, we took the unsigned fourth exit from the junction :) And headed for a quick break in Marteinsflæður, a small hot(warm) pot just up the road.
Ok, _now_ we can go back to the regular route. This is the way that Logi, Tatja and I had driven two weeks earlier, but we'd come through late in the evening, with not enough petrol to stop and enjoy things. And there's lots to enjoy. There's some truly spectacular lava here, some of the most runny liquid (pahoehoe) lava I've seen in Iceland. We stopped often, just enjoying the pretty good weather, the quiet open world of the highlands, and admiring the scenery. We also had to stop often enough for Bjöggi to lose his brand new pocket knife.
Eventually, you come out of the lava, and hit Dyngjusandur, where Gæsavatnaleið comes across beneath the glacier. This is just a great big flat expanse of black sand, with Vatnajökull rising on the south, and the mountains ringing Askja to the north. We saw a rather odd looking big red truck ahead of us here, and were trying to work out what sort of vehicle it was, before finally realising it was a firetruck! We stopped to have a chat and a better look, it was a 33 year old firetruck, converted into a camper truck, with two couples and one child along for the ride. They told us we were the first icelander's they'd met for a while. We weren't surpised. So far that day, we'd passed two other german jeeps, been passed by one, and passed two german walkers. Sure, it was a weekday, but still?
Just a straight shot from here to Askja for the night, with one small twist. We got Ásta to drive, and she LOVED it! speeding across the sand, overtaking the firetruck and hauling ass through the wilderness.
Did I mention that this was just day 1? We still had the whole weekend ahead of us yet! Follow along to tomorrow!