Saturday, 3 May 2014

Iceland 12: Dettifoss

After leaving Myvatn the landscape was constantly changing, but was pretty flat and featureless for the first hour or so.  There were two routes to Dettifoss: West via a tarmac road, or East via a gravel road.  We decided on the gravel road, as we hoped there'd be fewer coaches that way (which turned out to be true).  The road was probably the worst we'd driven on in Iceland, in that it was heavily ridged and strewn with rocks of varying sizes.  Our maximum speed was barely 50km/h, and much of the time we were going less than 30km/h.  The 27km journey took almost an hour, but it was worth the effort as the waterfall was magnificent.  Inevitably there were Germans there, but also a lot of Eastern Europeans, covered in tattoos and smoking merrily to themselves.  

The light was incredibly bright and contrasty.  Combined with the sheer number of people milling around, this made photography somewhat challenging.  Dettifoss is also an enormous waterfall, as can be seen in some of the pictures below with their ant-like people on the far side of the canyon.

Since it was difficult to capture the waterfall as a whole, I decided to concentrate on the flowers and the many specimens of Homo photographicus (germanicus) which were in evidence.

A view of the canyon looking downstream, hopefully demonstrating that this is a truly amazing location.  I bet it looks fabulous in the Winter...

The return journey back to the main road was significantly quicker, you'll be pleased to hear - partly because it was downhill, but mainly because the opposite side of the road didn't appear to be as badly ridged.

Because of the time spent visiting the waterfall, and the distance we still had left to cover, we decided to drive directly to our Egilsstadir: a "new town" built in an attempt to inject life into the economy of North East Iceland, and our final destination for the day.  The terrain was like something from Mars, with rocks and boulders strewn over a sea of featureless dry sand.  Virtually no vegetation for miles and miles, and it was no surprise to find that this area is effectively a desert, being in the rain shadow of the main Iceland glacier, Vatnajokull.  We met several people cycling across this landscape, and one wonders what would happen if the weather turned bad or they got a puncture.  As it happens the weather was superb: blue sky, sunshine, and around 22 degrees.  At one point on the journey the car registered 24 degrees!  Eventually we saw some relatively new volcanic hills, and the road then veered off to the East and over a ridge.  On the other side everything was different: for a start the ground was green not brown, and we soon encountered waterfalls.  We dropped down through an amazing valley where a river had cut a deep gorge, and were soon able to see Egilsstadir in the distance.  A long and tiring drive - especially the gravel road to and from the waterfall - but it was great to arrive at our destination.

There was nothing much to Egilsstadir - hence the lack of pictures - so we decided to spend the following day going to Seydisfjordur on the East coast (the next thrilling installment).