Drive Through Iceland 7: Tough Day Ahead

In continuation of earlier blog DTI 6: Of Geysers and Waterfalls…

The second day, was expected to be the most challenging day of our trip.  We started at 7 AM, our first stop was at Haifoss Waterfall, the second highest waterfall in Europe. On the way there, to our right was the world famous Hekla Volcano mountain and ice glacier.  A site of beauty.  After a drive of about 60 kilometers we drove from the gravel road on to a highland ‘F’road. We were actually driving on lava land.  There were no mountains in sight and we wondered how there could be a waterfall in the area.

After another 8 kilometers we could hear it!  The Haifoss waterfall appeared just out of nowhere.  We were standing at the top of a mountain from where the fall begins and could see water dropping about 1300 feet down into the deep valley with roaring noise.  There was a sister fall next to it, flowing down stylishly through the mountain rocks.

We started early as it was bound to be a long day.  At 8am, there were no other guests and hence had an exclusive time at the falls.  It was biting cold and after spending about half an hour in the company of the waterfall, we moved back to the main road.

We proceeded from there to the most awaited Landmannalaugar, famous for its hot-water spring lagoon and sight of mountain peaks.  It is also a popular starting and destination point for treks to surrounding volcanic mountains.   To get there we had to drive through some adventurous stretches; going up mountains through very rough ‘F’ highland roads. I ensured that I was in a group of 1 or 2 other vehicles while driving towards Landmannalur.

The directions given on the roads were confusing.  Even the navigator could not pickup the right road.  After many misses, we finally got on to the right route.  Routes, prefixed with the letter “F” were the trickiest and most risky ones. By law, only 4-wheel-drive cars were permitted on F routes.  Most F-routes involved crossing unbridged rivers.  The drive could be cutting through bonnet-deep, fast-flowing river streams. It is, of course, as thrilling as ever!

However, if the vehicle got stuck or had a breakdown in the midst of river crossings…well the adventure would get only better!  Here are the samples from Google:

Iceland Driving8 Iceland Driving3  Iceland Driving7Iceland Driving6

But we did not face any of these.  We had a different problem altogether.

Landmannalaugar barely had any facilities. Even a quick, hot coffee was not in sight.  It was bitterly cold, and there was a strong breeze.  To top it off, there were light showers, meaning extremely cold rain drops. To enter the hot water natural spring lagoon, we had to change our clothes.  There were no enclosed areas to facilitate changing.  It had to be done in the open – men and women in the same space.

At first, we hesitated to enter the lagoon in such conditions.  But then, if others can do it, why couldn’t we?  even though the temperature was close to 0, once we entered the hot water lagoon, the experience and pleasure was beyond description.

Landmannalaugar Hot Springs

Landmannalaugar Hot Springs

After a couple of hours, as we drove away from Landmannalaugar, the weather was pretty much the same – maybe with a stronger and colder breeze.  We were afraid of being blown away with the strong wind. And right there, of course, we had a flat tyre!

The luggage from the trunk had to be dumped on the seats for if it was kept out, it’d fly away with the wind.  The gloves, ear caps, thick jacket were not good enough to protect from the cold.  I had no option but to continue as is.  It had to be done before it began to get dark as it would be extremely difficult to drive on that road after sunset.  Having emptied the trunk, and taken the car jack out, I was unable to fix the jack because half the tyre had sunk into the soft lava soil.

There was no way to lift the car to change the wheel.  The tyre change looked difficult – almost impossible.   Time to get nervous? I silently started chanting a prayer to Lord Salasar Hanumanji.  Just then, I could see a car coming from behind.  There was a Swedish family in that car.  A couple in their 60s and their young son, maybe about 25.   They got off to help me out.  They lifted the car a little.  But as I tried to set the jack, the jack itself sank in the soft lava soil under the vehicle!  Oh! A terrible mess!

My grandaughter, Nishi came out of the car and was enjoying the mess.  It was fun for her and the unfriendly weather had no effect on her.   She tried to help with moving and rearranging the accessories.  Brave, understanding and cool-tempered, she was.

Neither the Swedish family nor I, could find a solution.  Once again, I sought the help of Lord Sankat Mochan.

Just then, a mountain bus passed by.  He was on his way back after dropping his clients to Landmannalur.  He had no passengers in his bus and halted to understand our problem.  He saw the jack sunk in the soil.  He went to his bus and brought a flat wooden plank of about 2 feet by 6 inches.  He put it over the soil, placed the jack on the plank and lifted the car up.  In no time, the tyre was replaced by the stepney and we resolved the problem for the time being. In that heavy breeze, I could not even lift the flat tyre back to the trunk.  The family and the bus driver not only helped me place the tyre bag, they also put my luggage back in the trunk. Moreover, they left even before I could thank them enough.

God sent help indeed.  Thank you Hanumanji.

I wish I was stable enough to take the pictures of the car at that time!

All through the night I was stressed  about finding someone who could fix the tyre. I called a few garages from the place we stayed at. Ultimately, the rental car company found a garage in Hella, a town that was 150 kilometers away.  They agreed to fix the wheel, if I got there before next day 8.30 in the morning! There was no real choice.

To be contd…………...

Written : Badri Baldawa

Edited  : Meeta Kabra

This entry was posted in Adventure travel, Challenge, Driving and tagged , , by badri. Bookmark the permalink.

About badri

As I approached 68 (2013), my son, Anand insisted that I had proven enough in my 45-year long career and it was time I took life a little easier; enjoy traveling (that I love) and social life. Yet, I somehow wanted to contribute positively and was exploring my options. My son-in-law, Navin suggested that I should write and share my experiences, “being a self-made man, you should tell the next generation how you overcame various obstacles to reach this position, in both, business and social circles.” He pointed out that while I was sharing my experiences with family and friends, as they approached me, a blog had the potential to take your voice to many, many more. He also insisted that I start mentoring youngsters who were new in their businesses. I was convinced. I offered my services pro bono, as part of a Guidance Program. Also, I started writing on this blog, bringing out figments from my memory as experiences that might be of value to the readers here. My daughter Meeta is sweet enough to spare her time to edit what I write. As a youngster, I thought one meal a day, one set of school uniform a year, a public place to study, lack of finance and basic shelter would keep me from achieving my dreams. To compensate, I started giving 110% of what was normally expected. Yes, 110% even in bad deeds! This worked. The very limitations started inspiring me in different phases of my life – meritorious results in studies; strength to shoulder family responsibilities; satisfied employers; establishing a successful business of my own; and in my adventure trips and other travel plans. Having done what I wanted to, I agreed it was time for me to expose myself! I felt, through this blog, I could and should share my expereinces. Hopefully, readers would find some bits useful and if not, they’d enjoy reading. Look forward to interact with you. Happy Reading, Badri Baldawa

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