Finally the day came when we decided to leave the relative comfort of our campsite in Seydisfjordor and head out into the wild unknowns of ‘inland’. Well, as far as the next town and a stop in the Tourist Info and a supermarket, anyway :-)
We didn’t really have too much of a plan, as ever, other than as many of the interior roads are only open for a couple of months a year due to bad weather, and that window of opportunity may well close while we’re still here, we should get up into the highlands as a priority and do things closer to the ring road as the weather gets worse. So we headed straight west and planned on picking up the 910 and following it pretty much all the way to it's end some several hundred kilometres later, detouring here and there as the fancy took us. Once you get a bit inland, many of the road numbers are prefixed with an ‘F’, telling you that nothing less than a 4x4 should go down that road, and as a general rule hire cars are not allowed on them as their insurance won't cover them for the kinds of vehicle damage that may happen - loose rock surfaces, fording deep water etc. Naturally ‘F’ roads hold a certain kind of magnetism for Jason :-)
Ears ringing with these off road warnings, our first night saw us parked up on a gravel patch by a road sign. The map said it was a picnic spot and it was certainly scenic, but I think maybe ‘layby’ would be a fairer description of it. Still, it happily suited our purposes, was flat enough to be comfortable, traffic was pretty much non-existent and it gave us fabulous views out of the window. Blue skies and sunshine all around had been the order of the day pretty much since we arrived, despite reading dire warnings about the changeability of Icelandic weather from various sources, and the first hint of an example of this showed itself later that evening. Feet propped up while he half read a book and half watched nothing happen out the window, Jason noticed that there seemed to be some low cloud forming in the valley next to us, or maybe some mist rising. Up until that point, visibility had been good enough to clearly see the snow capped mountains on the horizon, and count maybe ten or twelve of the yellow roadside markers put in to guide you when the snow gets deep. Suddenly the markers started to disappear, getting eaten up by this cloud bank that was rolling in at an incredible pace - there was no way you’d be able to outrun it on foot. Within a few minutes we could see only maybe one or two markers, and the cloud had rolled in to wrap around us on both sides - immediately next to Moglet was clear, but step away maybe 100yards and you’ve be in a foggy mist. I know there's lots of different sorts of clouds, but I’ve never been in the centre of a cloud doughnut before... And weirdly, although at road level the cloud was very dense, you could still see the tops of the mountains in the distance, like the cloud was thick but only a very shallow layer of it.
Although we’d only ended up on what the map referred to as an ‘other’ classification of road because we saw a picnic sign the night before and thought it might be a good place to park up, while sitting looking out the window Jason watched two laden motorbikes drive past us and head off into the distance. With as good an excuse as ‘I wonder where they went?’ as our reason for not getting back on the larger ‘910’ road as originally planned, we decided to head in the same direction as the bikers and see what happened.
Despite the maps and GPS implying there’d be nothing but dirt tracks to welcome us, we were surprised to find good condition tarmac pretty much all the way. Seemed like whoever operated the dam in the area decided that a half decent road network would make access a lot easier, and so they went ahead and built several!
We never did find where the bikers ended up, and we managed to get caught in a series of roads that all appeared to dead-end on ‘Staff Only’ signs, so eventually we pretty much made our way back the way we came. But the scenery in the meantime was lovely, and half way back to the previous nights camp we decided to head south towards Snaefell, the highest mountain in the area, with a permanent snow cap and visible from miles around. It's also reputed to be the best place to spot herds of wild reindeer in the summer, so we were keeping our fingers crossed.
On the way there we also stumbled across a lovely little waterfall, which even had a fair sized lump of snow at it's base for Jason to go and stand on - I preferred to stay at the top rather than clamber down.
We also drove through an amazing array of scenery, and it was amazing too how fast things would change from one thing to another - one minute there was nothing around but a dusty, arid landscape full of volcanic rubble. Five minutes later there’d be a trickling of a little stream and then before you knew it, there was a green valley with shrubs and moss and even bits of grass poking up here and there!
Following the track all the way around the bottom of the western foothills of Snaefell, we hung a right at the junction with a small campsite/walkers hut, deciding to carry on with the wildcamping. Plus we’d also run in to a group of seven or eight 4x4’s in a group earlier in the day, all heading to the campsite, and we came out here for peace and quiet, not to be sociable, damn it!
The track very quickly deteriorated into a complete mess of potholes, rocks, gulleys, squidgy ground that looked firm until you drove on it - all the good stuff. We reached a point where the track we were on wasn’t really a track any more, it wasn’t on the maps and it wasn’t on the GPS - did that mean we’d unknowingly crossed over into the Forbidden Zone of Off-Roading, Icelandic style?? It was all a bit too much for me so we drove on until we came to the first place where it would be possible to turn Moglet around, having pulled off to one side a bit to make way for the floods of traffic that would no doubt also be wanting to travel in the same direction as us that evening. I busied myself with dinner preparations and Jason went off for a bit of a scout to see what he thought about carrying on in the morning.
When he came back and reported, we both decided that although it was clear other people had been using the route, they’d made a mess when the ground was wetter, and as we couldnt be sure we wouldn’t be being cheeky by carrying on, we decided the best thing to do would be turn around in the morning and retrace our steps. Jason was a bit disappointed, but with all the ‘No Off Roading’ signs, and the obvious damage that vehicles can do, we felt it was the right decision.