Ring Road: Day 4

15-7-16

8:32 – Slept in a bit today. Only because I parked at a gas station last night and wanted to wait for it to open. Last night though… wow, such an amazing sunset [see Ring Road: Day 3 for pictures]. Today the fabulous weather is taking a break (it’s overcast and sprinkling), but we all know that could change in five minutes.

7:57 – Nothing like a little morning hike to make you hungry for breakfast! Checked out Fardagafoss for a moment – and we are back in jungle terrain! It was lovely and completely deserted. Tourists probably aren’t up yet, especially with the light rain.

12:20 – The hike is always worth it at the end. Every time I’ve thought I should turn back, I’m too tired, it’s too hard, I’m hungry, I don’t have time, and instead, I’ve kept going, I have never been disappointed. The end has always been worth it.

Hengifoss is a steep, long climb. The path is easy enough to traverse, but it’s all uphill, and the last three days of hiking are showing results in my leg muscles. By the time I reached the first fall in the two-part series, I was seriously debating turning back. But I bribed myself with the promise of food and kept going, and boy, was it worth it.

Good thing about an uphill climb is that the return is guaranteed to be easier (as long as it’s not slippery). I checked the board on the my way out [there are always info boards with maps and recommendations] – it’s 2,500 km up to Hengifoss. I just hiked 5,000 km. Yeah, I’m going to need some lunch now.

Route 931 is a gorgeous road in general. More trees than I’ve seen in the rest of Iceland, and a great view over the water in parts. There are a lot of campsites and guesthouses nestled in the woods too, so this would be a cool place to spend the night.

13:52 – Well, that was terrifying. My host has mentioned that part of the Ring Road is still gravel, but I sort of assumed she meant the little side roads to see things. Nope. There’s a large section here in the East that is straight up gravel. Why the country can’t pool its resources and pave the remainder of their main thoroughfare is beyond me.

At first (coming from the west), it wasn’t too bad – just a lot of pot holes that will catch at your wheels and make you swerve. Of course, the fact that its decided to downpour wasn’t helping. Then I realized I was ascending the mountains and the fog and clouds were growing thicker. There are yellow posts all along the road to mark it out, and at the worst, I could not see to the next one. I was vaguely aware that the ground on either side dropped into nothingness. Thankfully, I only passed one car going the other way, and they must have been able to see better than I could.

Once out of the mountains, the road gets even worse, turning to actual rocky gravel that you have to go 30 kph on. I have never been so glad to see pavement before. I pulled off at the first picnic area to recover my will to drive again. Considering it’s still pouring, a nap is sounding really good. At least there aren’t any popular sites for a while…

16:33 – Pulled over for a bit to eat, more to give myself a break from driving than because I was hungry. The rain is belligerent, and I would love to just sleep until it passes, but when the entire sky is gray like this, there’s a chance it could be days. There have been a few more sections of gravel road, though none so bad as the first. I can tell the scenery is gorgeous, which makes me a bit sad that I can’t see it better, but I can hardly be upset after so much good weather the last few days. The drive is entirely along the coast now, so on one side, there are rocky beaches and roiling ocean, and on the other, high cliffs streamed with thin waterfalls caused by melting snow.

18:24 – When you’ve been driving through rain for six hours straight with no break in the clouds, it’s hard to believe it’s ever going to stop. It did slack up a bit for a while (went from a downpour to a shower), so I convinced myself to stop and hop out for some pictures. After that I was already wet, so I didn’t mind stopping a few more times. At one point, there were hundreds and hundreds of swans flocked along the coast.

Now I’m a bit more inland. Just passed Höfn (or rather the road to it), and a very nice lady let me use the WC in her shop even though she was closed. I should be set to make it to Vik tonight, and hopefully by morning the rain will have stopped so I can explore the black sand beaches.

IMG_8685

19:35 – Oh my goodness, I had completely forgotten about Jökulsárlón! I thought I had passed it long ago in the rain, but nope! And thanks you, weather – the rain let up to a light sprinkle in time for me to see this amazing glacier lagoon. I know during the winter there is a lot more ice, but I was pretty impressed with the colors and shapes here. And it’s so cold outside! Full on winter – hard to believe I was in a tank top yesterday. Hard to believe it’s July…

20:17 – It stopped raining!

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