Monday 28 July 2014
Iceland’s Wilderness Interior
Landmannalaugar and Sprengisandur.
Today we take a nine hour bus ride across the desert of the interior of Iceland. For this we have to get up at 5am, where outside the tent, sun, ducks, glistening water and an absence of flies await. The tent is packed up and we walk to the hotel for a breakfast. The bus is a high wheeled special overland bus that must be able to cope with fording deep rivers and crossing hundreds of miles of rutted and blown sand and pumice in a day.
The bus first stops at Godafoss and as we have already been there, and also as a large knot of tourists from a gathering posse of buses is also heading to the famous waterfall, we cross the footbridge away from it and have a look at the camp-site, which is small and very nice, with a great view of the waterfall.
Back on the little bus, we turn off the metalled road and begin to travel on the gravel, at first wide and grey, with tiny red habitations spotted sparsely by springs, but soon the road becomes stony and the terrain barren as we near the source of the wide river we are following.
A second waterfall stands very beautiful with tall hexagonal columns and graceful tons of water sliding and pummelling its bed of basalt. The maelstrom beneath is pale green bursting with power as if not knowing what to do with itself, spuming and foaming. The power of it would kill a person with its sheer pounding mincing force instantly.
The bus powers on, across the stony desert, the most barren place I have been. For eighty kilometres there is nothing. Nothing at all. The land is grey, flat, with a fine gravel over it, slightly dome shaped. There are no animals, no birds, no trees, no plants, no moss. The only motion is the occasional long plume of dust from a vehicle, or a Jeep crossing a stream that suddenly has great flaring wings of translucent orange as the iron-coloured water flowers up around it. By contrast, our bus goes slowly through the crossings, leaving little splash. Once the bus jolted so hard that Jim bounced up to the ceiling and hit his head.
When it got too jolty to write, I made desert drawings, letting the jarring motions direct the pencil to make spidery wispy tracings on the paper. They look like a new kind of writing.
There were a number of cyclists on the road, but the river crossings are real problem for cyclists and motorbikes. They have to wait until a vehicle comes along and gives them a lift. These two though that our bus was going to stop for them and stared hefting up the bikes ready to get them on board, but the bus just carried on past them. leaving them to wait for perhaps another 3 or 4 hours for another willing vehicle. I felt really sorry for them. On the other side of the river was lone cyclist who had made it, maye from the same party , with no option in the cold and wet, but to carry on cycling without them.