The Iceland Chronicles: The blizzard

Working title: Between “I start drinking” and “Shit, I must drive”

28. February 2019

The weather on Iceland is like a box of chocolates, you never know what’s coming. Really not. In front of you you have the most beautiful weather, but in the rear view mirror the world ends. It becomes more unpleasant when the situation turns. If you look into the rearview mirror and the sun dazzles you, but all you see in front of you is a big grey wall that turns out to be a snowstorm….

If you want to know what I did in the last part, here it goes to the trolls.

Disclaimer1: The whole thing was financed by myself. I didn’t receive any material or financial consideration from anyone for a link, a mention or anything else. And nevertheless: ADVERTISEMENT: for a linked one, for my sled, the cute dog and Mrs. Holle.

When the world was still fine and I had time and courage to take pictures.

And there was snow and there was snow and there was snow and it never stopped snowing. From that ride I still had something the whole evening. On the way, away from the west of the island and my wooden tent in Borgarnes up north towards Bolstadharhlidh (1 ½ hours before Akureyri) I already met some cars, whose grill was completely covered in ice. Their license plates were covered by a white lump of ice and they looked happy that they finally reached the grey soup again. Grey, but dry. “Can’t be that bad!” The first snowflakes were falling. “Come on, you have a 4×4.” A few more snowflakes fell. “Well, I’ve got a 4×4.”

Disclaimer2: I drove with summer tyres on snow. (It was three flakes and I would never do it again. It sucked.) I went through aquaplaning, thickest fog that just let me see my engine bonnet, I drove in all kind of weather and I would call myself a safe driver that nothing can knock over. Until I got into this (probably) small snowstorm in Iceland.

The Snowstorm

It was snowing a little. I drove past two young ladies in a VW Golf who were standing on the side of the road and were not sure if they should go any further. The next accommodation was booked: “I’d have to get through.” All accommodations were booked and the miles had to be made. “I have to get through.” As usual. “Eyes closed and through.” And then the snow came and the sky turned black. Not only a little snow fell, but snow that didn’t let me see three meters. Snow that turned the road into a slippery slope in no time and snow that blew in gusts around your ears. Or the side mirrors. At the latest, after the first snow plough shoveled me a good load of the white mush plus some stones (hello rockfall) on the windshield, I could no longer deny that there was panic spreading. And suddenly you’re a novice driver again, you’re grabbing the steering wheel, you’re getting tunnel vision and sweaty outbursts, similar to those when the driving examiner let you turn left at this terribly large intersection, without a left-turn traffic light. The radio was also just hissing. Nothing new. White noise is supposed to promote concentration. You have only seen stopping bays when you drove past them. If at all. The 200 km from my wooden tent to the next accommodation took a good 4 hours. The kilometers through the snow I drove with a fast 30km/h – if at all – and a terribly bad feeling towards the other drivers in the queue behind me. But: “If I slide down the cliffs* and end up in a big raging river, they can save me directly”. At least this is what I thought. And then it came again, the snow plough. And from the three meters vision, all those few seconds became pure flying blind. “No hectic movements and just don’t brake hard.” And always in the hope that there wouldn’t be a sudden turn, that cars wouldn’t suddenly open up in front of me and that the sled wouldn’t slip off the road while stopping. Every now and then the snow became less, my heart lighter, until I had to go around the next bend, up or down a hill and Mrs. Holle had shaken her pillows properly again. “If the bus came from the direction, then it can’t be that bad.” Haha. Luckily I read only later that in such weather a bus crashed just before.

Roads in Iceland

The roads on Iceland usually have no crash barriers. Except the roads around Reykjavik, where there is a lot of traffic, and in the south, when the Ring Road (1) runs along the sea or when you pass gorges. Normally the roads and moguls are marked by yellow boulders. These were also my only hints that I am still on the road and not cross road. I could also orient myself at them whether I did not drive accidentally on the lane of the oncoming cars and at them I could at least make the road guidance something from them. Yes, you really didn’t see where you came from.

But you had all-wheel drive, didn’t you? Pff, at least my 4×4 was powerless in this weather. The small sleigh slid happily from side to side. I wonder what kind of weather Suzuki had in mind for this car (Jimny). Three snowflakes in the city? (Ok, maybe I just can’t drive a car in this weather.)

Three curves later the snow suddenly stopped, the first sunbeams made their way through the thick grey clouds and blue holes in the sky became visible. And with the sun came the headache. The headaches, where it is best if you lock yourself in a soundproof dark room. Great. Fortunately it was not far to the accommodation. One hour.

*When following the route in Google Maps it turned out that the cliff was no more than a ditch and probably not as much would have happened to me as I spun together in my head.

Guesthouse Review: Bólstaðarhlíð - Guest House

The accommodation is a separate apartment in the house of the hosts. There are no other direct neighbours, except the barn and a small church. Everything smells new. You get into the apartment through a separate entrance; living room, fully equipped kitchen and 3 rooms with bathrooms. Everything new, everything clean, everything quite comfortable. My highlight? The dog and the cat sneaking around the house. All the animals that ran into me in Iceland were all friendly and open-minded and trustful. You don’t know that from the spoiled brats in the city. The dog listened to the word or the whistle, ran behind the tractor over the muddy meadows, smelled and looked like a sheepfold and if the dog had been a bit cleaner, I would have packed it up and taken it with me.
If you plan to drive up the 76 towards Hofsós, then the accommodation is great. Who plans to spend a day in Akureyri should skip the accommodation and drive the 1 ½ hours directly to Akureyri. Or at least to Varmahlíð.

Summary

  • Position: 5/5
  • Cost/benefit: 3/5
  • Equipment: 5/5
  • Cleanliness: 5/5
  • Other: 4/5
  • Total: 22/25
  • Ø: 4,4

Driving in Iceland

In the last post I wrote something about how I planned my route. That I only wanted to drive about 250km per day if possible. The thing is, as impressive as the landscape may be at the beginning, it repeats itself. A 11/10 enthusiasm turns into a 9,5/10 and at some point the drive is only exhausting because you don’t look out of the window because you usually have seen a volcano somewhere before or a fjord, the Iceland ponies or some cliffs. The fact that I “only” drove about 250km each time only stopped me in the north, south and towards the end, because I would have wanted to stay longer at some corners and could have saved me some corners well and with pleasure, because they were simply a waste of time. Getting somewhere to stay, with no big houses or sights and the certainty that you have to drive a few hours in the morning to the next civilization is crap. In my case it would have been better if I had skip the safety stops. Next time…

Useful apps and websites for weather and safety when travelling in Iceland

The weather plays an important role in Iceland. It should be clear to everyone by now. The topic will also be in the next posts because I wasn’t prepared for it to knock me out in the truest sense of the word. I am a big city girl. The only thing I know about nature is the Sauerland and maybe the north of Mallorca and you can’t compare that with the untouched, wild and unconstrained nature of Iceland. If you are unlucky, you might get every kind of weather. But there are little helpers who at least prepare you for what is to come.

112 Iceland App

Which I also didn’t know before Iceland that 112 is a European emergency number. In whole Europe and some neighbouring countries like Switzerland or Andorra the number belongs to the emergency call system. Iceland has made an app out of it. The app is available for Android, Windows and iPhone. If something happens you only have to press the red button and the emergency call centre gets your location directly on the screen. It should also work if you have poor to almost no signal. Of which there are some areas in Iceland.
But if you “only” travel in areas where something could happen, then you can check in with your location beforehand and only in case that something happens they know that they have to search for you, or they know that there are people roaming around.

Weather: vedur.is

The weathermen are very good at the weather forecasts for Iceland. Not infrequently I have been able to use the predicted sunshine hours / no rain hours to go somewhere again. Also you should not ignore the weather warnings. They are not there for nothing.

Road conditions: road.is

One of my favourite sites. Not only is the whole Ringroad equipped with cameras so that you can see the road conditions, but there is also an overview of how the roads are passable, how many cars have driven the last 10 minutes and the last 24 hours over the section, the temperatures and the wind force and direction.

There was something else...

The headaches didn’t go away in the evening either. The growling stomach got ignored. My beeping mobile phone was being ignored as well. These cursed aurora borealis apps, which already in the last nights gave me hope in vain. Sleep was bitterly necessary. Well at least until my room neighbours were running around on the terrace in front of the rooms… My headaches had probably never disappeared so fast and I climbed out of the basement windows in my pyjamas onto the terrace at sub-zero temperatures. “Good evening.”

And the next time, we get a postcard from the devil himself…

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