My Dettifoss Ordeal...

Dettifoss Travel Blog

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On a cliff in Husavik, driving towards Dettifoss.
  • Winter Wonderland (on September): I woke up to find that it had snowed all night. Yes, I know, I'm in Iceland, I should have expected it. Well, I didn't. The books say September is still a good time to travel with "mild temperatures". But being in Northern Iceland, just a few miles away from the Arctic Circle, temperatures were below freezing.

 

  • I only had a pair of jeans, my "casual" sneakers, some light sweaters and my thank-God-I-brought-it ski jacket. I also lived most of my life in a tropical country and driving a manual 2WD car in snow is not my cup of tea. But regardless, I had to hurry up and drive to Dettifoss and after that, drive to Lake Myvatn and return to Reykjavik.
    The Arctic Ocean (and some mountains)
    A very ambitious plan indeed.

 

  • I stopped by 2 main attractions of Husavik which were closed because it was very early: Whale whatching boats and the Phallological Museum (aka Museum of the Penis), the latter being so funny and host of the largest collection of penises of mammals in jars... I'd rather save my Kronas for food :)

 

  • The road was full of snow and in the higher parts of the hills it was kind of icy. So the drive was not easy and passing by the cliffs while losing control of the car is not fun at all. I guess the astounding view from the top of the cliffs was worth it. I stopped to take pictures thinking: "I'm looking at the Arctic Ocean!!!" It was a wonderful moment; to think that I was so close to one of the poles of our planet, so far, far away from it all, so free!!! It made everything else in my life seem small, insignificant.
    Asbyrgi canyon.
    Looking to the horizon, the dark blue sea leading to the darker, colder ocean on the "top of the world" (literally), a beautiful moment of reflection ;)

 

  • Asbyrgi: I met the gas station owner and asked him how to get to Dettifoss. The man told me: "I wouldn't go if I were you". He said it had snowed a lot and the road is not safe so they usually close it when there's bad weather... WHAT??? I drove more than 7 hours to Husavik and then about an hour to get to Asbyrgi, plus had reserved the hotel, everything to see Dettifoss, "the most powerful waterfall in Europe". I insisted, I really wanted to go, so the kind man said I should go ask at the visitor center next door.
    North pole? Nope, it's "just" Iceland...
    But it was closed so I went to see Asbyrgi's main attraction, a canyon in the middle of the Asbyrgi park. It was deserted and I was making my way through the snow. It was nice, but I went back to check if they had opened. I went to the gas station again and the 2 park keepers/visitor center guys were there. They had just returned from the falls and told me there was a lot of snow and ice but "you'll be ok if you drive slow and carefully". I just pointed to my 2WD hatchback and asked if I could make it with "that". They both said I could...

 

  • So I sat in my car for one minute and thought to myself: bad roads, snow and ice, inexperienced manual driver, below freezing temperatures and icelandic wind... is it worth it? Well, I believed in God and started my journey to Dettifoss.

 

  • Dettifoss: the road to Dettifoss was unpaved: gravel and big holes everywhere, all covered with snow.
    Surrounded by snow and rocks on my way to Dettifoss
    It was beautiful!!! The only thing I could see around me was snow and black volcanic rocks. Not one living thing. I felt I was driving on the north pole! It was awesome!!! I stopped frequently to take pictures. But it was very cold and the wind didn't help. After half an hour I saw the Dettifoss sign, so I continued driving and went downhill to the parking area where there is a small bathroom for visitors, which of course, was closed. There was nobody there and everything was covered with snow, so it was hard to find the trail leading to the fall. I did find some footsteps that I could follow until some point. The scenary was prehistorical, nature at its best. Powerful brown waterfalls surrounded by giant walls of black volcanic rocks covered with white snow... Impressive!

 

  • I enjoyed walking through the snow, getting wet from the water of the falls and my feet buried in snow.
    Road to Dettifoss.
    After getting really close and taking lots of pics, I decided to go back.

 

  • The Ordeal: I tried to back up from my parking space. The wheels were spinning and I wasn't moving. Oh oh, that's gonna be a problem. I was upset, but I calmed down and continued trying and hoping and finally I could get out of the parking spot. Now I had to go uphill to get to the "main" road. I started driving carefully and on my way up, the wheels started spinning and the car started sliding backwards down the hill! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it stop, until slowly I finally got a grip of the road and stopped right before I got off the road towards the rocks. I was in shock, kind of shakey and even sweating. I started breathing to calm myself down.
    Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.
    After a while, I decided to try again so I slowly backed up and then tried again to go uphill on the icy/snowy road. This time was even worse. I almost got off the road and stopping the car was really hard. I sat in the car for a while, traumatized and wondering what to do with no one around me, my cell phone had no reception whatsoever and the closest town was about 20 miles away.

 

  • Then, an SUV with 3 german tourists approaches and stops to offer help. I was so happy/thankful to see people, especially willing to help. They said I should go back again and try once more, only that this time they would push the car in the middle of the hill. So we did it and... it didn't work. After catching their breath they offered to pull my car with their SUV, but they didn't have a rope.
    Dettifoss from distance.
    A couple of Czech tourists (Peter and girlfriend) stopped by and thought I should try to drive backwards since the traction is in the front wheels. The germans agreed it was a good plan, but I said I wasn't a good manual driver so Peter decided to try. After spinning about 180 degrees just backing up, he was shocked and got out of the car. We first thought it was a maneuver but he said it was not intentional. He tried once more and once again, the car almost got off the road towards the rocks.

 

  • We straightened the car by pushing it and decided the best thing was to wait till someone comes with a rope. I was very thankful with everyone but didn't want to ruin their vacations. So I asked the germans to leave and continue their trip, and the Czechs insisted on waiting with me until someone comes with a truck and a rope.
    Czech couple and german tourists trying to help.
    But the place was so deserted and quiet and no car could be seen in miles, so I made them leave. But of course, I asked them to send help once they got into a town/city and we exchanged cell phone numbers (no use for me since there's no signal in the mountains).

 

  • It was very cold, especially because my socks were all wet and had to take them off. I kept waiting and decided to go back to the car and try again. This time I almost made it to the top before sliding and leaving the car almost off the road. I was affraid it was gonna slide down so I got off and waited outside. Another german couple (David and girlfriend) stopped by and since they couldn't help they were gonna call AVIS and ask for help once they get reception on their phone. He wrote the number of the car and my cell phone number and promised to find help for me.
    View of the hill from inside the car.
    So I kept waiting, and waiting and waiting... All this had started before 1:00 PM. It was 4:00 PM and no hope for help or anything. It was starting to get a little darker. I got inside the car and started the heater. I was thinking I could spend the night there: I had food, chocolate truffles, water and enough gas to keep me warm for a while. But then again, I didn't know if the next day was gonna snow even worse and if help was gonna come or not.

 

  • Then, the last german tourists approached. It was an older couple so I asked if they had a rope. The man said "this is not snow, this is ice!" and he said we were both gonna fall and crash if he tried to pull with his truck. So I kept sitting, waiting and hoping someone would show up. Nobody did. On their way out, the german man knocked on my window and said "we have to start working! we need to make a new road!" He took 2 shovels from his trunk and he handed me one and we started digging the sides and throwing sand and gravel to the road.
    The last attempt had left the car at the bottom of the hill on some rocks. Icelanders at the rescue.
    After like 15 minutes we had covered most of it. Then I let him try driving through our "new road". I was so excited I couldn't believe I didn't do it before, but of course, the only shovels I had were my bare hands. So he drove my car and once again it slid downhill, lost control and got off road, stopped only by a rock. One of the wheels was just hanging. He ran out of the car all shocked cursing in german and screaming: "this is ice! I couldn't stop it!" I almost fell running towards him to see if he was ok. It looked pretty bad from up the hill so I wanted to make sure he wasn't hurt. He kept apologizing because he made things worse, but who cares about the freaking car? As long as everyone's ok it's fine with me.

 

  • The Conclusion: So Mr.
    The Icelandic rescuers.
    German guy made me take my bags and go with him to the next town. They were gonna go to Myvatn, but I wanted to go back to Asbyrgi because it was closer and if I was lucky, I could find the park keepers or the gas station man to help. So we left to Asbyrgi and got there at about 5:30 and the park keeper guys not only were there, but Avis had notified them and were ready to go help. So I thanked my last saviors and took the ride with the Icelanders. They were really nice and of course, my heroes :D So we were back in Dettifoss at 6:00 and my car was kind of stuck on the rocks. So they pulled it with a rope, and the rope broke. I was like SH****T!!! NOW WHAT???? They didn't have another rope, so they made a shorter one with the remains, and thank God they got it out of there.
    Finally out of the Dettifoss trap!!! Takk fyrir Goð!
    I thought the car was gonna be damaged but it seemed ok. Now the important part was pulling it uphill towards the main road. At first, their pick-up truck was also kind of sliding, but FINALLY, THEY DID IT!!! My car was on the main road, out of the "Dettifoss trap"!!! I was so happy I would have paid them anything! But they wouldn't accept money at all, they did it for free :) So I thanked my heroic Icelandic friends and drove back to Asbyrgi. They wanted me to drive in front of them in case anything else happened on the way back.
jennethm says:
I will look forward to reading the rest of it. ;)
Posted on: Oct 13, 2007
franciscosss says:
Thanks, although I haven't finished yet ;)
Posted on: Oct 13, 2007
jennethm says:
It was nice knowing that several obstacles went on your way and you are now here to tell the story... very nice indeed.
Posted on: Oct 13, 2007
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On a cliff in Husavik, driving tow…
On a cliff in Husavik, driving to…
The Arctic Ocean (and some mountai…
The Arctic Ocean (and some mounta…
Asbyrgi canyon.
Asbyrgi canyon.
North pole? Nope, its just Icel…
North pole? Nope, it's "just" Ice…
Surrounded by snow and rocks on my…
Surrounded by snow and rocks on m…
Road to Dettifoss.
Road to Dettifoss.
Dettifoss, the most powerful water…
Dettifoss, the most powerful wate…
Dettifoss from distance.
Dettifoss from distance.
Czech couple and german tourists t…
Czech couple and german tourists …
View of the hill from inside the c…
View of the hill from inside the …
The last attempt had left the car …
The last attempt had left the car…
The Icelandic rescuers.
The Icelandic rescuers.
Finally out of the Dettifoss trap!…
Finally out of the Dettifoss trap…
View from the cliff: Arctic Ocean …
View from the cliff: Arctic Ocean…
Snow, snow, snow.
Snow, snow, snow.
A church in Husavik.
A church in Husavik.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum…
The Icelandic Phallological Museu…
Mountains seen from Husavik.
Mountains seen from Husavik.
Arctic view.
Arctic view.
View from a hill in Husavik.
View from a hill in Husavik.
View from Asbyrgi.
View from Asbyrgi.
Me at a cliff in Husavik, driving …
Me at a cliff in Husavik, driving…
View from cliff, way to Asbyrgi/De…
View from cliff, way to Asbyrgi/D…
Getting my sneakers/socks wet unne…
Getting my sneakers/socks wet unn…
Me at Dettifoss.
Me at Dettifoss.
The first german helpers, trying t…
The first german helpers, trying …
The German couple that took me to …
The German couple that took me to…
Dettifoss
photo by: Vikram