Hellisheidarvirkjun (or Hellisheidi) heat and power plant constitutes the largest power station of Iceland and the second largest geothermal power station in the world.
Among the many interesting things we learned that 26% of Iceland’s electricity comes from geothermal. There are many other uses for the water, including home heating, showers etc,but also being distributed under the roads and sidewalks to melt the ice in the winter, before the used water is pumped back into the ground to maintain pressure of the geo-thermal sources for future use. Much of the geothermal water pumped from as deep as 2,000 metres (yes that is 2 km!) is too hot and toxic to be used in bathrooms so that water is used to heat clean surface or close-to-surface water which is safe to pump to Reykjavik for residential use.
Hellisheidi is only a couple of hours from the capital so it was an easy drive from there into Reykjavik from whence Stephen was leaving the next day on the same plane as Laura was arriving.
The opportunity for outdoor adventure is one of the big draws of Iceland, and no single outdoor adventure site is a bigger draw than Landmannlauger. Situated in the highlands a few hours drive from the south coast, its popularity is based on its combination of exotic remotess accessibility and its relative accessibility compared to many other highland destinations. There is an established 4 day trek between Landmannalauger and Thorsmork to the west and there are “buses” that make the trip to both ends of the trek on a daily basis. While it is technically located in the highlands, Landmannlauger is also not nearly as bleek as some of Iceland’s highland areas, and features a hot spring set in a landscape of lava debris in an area that also has lots of green. Most visitors are there to hike. We could not tell if there was a particular preferred direction to make the hike; some of the hundred or so people camped there when we were there had just come off the trek from Thorsmork and some were just heading off in the other direction.
The approximately 4 hour drive in from the Ring Road coming from Vatnojokull did not disappoint. It took us through a changing landscape that featured rocky outcrops and enough river crossings that I finally felt the investment in the snorkel was worth it.
We did not take enough photos of this beautiful stretch of highland road in so I, with credit where credit is due, I am going to use a video taken by another F208 user who captured the experience very nicely. It is a bit long, the latter half contains the more interesting country. Our weather was much better than depicted in this video.
At Landmannlauger itself we had to confront one of the more challenging stretches of the trip because it is preceded by a ford that can be relatively deep. Many visitors who drive themselves in prefer to avoid crossing and bypass it on foot via a footbridge. Just a hundred meters later, the campsite is the starting point for many hikes, to admire the mountains that dominate the site.
The campsite featured a large open camping area with couple of simple structures to provide showers and a covered eating areas and a more finished building contained dormitory facilities.
Upon checking in to pay for camping we were issued wrist bands just like the ones one gets at all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, but there was no free bar and indeed not very much in the way of facilities. The way it was managed reminded Stephen of refugee camps he had seen in Ethiopia; one could not use the bathrooms or enter the shower area unless you had one of those wrist bands. It was striking how all movements were controlled and managed. Icelanders are not the most welcoming of people.
And of course, Landmannlauger has a hot spring that feeds a natural pool, and we made the most of it. We were there in the early evening and there were only a few of us in there. I had a conversation with an English couple that owned horses at home and had spend some time riding the Icelandic horses. I learned that Icelandic horses are unique in many ways. The relatively small size is a feature I knew about, but apparently they also have a step that no other horses have. We spent a most pleasant quiet hour in the pool, and were pleases with our timing when later we were woken up in our tents by the crowd of late-arriving hikers that had descended s there towards midnight when it was dark.
In the morning when I climbed down from the tent Stephen was nowhere to be seen and it was an hour before he returned from a hike along the trail to Thorsmork. After a slow breakfast we hit the road, continuing along the F208 going west, with no real idea of what our destination was . That is actually a wonderful feeling, being in a strange place not sure where you are or where you are going. We had a very pleasant drive coming down from the highlands via the scenic F225, which leads into the bottom (western) end of the F26 cross highland route (the long one that Maurice and I had eschewed in favour of the shorter F 88 for our south-north highland crossing 3 weeks earlier. Shortly after Stephen and I joined it became the paved 26, which meandered through fields and sheep farms.
From the eastern Fjords Route 1 meanders along the southern coast through rather undistinctive terrain. For Stephen and I coming from the east one of the most notable features approaching Vatnajokull was a vast flat area along the coast, a creation of successive floods caused by sub-glacial volcanos that have erupted and sent acres of scree tothe coast in the rushing melt-water. The R1 route was very flat through the eastern approaches to the glacier.
The vast majority of the glacier is in the highlands extending north from the coast, but it does descend almost to the ocean at a couple of points. At Jökulsárlón there is a glacial lagoon that has been growing for a few decades as the result of glacial melting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6kuls%C3%A1rl%C3%B3n Our stop there was rendered brief by a cold, driving rainstorm but we were able to get a couple of pictures at least.
The Park’s main visitor centre and campground is at Skaftafell. TheBy the time we got there the weather was better and we were able to do a short trail up to the glacier itself.
We opted not to stay at the Skaftafell campground because it was, as we had expected, quite crowded. Instead we continued west to a private, very well-run campground. There we met a Brit in a Defender that had come down from Landmannlauger, the highland hiking area which was our next destination. He made a very enthusiastic recommendation of an F-Road going in to Landmannlauger, the F-208. He said it was bad but nothing a Defender could not handle. This proved to be one of the nicest overland routes I did in Iceland (not the nicest – that distinction belongs to the Thorsmork that I did later). Landmannlauger is the subject of the next post.
After Maurice flew out of Akureyri to return to Canada on August 10 I had a couple of days on my own before I had to be in Eglisstadir, Icelands eastern provincial centre, to pick up my friend Stephen at the airport there. Before I headed east I had some time to visit a couple of museums in Akureyri and to participate in the Dalvik fish festival (described here ).
En route I came across the access point to the F88 highland road https://www.dangerousroads.org/europe/iceland/570-askja-road-iceland.html that leads, after some 100 long and rough kilometres, to within hiking distance to the Askja volcano, one of Icelands outstanding features. I was alone so could not contemplate doing that trip even if I had had the 2 or 3 days I would have needed to do the trip. All the same I could not resist as least having a look and spent an hour or two until I was convinced that it was indeed very rough – lava field washboard/corduroy rough. But even with that, and even being alone, with no time, it was really hard to turn around. There was something about that stark landscape with the volcano visible on the horizon that was very seductive.
I got back on the Route 1 and continued my descent to Eglisstadir in the east, following quite a lovely valley lined with smalll waterfalls. Eglisstadir is a small city a few miles inland from the coast and has a small airport where I was to collect my friend Stephen early the next afternoon. I did not spend too much time there, but headed south in search of Hallormsstadur Forestry Reserve. Forests are definitely NOT a defining feature of Iceland, but this one was quite impressive. http://www.visitegilsstadir.is/en/things-to-see/hallormsstadur-national- I stayed in Atlavik campground, in a beautiful tree bound site near the shores of Lake Lagarfljot. The weather was warm, bright and beautiful…..I wish I had thought to take some pictures to prove it.
Stephen was due in early afternoon the next day and in the morning I got up early enough for a good 3 hour hike up to a viewpoint looking down on the lake before driving back up the lake to Eglisstadir. I was rather expecting Stephen to be tired because he had flown overnight from Canada before connecting to the domestic Reykjavik-Eglisstadir flight. I scouted out a hotel I could take him to and was rather looking forward to a good nap myself, but to my surprise he arrived ready to rumble. On his suggestion we drove out to Seyðisfjörður, a port located in a fjord which required driving over a high headland where fog and rain were thick.
Seyðisfjörður is where a weekly ferry lands from Denmark via the Faroe Islands and is where many Europeans with their own vehicle come in, so there were lots of Defenders and other 4x4s around that had explored Iceland and were waiting to board the ferry the next day. Seyðisfjörður is also where the dark Icelandic film ‘Trapped’ was set, and the ferry plays a central role.
Stephen and I had tea in a charming little shop before we headed back up the road to Eglisstadir. Stephen liked the idea of the forest so we went back up the lake to the Atlavik campground where I had spend the previous night. The weather was great and we enoyed a restful night getting ready for the next leg of the journey: the eastern fjords
The eighteen months of our Land Rover restoration project brought us into contact with many people who in their own way contributed to the successful outcome. We met mechanics and electricians, welders and painters, upholsterers and air conditioning specialists. After returning from our trip one of our last Saturday afternoons in Ghana before departing for Canada was spent saying thanks to many of those individuals by inviting them to Opere’s shop for pizza and beer. We set up the Defender in full campsite mode, filled the fridge with beer and soft drinks and brought some pizza from Frankies and meat pies we bought from Rejoice at the High Commission.
The turn out was not bad, if devoid of female presence. Despite that, on request we put an Ebo Taylor CD in the stereo and the boys even danced.
It was our way of saying thank you and farewell to some people who helped realize a project that was, when you think about it, rather unlikely and against the odds.
Almost two years ago when this blog was started just before we purchased the beat-up 15+ year old Land Rover Defender for restoration we contemplated some of the possible options for disposal at the end (See Posts in Planning Category). Since that time the list of possible options has grown and evolved ifrom selling in Ghana, selling in Morocco, or shipping to Canada to include shipping to South Africa to explore southern and eastern Africa and retaining in Ghana, perhaps on a shared ownership basis, for future use in the region. At the time we wound up our trip all of those options save the Morocco one were still on the table. I had obtained quotes for shipping to South Africa and expressions of interest to purchase from within Ghana, We had weighed all these for some time and each had its merits, and its downsides. If we sent it to South Africa it would open up whole new horizons in southern and eastern Africa, but would carry a large financial cost associated with shipping and storage. Selling it or retaining it in Ghana would provide an incentive to return to try to get to Mali and other West African locations like Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, etc.
With the receipt of our shipment from South Africa last week there is suddenly a lot to do. Among the things we have is an ammo box drawer system from Frontrunner Outfitters designed to fit between the wheel wells of a Defender.
We had long planned to install this, but dithered about what material to use for the “floor” that it allows one to create across/between the wheel wells. We decided this week to go back to the lumber yard at Newtown for some 1/2″ plywood that we had at first thought was too expensive at GHC 110 ($65). The largest gap is only two feet and there is little weight that will go on this so 1/2″ thick is plenty. It may be we were looking at 5/8″ before, or maybe we just negotiated better this time, but we got a 4×8 sheet for the “real” price of $40. I took a sheet and a half so we have enough to put short but usable sides in between the wheel well and the window that we can bolt things to, like the fire extinguisher. I took all these pieces to Agoma, the fellow who had carpeted the front front and redid the ceiling and had him cover the plywood in the same carpet as the rest of the vehicle. It looks very finished, this really seems to impress the Ghanaians who see the vehicle. We also had enough plywood to create a raised floor behind the front passenger seat to hold the refrigerator.
The Front Runner drawer system gets bolted to the floor below and the floor above, which in turn is bolted to the wheel wells, so it is all very solid. There is abolutely no rattle. The Frontrunner design ensures the sliders sit solid and I added more soundproofing onto the wheel wells before putting in the upper “floor” across and along the top of the wheel wells. This is a somewhat improbable feature of my design – the cardboard I used to raise the `floor` between the wheel wells above the Front Runner drawer storage system. The cardboard actually comes from a pallet` that was used by the freight forwarder to load our our shipment of overland gear from South Africa. If the 2″ thick cardboard that the shipping pallet was constructed from was strong enough for that then they should be able to handle supporting our upper floor, and they add virtually nother to our running weight. With these as a cushion between the plywood upper floor bolted to the top of the wheel wells it is quiet – at least for a Land Rover.
I just had a very productive weekend. I took the Defender up to the Land Rover farm on Saturday for Panni to put the door panels and fittings back in. Some of that I could have done myself but it would have taken me a lot longer. He also put the wheel arches back on. As a final touch, he fitted the one remaining step that I was not able to do myself because I was missing the steel stabilizing bar that runs from the step to the chassis.
He said the cost was included in the original price I paid for the body work, which makes a certain amount of sense, but for his trouble I dashed him 10 cedis ( about $6.50) for his two hours work, which he seemed to appreciate greatly. I was very impressed that he had all the pieces that he had removed when he did the orginal body work last summer,all the door liners, the inside mirror, the window surrounds and the buttons to put them back on. He even came up with a plastic surround for the rear window wiper/washer which I had forgotten I had. Much of this I had purchased months ago and completely forgotten about, but he had kept it safe. Panni and I were also able to discuss two other projects that would benefit from his skills, a fold away table to stow under the roof-tup carrier and an awning to be attached to the carrier, but these are really part of the expedition outfitting that is the next phase of the project. I am going to do a separate post on those under expedition outfitting
I was expecting to see Eric the electrician at the shop on Saturday but he was not there. I had phoned him Friday to confirm he was going to be there. Then when I was about to leave home the Defender would not start. I inspected the battery terminal, which is perennially loose and up till now if the vehicle did not start playing with it solved the problem. This time it did not. However, I noticed that the terminal was sparking when I engaged the ignition, which suggests there was a short somewhere. I thought through the various possibilities and wondered if the problem might be in one of the loose wires that are hanging in various places waiting to be rewired to interior lights, or the stereo, or to one or another accessory that may have been in at one point in the vehicles history. I started with a bundle of wires that is on the dash that I had moved around when I was cleaning the dash a few days earlier and sure enough that was the problem. I re-taped all the loose wires protruding from the dash and the battery stopped sparking and the Defender started right away. I called Eric and harangued him for leaving the wires in such a sloppy state. He said he was on the way to the shop would be there by the time I arrived.
Eric never showed up, but I was approached by his “helper”, who went around and taped up any wires that were obviously at risk. I also had him run the wire for the front and rear ceiling lights so it would be easy to get to those after the roof liner was back in. And I had him replace the battery terminal that did not fit the post properly. No more loose connection. I feel dumb for not having it fixed earlier, but there were so many other higher priorities I just never focused on it. Of course this would have been done right away months ago by a competent electrician with a service mentality. I recall Brian, my colleague who had done a Defender the year I arrived, saying he had had some trouble with electrics at Opere’s shop. And all I have had done so far is very, very basic. In the next stage we need to instal a dual battery system, numerous accessories and switches to support them. I just don’t see these guys being able to handle that.
I am somewhat sorry I left the pieces with Paani because I could have been cleaning them. This is something I prefer to do myself because it does ot require any particular skill and I can see the limits of the process. Everything is really dirty but dirt does not explain all the visual defects.
Some of the pieces are in good shape, others are worn beyond what any cleaning can hope to restore. I can’t install all the interior window surrounds until the roof liner is redone and that is the next priority.