mánudagur, janúar 16, 2006

adventures in the snow

Iceland has been living up to its name this past week, with near-hourly snow squalls intermixed with occasional periods of lucidity and Arctic sun. Normally this snow would melt away the next day with the next rain shower, but it's been sticking around and accumulating, and Reykjavík is as snow-covered as I have seen it in my 16 months here.

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the snow and clear air and go for a hike. At the edge of Reykjavík lies a vast lava plain punctuated by scrubby pines, lava towers, and the city reservoir. At the back of it is a range of not-insubstantial mountains. It's called Heiðmörk, and yesterday was packed (in a relative sense) with SUVs: locals were out in force riding horses, cross-country skiing, and hiking in the vast nature preserve. And also driving. We drove in the entrance on the Route 1 end of the operation and decided to drive through to the Garðabær side and hike over there, with a little 4-wheeling in between.

Well, 4-wheeling it was. In a country that doesn't even believe in plowing city streets and parking lots, plowing the one road in the nature preserve was out of the question. We were most of the time following a single-car snow track through a foot or more of snow. Passing oncoming jeeps could be precarious and necessitated slowing to a crawl. At one point, idiot driver #1 (someone tourist-looking who had stopped her car in the middle of the road) almost slid sideways into us as she passed. But she paled in comparison to the idiocy of native-look idiot driver #2. As we came within car-lengths of the top of a tall, steep hill, this idiot Icelander decided not to wait at the top for us. He started straight down the hill at us, I pulled out of the way, and then could not get going up the hill again. So we reversed to the bottom and started all over again. This time the kindly gentleman driver at the top waited. It got the blood going.

Through all this Rz the nearly 10-year-old RAV4 was a champion. The super-low first gear is just the thing to hold the car back on a snowy hill-descent, and the 4-wheel-drive kept us rolling where lesser vehicles would have easily bogged down. But it was nice to finally get to the other end of the park and stop driving for a while.

We left the car at the side of the road and hiked up a fairly steep service road between snow-covered pine trees. It was an Ansel Adams winter landscape, like walking in a black and white photograph. Tree boughs, lava, and distant mountainsides were monochromatic, making even our pasty winter skin look tropical. At the top of the hill we could see out to the ocean, over the towns of Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, across the end of Seltjarnarnes, and to the vast walls of Akrafjall and Esja. Tiny Icelandic domestic flights landed in the distance, and the snow cover all around left us in silence.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...



Skrifa ummæli

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