After a great shower and night’s sleep in an actual bed we’re ready to hit the road again and even better our departure is at 9am. On overland trips, you have to take the luck where you can and often the smallest wins provide a weary traveller with the greatest returns. The extra hour in bed this morning was one of those wins!!
The Herðubreið Mountain, known in Iceland as the “Queen of the Icelandic Mountains” dominates the horizon as we set out for today’s adventure. It’s a flat-top or table volcano called tuya. Everyday’s a school day on this trip.
We’re off on an epic 7 hour off-road drive in the Central Highlands to the famous Askja Caldera in the Dyngjufjoll Mountains – located on the northern side of the Vatnajökull National Park. The landscape we encounter is unique in Iceland as it’s an uninhabited and almost untouched volcanic desert. The tracks are only accessible in the summer months so we are experiencing a rare opportunity. As the drive starts, we quickly realise that it’s an incredibly harsh and barren landscape where very little plant life grows. The colour palette of the landscape is limited to various shades of blacks, greys, browns, ochres and yellows. It’s a stark but beautiful unforgiving region with a lunar like feel to it. There are a number of rivers dotted across the Central Highlands and our off-road bus is able to ford them with relative ease.
Back to Askja, which is described as a 50 square kilometers subsidence cauldron formed when a lava chamber just under the surface of the earth emptied in a volcanic eruption and the roof above it collapsed. In fact, Askja consists of three interlinked cauldrons, which makes it the best subsidence cauldron example in Iceland.
We arrive at the start of the trail and reminding ourselves that it is actually 1st August we don as many layers as we can as the snow starts to fall. We trek in intermittent snow flurries for approx 4km in snow, slush and volcanic gravel to the Öskjuvatn Lake, which has an area of 11 square kms. Cloud cover masks the lake’s furthest edges as we take the time to get our breath back whilst trying to absorb its size. By all accounts, the lake is the deepest lake in Iceland at a depth of 217m. Adjacent to the lake, is the Víti volcano, which contains a 60m deep geothermal lake filled with bright blue water that has a temperature of 22 degrees C. It’s a stunning sight and we all marvel at the beauty of the blue lagoon inside a volcano alongside a lake – which on reflection is really quite bizarre.
We return to our campsite at Modrudalur and look forward to a second night sleeping in our shared dorm room. Copious amounts of red wine are consumed this evening it’s cold and I need to sleep.
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