Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Real Icelandic Weather

Before coming to Iceland, I read that I should be prepared to protect myself from the rains – a windjacket and rain pants were on the packing list. Until today, we had only occasional light showers. We experienced bouts of cold and some light wind, but nothing like what hit us today – almost an entire day of downpours and screeching, powerful winds.

In this kind of weather, in which you are wet and feel almost powerless against the strength of the wind, the temperature doesn’t matter too much. It’s cold no matter what.

As a result, we spent much of the day driving. At times, the wind was so strong we could barely keep our little Suzuki on the road. Our back window vibrated so hard I worried it would implode. Giant mountain ranges disappeared under a layer of fog.

We were lucky to have a clear patch for long enough to take a one hour hike in Skaftafell National Park. We ventured out for a short walk across moss covered lava blobs in a drizzle and I wished for mittens, my wool hat and long underwear when we went out on an amphibious boat to see icebergs fallen from a glacier. Most of the time we just drove, happy to have a warm vehicle to shelter us, even as we lamented the views we missed due to the obstructed scenery.

Worst off were the poor bikers. Just yesterday, I envied the cyclists I saw traveling the Ring Road. It’s a beautiful road for biking, flat, endless scenery, not too much traffic, easy to follow, plenty of space to camp. It reminded me of the wonderful experience of cycling Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan and I wished I could join them. However, today I saw the downside – bikers hiding between rocks to seek shelter from the wind, bikers pedaling slowly, or walking their bikes in winds so fierce they could barely stand up, bikers soaked to the skin, with no signs of civilization for miles and miles in either direction. For anyone thinking of biking the Ring Road, you should know that it offers great possibilities. However, when the weather gets bad, it’s really, really bad and changes occur quickly. I’d advise bikers to either have some kind of back-up plan or be prepared to endure potentially miserable conditions for many hours.

In the evening, we reached the pretty and welcoming harbor village of Djupivogur. The Framtid hotel is warm and inviting, with beautiful views of the harbor and it has a nice restaurant. There, we were told that with the exception of a break in the weather yesterday, it has been raining for the last week. Rain is forecast here for the next nine days.

Due to how quickly the weather patterns change, it’s hard to make plans based upon the weather. We had been hoping to go horseback riding tomorrow, perhaps a boat trip, perhaps some hiking. Now we’ve learned to play it by ear. At the very least, we are experiencing real, Icelandic weather.

The video is from a roadside stop. The mangled metal is a former bridge that was ruined by the weather.

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