E yjafjallajökull is one of those Icelandic tongue twisters, his Debate 2010 made news anchors around the world desperate. At that time, the volcano temporarily paralyzed European air traffic with its kilometer-high ash cloud. Since then it has become quiet about 'Efi', as the Americans call him for the sake of simplicity. But you never know whether it will stay that way during our tour here.
The eruption not only changed the landscape, but also Iceland itself. After the ash cloud had cleared, tourism was booming. This can even be felt here in the middle of nowhere at the foot of the volcano, because we are not alone for long. A huge Ford F-250 is parked next to our Navara. Its balloon tires extend to the bonnet of the Nissan, and so it literally puts the 5.30-meter-long pickup in the shade.
Tour guide Ragnar climbs out, with a British family in tow. He says that 30 years ago a huge glacier tongue protruded down here on the north side of “Efi”. Global warming melted the ice into a giant lake in decades, until the eruption finally caused the water to drain away in a tidal wave. We park on the finely ground, night-black gravel of the lake bed, talk shop about the chassis modifications on his Ford, which amount to a total conversion, and then say goodbye with a cool “bless”.
It doesn't work without off-road talent
You don't necessarily need a monster truck like the one from Ragnar, but you won't get very far in Iceland without off-road talent. With its sturdy ladder frame, switchable all-wheel drive including rear axle differential lock and around 20 cm ground clearance as well as three times as much fording depth, the Navara offers far more than the bare minimum - and that has not changed during the facelift.
With an off-road reduction gear and 450 Nm Torque, it climbs over the rocky ground without any problems, twisting itself strong enough with coil springs that at least three wheels are always in contact with the ground to provide propulsion. The power comes unchanged from a 2.3-liter turbodiesel with 190 hp, which thanks to the SCR filter is now almost as clean as the air here in the north.
Cold, clear glacier water makes its way through a huge ice tunnel down the mountain, grows quickly into a torrent and constantly changes its course. It carries volcanic rocks of all sizes with it, which is why it is important to navigate the glacial rivers with caution. Shallows are not recognizable, the risk of the ground building up on one side and the Nissan rolling sideways becomes apparent as we pass the gorge, at the end of which a rental SUV is upside down in the river bed.
Was the driver a cocky “Game of Thrones” fan who really wanted to see the location where an episode of the fantasy series was made? We don't know, but the warning has arrived. Instead of the direct route, we are looking for a flatter point further upstream to cross, but always stay on the path. Cross-country off-roading is strictly prohibited here - anyone caught pays heavy fines. Some say so that the elves who live here are not disturbed, but in fact the barren vegetation is so sensitive that the tire tracks on the often mossy surface remain visible for a long time.
In any case, there is no reason for the passability instructions Leaving paths. They always lead through almost deserted, untouched nature, which now awakens in countless shades of green in summer. I pitch my tent on a small campsite, because wild camping is not allowed either. I rent a mountain bike and now explore the area with muscle power.
The valley is one of the few almost windless places on the island. It goes past countless waterfalls that seem to arise in the middle of the mountain and plunge from stone to stone, sometimes roaring, sometimes playfully. And yet the wilderness looks high without itTowering vegetation is extremely reduced.
It is said that in Iceland you can experience all four seasons in one day. Fortunately, I was spared this experience on my short trip. Today the sun shines all day: 24 hours. So close to the Arctic Circle, the fireball only tries to sink shortly before midnight, disappears briefly behind the glacier, glowing red, only to rise again a few moments later in the same place. An incredibly beautiful sight that I pay for with a sleepless “night”. If you are used to sleeping in the dark, you either have to fall back on unclassical night glasses or draw the curtains particularly well. The former is not my thing, and the latter is going to be difficult today, because the tarpaulin seems to let in more light than it is blocking.
Golden Circle: Iceland in one day
The next morning the alarm goes off. App already at five o'clock. The Navara makes its way over the Mountain Road, which doesn't really deserve the last part of its name - Road. The roughly graveled piste is repeatedly interrupted by streams and scree fields, and is only passable in snow and ice at your own risk.
Then we meet Route 1, a more than 1,300 kilometers long main road that connects the island circled. If you want to see as much as possible in a short time, you can follow it a little way on the “Golden Circle”, marvel at hot springs, bubbling geysers, thundering waterfalls and even marvel at the northern lights in the winter months. However, you share this nature experience with many other tourists who travel here by bus.
I don't feel like doing that, I prefer to turn onto a smaller coastal road that is significantly emptier than 1. The Navara glides relaxed at 90 km /h. Thanks to the coil springs all around, the Nissan feels less like a pickup and more like an SUV on the asphalt road, which is often dead straight for miles, through cooled lava fields. Every few kilometers, smaller natural wonders invite you to linger. On the one hand there are sulfur fields that paint the surrounding rocks in rainbow colors, then there are steaming springs that can either be seen miles in advance or are used by the Icelanders - hidden under unadorned industrial buildings - to generate electricity and heat.
Black sand in front of a white volcano
The next branch leads directly to the sea. Stop, let the air out of the tires until the pressure gauge shows only one bar and part of the flank increases the tread. Actually, there is now a kilometer-long deep black sandy beach in front of me, but you can hardly see anything of it. The strong wind rages around the pickup truck, swirling up the water and sand like fog and limiting the visibility to a few meters - a ghostly scenario. The only orientation option: the navigation system.
Its monitor is now not only slightly larger at eight inches, it also has a higher resolution and integrates the Internet and smartphones. In this way we find our way across the wide beach to the water. Then the wind dies as suddenly as it came and the view clears up. With over 80 things we chase along the beach, cutting the surf so that the salt water splatters. A lot of fun, as you can only experience it with such an off-road vehicle.
Suddenly a shipwreck protrudes from the ground like a dinosaur skeleton. An old Viking ship that dates back to the time the island was discovered in the ninth century? Hardly likely. Only now do I notice the volcanic islands that loom threateningly out of the sea a few kilometers from the coast. Behind me, the volcano 'Efi' sleeps under its snow-covered dome, an incredible sight.