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Fiat Panda 4x4 Expedition: climbing bear in the land of volcanoes

Team Lapp
Fiat Panda 4x4 Expedition
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Z to warm up something challenging. The west route to the Askja volcano starts at Myvatn, in English Mückensee. “The lake has its name rightly”, Lapp realizes. “There are countless tiny mosquitos. The good news: They don't sting. ”From the southern end of the lake, an unnamed slope leads to the volcano. An inconspicuous sign with the inscription 'Sudurarbottnar' marks the junction from the asphalt road. The piste is still easy for the first few kilometers. Sheep graze in the tall grass to the right and left of the track and watch the visitors from Germany in astonishment

The Fiat Panda fight their way through a hilly, practically plant-free pumice desert and over small, almost black dunes made of lava sand. Even smaller water crossings and ankle-deep sections of mud now increasingly require four-wheel drive. A big stone man shows the way. The piled stones are also supposed to protect travelers from the notoriously bad-tempered trolls.

In the Vatnajökull National Park, the slopes are really challenging. One lava field merges into the next. Wooden posts rammed into the rock every 50 to 100 meters mark the slope, which would otherwise be difficult to identify on the rock-hard ground. That means maximum concentration and hard work at the steering wheel. Volker Lapp, his son Björn and his buddy Holger Kauer now regularly take turns at the wheel of the two Fiat Pandas. “At one point we needed just under three hours for 20 kilometers,” says Lapp.

The first attempt fails

After a few kilometers, the lava ends as abruptly as it appeared. As far as the horizon, rocks seem to be scattered at random on the lava sand, close together. With a diameter of sometimes more than 30 centimeters, driving over the stones is not an option. After a few hundred meters, the Fiat Panda are stuck in a dead end. Almost within sight of the volcano, the team has to give up and return to Mückensee. Fortunately, there is at least a sheltered spot by a stream to set up camp for the night.

The second attempt the next morning, this time on the F88 slope. A handwritten sign warns that the slope is unsuitable for 'small off-road vehicles'. It startsthe F88 harmlessly. The two Fiat Pandas reach the Grafarlandaa ford. Precautionary measurements show a water depth of 70 centimeters. “It will be tight,” says Volker Lapp. It is true that the turbo diesel engine sucks in its breathing air through a snorkel at roof height. The radiator grille can also be covered with a tarpaulin to limit the pressure of water entering from the front. But from a certain water depth, the fully loaded Fiat Panda also begins to swim. And then it becomes dangerous for the crew.

On the rope through the current

Just for this case the adventurers from the Hessian town of Wächtersbach took two 70 meter long ropes with them. While Lapp carefully dives into the water with one car, the second is secured on the bank with a rope. The strategy works, even 70 centimeters of water are feasible with the Fiat Panda. However, the doors that were not additionally sealed let a few liters of water into the interior. For precisely this case, Lapp has raised the electrical system in the interior and also provided removable plugs in the vehicle floor. After a few minutes the water will drain.

After exactly 100 kilometers of slopes, the base camp at the foot of the Askja volcano is reached. In the midst of the full-blown off-road vehicle, the little Fiat Panda look almost bizarre. A council of war is held in the tipi that you have brought with you, which serves as a cooking and lounge tent. The original plan to follow the F910 further west has to be changed. This area has been closed by the authorities due to flooding.

The two Fiat Pandas are therefore making their way east. Once again, water crossings cause headaches. Streams and rivers carry an unusually large amount of water. Signs of either an impending volcanic eruption or an earthquake, locals say. 'If the water only reaches the side sill of a higher-lying off-road vehicle, the ford can be driven with the Fiat Panda without any problems,' Lapp describes. However, this does not apply to the ambulance vehicles with their balloon tires. The side skirts are usually more than a meter high.

The team is making rapid progress on the south coast of Iceland. Next up is the F26. Also known as Sprengisandur, the piste runs from south to north across the central highlands of Iceland. It runs in parts at a height of almost 1,000 meters and may only be driven on with all-wheel drive vehicles. The team approaches the center of the island through a breathtaking landscape. “In some places you have the feeling that you are driving over the moon,” Lapp describes. The track is demanding, but the two Fiat Pandas are doing well. They even conquer the notorious Tungnaá glacial river without any problems. Only the securing with the help of long ropes comes backfor use.

At wind force ten in the tent

After another stopover in Reykjahlid, the bonnets point again North. First on the 87, then on a nameless runway, the two Fiat Pandas drive through the Holasandur, literally the 'sandy hills', and then circle the Tjörnes peninsula. From here to the north there is not much left before the Arctic. The weather is correspondingly rough. Spending the night in a tent with wind force ten is no fun. “We just set up the big tipi and secured it with maybe a ton of stones,” says Lapp.

Shortly after Vopnafjödur, the two Fiat Pandas turn onto runway 917 and follow the coast eastwards. After a few kilometers the gravel road winds its way up the highest pass in Iceland, the Hellisheidi. From a height of almost 700 meters, the adventurers can enjoy the view of the coastal plain and the Atlantic Ocean with an exceptionally fantastic view.

On the other side of Hellisheidi, the 917 meets the Jökulsa, Iceland's second longest river. It is around 50 kilometers to the ring road. The Seidysfjödur ferry port is also not far away, from where you can return to Denmark and by road to Germany. “Asphalt under the wheels,” recalls Volker Lapp, “feels pretty weird after hundreds of kilometers of gravel road.”

Author: Christian Schön

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