Dettifoss: An Unsuccessful Attempt at the Perfect Picture
We’d been salivating like rabies ridden dogs for days over the thought of viewing the powerful Dettifoss, so it came as a small disappointment when the night before we planned to drive there the roads were deemed impassable. Foss is Icelandic for waterfall, so anything with the suffix ‘foss’ is without doubt worth viewing (except Selfoss), and since Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland in terms of volume of water discharged, it seemed worthy of the copious saliva discharge we were giving it. Yet it was not to be, and after driving through some very dubious ‘roads’ in Iceland that were listed as merely ‘snowy’ or ‘icy’ we accepted that when Iceland calls something impassable, it truly does mean impassable. We weren’t even truly surprised; we had spent the day beforehand inside our cabin while a blizzard raged on for what seemed like forever. We cursed the Icelandic winter, but accepted its painful verdict.
Driving past the entrance to the track leading to the waterfall a small tear formed in the corner of my eye, building up and bulging until it eventually exceeded the surface tension of my face and splashed delicately onto my lap. While initially I thought bitterly ‘at least I get to see some water falling today’, with the passing of that single tear came not more sadness, but a small spark of hope. Miraculously, it looked like the track had been recently cleared. Maybe, just maybe, getting to Dettifoss was worth a try.
Cautiously we drove along the track, our anticipation rapidly rising. We were feeling a bit like when you bake a particularly delicious smelling cake and the aroma wafts into your bedroom; pretty excited. The road, while slippery and icy, was essentially a bog standard Icelandic road and easily passable. We realised we were actually going to make it! The sky was transforming into an artists canvas, splashed chaotically with rich shades of pink and red, and I just knew I was going to capture an award-winning photograph that would make everybody on my Facebook incredibly jealous of my life. How much more perfect could things get!?
Driving along the track took longer than we had predicted, and as we drove around yet another bend we were forced to come to a stop. A quick stop. Directly in front of us was a car similar to ours sitting stationary in the middle of the track. By utilising our specialist detective skills we were able to deduce that the occupants of the Suzuki were in a spot of trouble. While part of me wanted to just turn around and pretend we hadn’t seen them, the other part…. Well the other part vaguely agreed. But it was too late. They had seen us and were trudging towards our car, away from theirs that was suspiciously mounted upon a large mound of snow. My dreams of the perfect photo were fading as fast as the sunset was.
The German couple had got their car stuck with expert precision. The chassis of the car sat planted high up on snow so that the wheels weren’t touching the ground, and they were absolutely clueless as to how to get out. With no snatch strap to pull them out, and no shovel to dig away the snow, the only option we appeared to have was to dig away the snow from beneath the car by hand. This was no easy feat: the snow was painfully compact and it was a slightly chilly -13°C outside.
It was at this precise moment that I realised I’m actually a terrible person. I’ve always been painfully aware that I’m not perfect. I sometimes drink soup from the bowl, and barely ever trim my fingernails, preferring the tried and true method of roughly biting them off, but now it had become obvious that I was evil at heart. 87.2% of my brain cells wanted to just continue our journey and leave the Germans stranded and alone. Fortunately though, my brain isn’t a democracy and the small percentage of half-decent moral brain cells won the vote, quite unlike the unfortunate political reality. We stayed. We were going to freeze together.
While congregated around the car, minds as blank as people’s faces after I attempt to tell a joke, I was overcome by a rare stroke of genius. My tripod! While Jarrad stood there sceptical, I jammed my tripod like a jackhammer in and out of the snow around the perimeter of the car. For half an hour we dug. Progress was slower than Australia’s pitiful Internet speed, but eventually the snow loosened up. Mr German jumped in the car and attempted to reverse out, but after filling the air with the rich, delightful smell of burnt clutch, Jarrad politely offered to take the helm. With his precise clutch control and three people pushing, we reversed the car out of it’s powdery grave. Our cheers could have been heard miles away, and I was embraced with such explosive passion by Mr German that I felt a strange tingle. His happiness was contagious, yet while his face beamed and he thanked us for rescuing them, I was gazing longingly at the horizon. The sunset colours were the most vibrant I’d ever experienced, and I was nowhere near the falls.
In a rare flash of sensible thinking we didn’t brave trying to pass any further by car. From where we had stopped it was about a one-kilometre walk to the falls, so we set off at a fast pace in an attempt to capture the tail end of the sunset. I can basically hear you scoffing through my computer screen right now. ‘One kilometre, get over it you lazy losers, that’s not far at all!’ While I acknowledge your opinion, I also have to tell you that it’s crap. Walking one kilometre is not as easy as it sounds when every step you take is like this:
Despite the substantially below-zero temperatures, by the time we reached the falls I was sizzling hot. Looking down I was blown away by the sheer power of the falls, but not necessarily in the positive sense. It was more of a literal ‘blown away’ by the harsh wind and freezing water being flung in my direction. Don’t get me wrong, I actually don’t mind a patch of rough weather, but I am fiercely protective of my camera, of which water droplets seemed to be aiming at with arrow precision (and which was recently soaked in seawater, but that’s another story). With a lens covered in water, night falling, a two-hour drive ahead of us, a blizzard on the horizon and a broken heart, I took the best picture I could. No awards were won.
Night fell quickly and we drove away with wet feet, damp clothing and frozen eyebrows. What was intended as a quick ‘pop in’ to see Dettifoss before continuing along the Ring Road turned out to be quite a time consuming expedition. Yet while there may have been some small issues, water wonderful day it turned out to be.
Our trip to Dettifoss was certainly worth all the foss.