Destroying Iceland for charity? Posted by hulda on Aug 20, 2015 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs
This week arrived with troubling news: the police were investigating two Scottish men who had apparently driven quite a long way off-road in Iceland, which is illegal. Let’s repeat, it’s illegal to drive off-road in Iceland, everywhere, no exceptions.
Why the general ban? It’s because Iceland’s highlands are moss and lichen -covered, and the damage done to the undergrowth can take up to decades or even centuries to heal. Besides the Holuhraun area is a nature park, and while I agree that Poppy Scotland is a worthwhile charity cause I would question how fair it would be that the nature of Iceland would have to pay such a heavy price for stunts like these.
However… thankfully none of the things the two adventurers claimed to have done actually happened. It turned out to be an elaborately composed story of “daring adventures and boldly-met challenges”, whereas most likely the real heroics only consisted of visiting Iceland and driving on Ring Road 1, a well-paved road (barring occasional breaks when glacier floods flush it to the sea) that goes around Iceland. The photos and videos they had taken had been staged so that they would seem to be driving off-road, and the story of how they drove on Holuhraun lava field seems to be made-up in its entirety, possibly to make their trip seem a bit more adventurous than it really was. As highlands’ representative Jóhanna Katrín Þorhallsdóttir says, the ground there is too bad for almost any vehicle and the car tracks they found were all outside of the area.
Oh well. Although the story had a bit of an embarrassing end we can at least say no harm was done, the two had a wonderful holiday in Iceland and all was for a good cause!
Related news articles
Hálendisferð ævintýramanna rannsökuð (= Highland trip of adventure-men under investigation)(link)
Ólíklegt að ekið hafi verið á Holuhrauni (= Unlikely that Holuhraun would have been driven on)(link)
Scots under investigation for criminal off-road driving turn themselves in (link)
British Holuhraun “off-roaders” innocent (link)
Talking about good causes though, when treated responsibly Icelandic nature can offer quite amazing possibilities, many that are perfectly legal and non-harmful. I’d like to specifically mention one such called (við erum með þér) Alla leið upp (= we’re with you All the Way Up) by the security company Öryggismiðstöðin. Their idea was to help disabled people climb Esjan, the beautiful mountain that rules the background of Reykjavíkians’ daily lives and is a popular climbing spot. It’s easy enough as long as you’ve got good knees, but it’s far out of reach if you need any kind of help moving around. The mountain is steep, paths are narrow and the terrain is occasionally challenging.
Öryggismiðstöðin decided to make cart/bike hybrids that people could be safely strapped on and, each manned with a small team, push them all the way up the mountain to Steinninn near the top, at around 700m. While it’s possible to climb even higher, Steinn is the point where you can say you’ve climbed Esjan and many people don’t even attempt the climb further than that. By a sheer accident I happened to climb Esjan on a day when the carts were going up and I managed to take some photos from the route above.
Two teams on their way! I took this photo between stages 4 and 5 so they’re already at least two thirds up the mountain.
The photos do no justice to how steep the mountain is, but at least taking this route they skip the really rocky area. I took another one that has a long stretch on rocks on rocks on gravel and then more rocks, which would be entirely non-passable for anything with wheels on.
Stopping to rest for a while…
I took most of these photos with a zoom, since they were actually quite far away from me. Here’s how high up the mountain they already were!
This was their goal, Steinninn, the 5th stage of the climb. Both teams reached it too as you can see in the photo album of their FB page. 🙂
Down at the root of the mountain the restaurant was already preparing for the teams’ return as I arrived. I had a head-start and although I took a longer route down I was there about ten minutes before a small group of children ran down the road leading up, shouting “They’re coming!” The hitherto quiet restaurant shot into action: a man started food on the grill and a lady turned the music on – We Are the Champions by the Queen – and it was so well-timed that the chorus came on just as the cart turned into view. I almost cried, something about it all was just so touching… maybe the big smile on the man who had probably never before imagined he’d one day sit on top of Esjan!
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