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Kjolur (Iceland)

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The second largest road in Highlands of Iceland.

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      11.05.2009 11:37
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      4WD and large ground clearance is necessary

      The Kjolur is a highland road in Iceland which goes from just after the hamlet of Varmalid some kilometres west of Akureyri to The Golden Circle close to Reykjavik. Although it is passable without a 4WD, it would have been ny on impossible when we went despite it being August.

      Puddles were so huge on the road that anything less than a tank struggled to plough through them. Rental cars don't allow you to take them offroad in Iceland and as we didn't have our own car with us (what am I talking about.. I can't even drive yet!), the amount of traffic looked extremely minimal and to ensure at least one overland journey during our visit - we opted for the easiest option albeit not a cheap one: the bus.

      The last bus of the year in fact, just about all Icelanders have cars and there isn't really a proper public bus service. Just a bus company that works for two or three months during the summer connecting various sightseeing destinations. By the end of August, the majority of them have either ended or are about to end. We boarded the early morning bus from Akureyri and there was never more than about 8 people on the bus the whole way. The bus itself was an attraction with humongous ground clearance and the most enormous wheels that would definitely make the Mesopotamian who invented the wheel proud.

      Initially on the ring road, I grew a sense of curiosity when we entered the Kjolur, crossing over the salmon filled Blanda river we started to climb before reaching a high plain with two glaciers on either side (an invisible distance away though) initially a bit of a revelation - the novelty soon wore off and it all began to look the same. The bus stopped at Hveravellir, a hostel hut with nearby natural hot springs, the weather was torrid, cloudy and grey with cold rain lashing down.

      After that it was back on the road again, the windows became steamed up and the terrain monotonous - a burst of excitement occurred only when we drove through a large puddle! To the western side of the Kjolur, you can see collections of stones used to mark the old route through this desert of tundra - this path is known as the Kjalvegur.

      There is a brief spell of interest as a nice little mountain range appears but apart from that the terrain is very flat and stone-filled like a dusty African marketplace when it is closed! At the end of the road a bit of amusement may derive from witnessing tourists attempting to start the road in ridiculously small cars and being told to turn around by the bus driver and the finally you hit tarmac and The Golden Ring. The crossing takes about 5 hours, slightly longer with the bus as it stops at Hveravellir for about an hour.

      At 15,000kr - the bus isn't cheap, the overland experience is not as impressive as you'd imagine, if you are on a budget - give it a miss and visit The Golden Circle from the southern side of the country. If you have a thirst to see what the highlands of Iceland look like that can't be quenched then go ahead but be warned - there's not a lot of variation in scenery at all!

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