Caught in a snowstorm
Stykkisholmur, Nov 17th, 7:30am. It is as dark as pitch outside and the hotel is still asleep.
Well there are actually not so many tourists in this little town. The Snæfellsnes peninsula is indeed falling under the radar of the major tour operators (i.e. outside the Golden Circle). Whilst checking out, I’m asking the night concierge about the conditions on the roads. Apparently it is still really windy out there. Nevertheless, the road should be alright, appart from a small pass, which is quite exposed. But well as a good Swiss I should be accustomed to snowy roads. And since I have studded-tires on the car I’m not expecting any big struggle!
Tell me about it! It’s hell outside. The wind is so strong that I have to offset it with haul on the wheel. And on top of that, the wind blows all the snow towards the car. So I can barely see the hood of the car.
Anyway, I keep driving to escape this mess and fortunately, as soon as I reach the other side, it became quiet(er), the mountain chain protecting us from the wind.
I check on the map and it should take me 4 to 5 hours to get to Vik. But on the way, I want to stop by this famous old US Navy plane wreck located on Sólheimasandur black sand beach. I know it’s a bit tricky to find as you cannot drive to the wreck in winter. Basically you need to leave the car on the main road and walk all the way down to the beach. But I looked up on the web and I think it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Well it took me some time but as I was driving along on the main road, I spotted a few cars parked on a small backfill ground. It must be here.
According to the website, it is a roughly 3km/30min walk. And with the offshore wind, it shouldn’t take more than 20 min right? Well on my way to the beach, it’s totally ok. As you can see on the pic, there are small posts every 50m marking the pathway.
I’m walking fast though. It’s already 1 on the dot and I don’t want to miss out the good light. But still, I have the feeling that this walk is interminable. It’s flat and the landscape spreads across the horizon (cf. topography of the region). Anyway, after this walk that lasted for ages, I finally sight the wreck on the beach below.
And nice, there are already 20 persons lining up to climb on the cabin and to take the usual “I’m the king of the world” shot. I think I’ll have to lower my expectations regarding the quality of my snap-shots. Nonetheless, I stick around for another 30min and find good window without too many people every now and again.
But looking back towards the car, I see some menacing clouds in the distance. I should hurry up and get back asap, even though the weather on the beach is still nice (light breeze and sunny).
I pack my camera in my bag and set out on my way. But after 200m, a fierce wind starts to blow. I can barely stand and struggle for each step. And after 2-3 min, I’m alone in the middle of a snow/wind storm.
The small group that was walking behind when I left the beach is out of sight. And I can’t look up as I’m getting hit in the face by the snow. For every step forward, I have the feeling I make 2 steps back. And being a wise man, I had the intelligence to leave the survival blanket and my proper snow gloves in the car. So there is no option. I have to make it out. Follows a battle to get out of this mess. On the way, I bumped into 2 Chinese girls totally lost in the middle of nowhere. So I decide to drag them out. They will hold on to my belt and follow my steps. Howbeit it takes forever. We glimpse the mountain chain in the distance, towards which we have to walk but since there is no mark on the pathway, it’s impossible to tell how far from the parking we are. But after roughly 50-60 minutes, we finally sight the car.
I leave my newly met Chinese friends on the parking after making sure they are alright, jump in the car and open a beer can. It takes me some time to regain my senses. Was I on the edge? Well probably not totally. But if it would have lasted for another 1-2 hours, I would have reached my limits I guess. And with the snow, it was getting harder and harder to spot the small posts along the pathway. And then it would have been critical. I mean when you have no landmarks, it makes it slightly harder to find your way.
Epic but lesson learned! Survival gear and compass will stick to me from now on 😉
Here another few snapshots of the area. Click to enlarge and stay tuned for next episode!