Tom, getting a cheque for £20,000,000 on his 20th birthday

Tom’s 20th Birthday

I awoke this morning to a loud flapping. After a short interval, the tent outer flew off and Tom had to leap out of bed to recover it. The wind continued throughout breakfast and started to strengthen. Andy and I present Tom with his birthday present, a cheque for £20,000,000.

Suspension Bridge of doom

We pack up at take a look at a section of the Þjórsá near Burfell. It is totally horrific from a canoeists view. Massive drops, waves stoppers and a 7m high, 100m wide fall at the end. Not for canoeing. We have heard that this waterfall used to be a place that the Icelandics would throw criminals in to the river, with the idea that the guilty would survive and then could be hung. I don’t suppose that there were many survivors.

We carry on up the river and find a nasty looking weir that is also not for canoeing. We stop for lunch by a suspension bridge, but this is no ordinary bridge. There is no road deck, just a set of rails, and cart that you can wind your vehicle across on. It looks like a lot of work, and it is not obvious how much use it gets, so we don’t actually cross. It is reminiscent of a bridge described in Desmond Bagley’s Running Blind.

Nasty foss on the Tungnaá

We inspect parts of the river looking for a spot to paddle, but there are just loads of waterfalls. One is very strange, the river appears to drop into a large crack, and you can stand on the bank, only a couple of metres away from the drop. I fail to draw a sketch for later reference. Tom is starting to get fed up with us singing “Happy Birthday” on an hourly schedule, but we carry on anyway.

We continued to drive up the Tongnaá looking at the river, and come to a hydro power station. They have a visitor centre, so Andy and I get out and take a look, leaving Tom asleep in the Landrover. We start to chat to an engineer who works at the plant, and when he finds out that we are engineers too, he offers to show us the turbine they are maintaining. We leap at the chance, and get taken right into the penstock and the turbine housing. It is a Francis turbine, and the penstock is dry and open so we can get right in, and look up at the runner from above and below. The runner is 3m diameter, and looks huge.

We leave him to his work and carry on looking for places to kayak. The upper Tungnaá is foss-tastic with far to many foss to make it worth trying to run. We eventually stop for a reading break with the hope that the wind will die down. It does not, of course, so we continue to look at the upper Tungnaá when disaster strikes. I am driving and put my foot on the break as we go down a gentle slope. My foot cruises gently to the floor with out the slightest resistance. I shout “No brakes!” as we go down the slope using just the gears to control the speed. We come to a halt at the bottom and leap out to view the damage. The rear brake pipe has failed on the off-side, and I had just been pumping hydraulic fluid onto the road. We fit the spare, re-prime the brakes and carry on.

Camp site near Landmannalguar

Struggle to find a spot to camp what with lots of wind, lots of sand and no grass, and National Park notices everywhere. There are some rivers to cross too, and Billy the Sheep, attached to the front grill of the Landrover, gets his first washing. Eventually find a spot and set up camp. Still windy, so fingers crossed it will die off tomorrow. Must have sung Happy Birthday 20 times today…. Tom has the good grace not to get annoyed.

Andy cooking birthday dinner for Tom at the camp site near Landmannalguar