Tom paddling a Pyranha Mountain Bat on the Jokulsá á Brü

Back on the Jokulsá á Brü

Awoke with the alarm this morning at 07:52. Andy and Tom stayed in bed for another hour allowing me to do a bit reading and a relaxed breakfast. It is nice and sunny again this morning and we set off down the road to Merki to paddle a section of the Jokulsá á Brü. We are not paddling all the river, and are missing out Poo Canyon, and not going as far down stream as Bad News III.

Tom paddling a Pyranha Mountain Bat on the Jokulsá á Brü

The rapids still look challenging, and the river really is pumping. I set off to run the shuttle, it is 11 miles, 8 of which are on Route 1. I figured it was not worth running back up so I set off at a brisk pace, whipping on my Buffalo Mountain Shirt whenever a vehicle came past. No-one stopped with my shirt on, so I tried with the Buffalo off and the first vehicle stopped. After a bit of re-packing I can get in the back. The kind people to give me a lift are German and Austrian and were pleased to hear I have visited Landeck in Austria. They thought I was a bit mad to be paddling a kayak down the Jokulsá á Brü. They stopped at the garage to fill up with fuel, and offer me a beer. This is the first beer I have had in weeks, so how can I refuse? A can of Heineken reached all the parts. They also started producing lots of food, saying that they had brought too much with them. They were also highly amused that I did not smoke until they twigged I was a sportsman. They offer to drive me right up to the put-in, some way out of their way. I get given a plastic bag full of food and pack it in my boat for later.

There is a cradle across the river at Merki, and we have a quick go on it before we set off down the river. I feel the effects of the beer as we launch our boats. Just as we get on a couple of Germans see us and stop for a chat. They had a particularly beaten up car, but took our address and promised to send us some photos. Eventually extracted ourselves from the conversation and had our photos taken as we got on.

The river really is thundering and gives a sensation of power. The first few rapids were simple enough, but soon enough we get out to inspect a harder section. I ran it first and got back looped near the start of the rapid. Took a few attempts to roll, but I am determined to keep my record of no swims from a single kayak since 1984 intact. This is not a river to swim on. Tom ran it perfectly, and Andy walked. Soon enough, Andy calls it a day and aborts. He got off the river and hitched down to the Landrover, getting a lift in a coach full of young women.

Tom and I carry on and arrive at the large rapid at the junction of Route 1. We inspect and pick a line. Nervously, we got back into our boats, and I have that sick feeling in my stomach. We hit the rapid, and although it is massive and scary, there are no real problems and we get safely to the bottom. The river has not changed very much in 2 years, it is still really big, some of the waves are massive, 10ft or so. There are plenty of holes to get caught in and massive boils to be careful of.

Rob standing next to the top of Dettifoss, Jökulsá á Fjöllum

The river goes through a rocky trench, and I get forced into a squirt manoeuvre in my Pyranha Master. You know the river is big when that can happen, the Master is not exactly a low volume boat.

At the egress, we meet two chaps who are measuring the flow rate of the river. They estimate it is about 450 cumecs. I think the level is a bit up on the level we paddled in 1989. We leave and stop at the last garage before the Fjollum, the same one I stopped at earlier in the day with my lift. You have to beep your horn to get the attention of the attendant, who awakes a few minutes later and serves you. He does not have enough change for a 5000kr note, but after a bit of rummaging about the dashboard, we find enough 1000kr notes to pay.

We head off to paddle the lower section of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum and turn right off Route 1 down at track that warns of bumps in the road for 43km. We take a detour to look at Dettifoss and the banks are full of glum looking tourists.

We are now camped at the same spot we used in 1989 with the view of paddling the Jökulsá á Fjöllum in the morning. Dinner tonight was a strange boil-in-the-bag meal that the germans had give us. Made a nice change from beans.