Danger! Danger! (KH)

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Katharina Hauptmann's picture

When reading yesterday’s column by Zoë one thing stood out in particular: the Traveler’s Code.

The code states, among other things, that one shouldn’t drive off road as it’s harmful to nature and dangerous for drivers. This has never been more important as so many tourists hit the roads these days.

This week a certain story about a rental SUV being spotted on Langjökull glacier sparked outrage.

An SUV on Langjökull glacier.

An SUV on Langjökull glacier. Photos: Arngrímur Hermannsson.

Yes, you read this correctly. A foreign couple, traveling with their three young children, used their rental car, a small SUV, to make their way up onto the top of Langjökull.

It was a regular street car, not a properly-equipped vehicle as used by tour operators, such as eight-wheelers made for extreme conditions.

The passengers even got out of the car and wandered around the ice. This was all witnessed and photographed by Arngrímur Hermannsson, a glacier tour operator and director of ICE Explorer, who happened to be on the glacier at the same time.

A family of five walking around on Langjökull glacier without the proper equipment.Photo: Arngrímur Hermannsson.

“I asked [the father] what he was doing. He answered: ‘Am I maybe doing something I shouldn’t be doing?’” Arngrímur told RÚV, as reported on grapevine.is.

Arngrímur went on to explain that the service road the driver used “… is the best way to get on Langjökull glacier and as a result people try to drive up in rental cars and do it all themselves.”

“My jaw absolutely dropped when I saw that they’d driven their rental car all the way up there. That he’d managed to get that far,” he added. “We have said in the past that we need to put up signs warning people against trying to travel onto the glacier without proper equipment.”

“I told him that he was lucky to have avoided the glacial mud. A car got stuck in that the day before and that it had been raining the past 3 days, so the glacier was very slippery and dangerous. He told me he was going to hurry up and leave while he could,” Arngrímur concluded.

I find it difficult to find the right words to describe this. Stupidity, gross negligence, lack of any common sense and carelessness are some of the words that come to mind. How on Earth can two adult human beings think it’s ok to drive onto a glacier and just take a walk there with their children? Have they completely lost their minds?

Even idiots should know that glaciers are dangerous. Have people never heard of crevasses? Do they want to die? Do they want their children to die?

The answer must be: “no.” Then don’t be so damned stupid to drive onto a glacier and walk around there without a guide and proper equipment! This is so infuriating and unnecessary.

A lot of people now call for proper warning signs telling visitors not to drive onto glaciers without proper equipment. It’s crazy that we actually have to do this. Maybe we should also put up warning signs next to cliffs warning people not to drive off cliffs?

But then again, people have proven not to have any common sense sometimes. For instance, I once saw a woman in Haukadalur, the site of the famous geysers, who climbed over the rope into the fenced-off area to give her kid a better look of the erupting hot spring. Perhaps she should have stopped to think that things are fenced off for a reason?

I also saw a video making rounds on Facebook showing a car driving on Dettifossvegur, a road in Northeast Iceland where certain areas are currently closed off due to a possible volcanic eruption and glacial flood from Bárðarbunga.

When reaching the road block the car simply leaves the road, drives off-road around the blockade and then happily continues traveling on Dettifossvegur. It’s impossible to tell whether the driver was Icelandic or foreign. Either way, he was being reckless and stupid.

By the way, in Iceland off-road driving is strictly prohibited and punishable by fines or imprisonment, so just don’t do it.

Keep in mind when traveling: use your common sense and respect warning signs! I mean, what else can we do to make people not drive into a volcano or bathe in a geyser? Some people just cannot be helped.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann(at)gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.