How not to make friends Off-road driving is at the top of things you should NOT do while in Iceland. Photo/Screenshot, Facebook.
All major roads in the Central Highlands are now open to traffic. However, due to the fact that summer in the Central Highlands is short, cold and wet, many roads are still extremely wet, muddy and difficult to drive. A 4x4 vehicle equipped for mountain travel is required for any travel in the highlands: A regular 4x4 passenger vehicle or SUV is usually NOT enough, as these are not suitable for crossing unbridged rivers.
Leaving a trail of destruction
But even if you are driving a fully equipped vehicle you might encounter obstacles you can't surmount - and while the major highland routes are open to traffic many smaller tracks are still impassable. The roads north of Kerlingarfjöll mountains south of Hofsjökull glacier are an example. The local newspaper Morgunblaðið reports that due to extremely wet and muddy conditions, as well as large snowbanks on the road convinced a group of travelers driving vehicles from the French travel agency Imagine 4x4 that they should tear up the vegetation and landscape around the road, rather than admit they had to revise their travel plans.
The area is closed to traffic.
After the travelers had managed to do their very best to destroy the pristine nature they had come to enjoy they called Kerlingarfjöll cabin for assistance. Páll Gíslason, who runs the cabin told Morgunblaðið that he refused to help the people get out of the mess they had gotten themselves into, instructing them to call the Police. Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland.
Fines and hatred
The Police in South Iceland spent a good part of Sunday assist the people getting the vehicles free. The travelers were then told to report to the Police station in Selfoss in South Iceland to give a statement. A representative of the Police in South Iceland told Morgunblaðið that it was crystal clear the men had broken the law and that they would be fined for their actions.
According to Morgunblaðið the fine is at least 350,000 ISK, but could be as high as 500,000 ISK (3,300-4,700 USD /2,800-4,000 EUR).
Paying the fine will not change the fact that the men have permanently damaged the area they were tearing up. The summers in the Central Highlands are short, cold and wet, which means it takes the vegetation decades to recover from destructive off-road driving. The problem is then made worse by the fact that off-road tracks can easily serve as an "invitation" to others to drive off-road. The result can easily be permanent.
Locals have reacted with rage, showering the men and the French travel agency with hatred. The reviews section of the Facebook page of Imagine 4x4 is currently full of angry reviews by Icelanders and people with ties to Iceland. The company has also gotten 48 1 star ratings in the past 12 hours.
We at Iceland Magazine hope that these "adventurers" receive the maximum fines for their destructive idiocy. We also hope that foreign travel agencies renting mountain trucks for travel in Iceland act responsibly by educating their customers that off road driving is always illegal in Iceland. We hope that the travel agency Imagine 4x4 takes special care to instruct its customers on how to properly operate the vehicles it rents and how people can use them to actually enjoy nature, rather than to actively destroy it.