• yatri gulaak

Iceland: Dettifoss

Updated: Nov 25, 2020


Prologue:


One day I was watching the movie, Prometheus on my laptop. In the first few minutes, a humanoid creature falls in a torrential cascade. It was that torrential waterfall that left an indelible effect on my mind and made unannounced appearances in my dreams. The anticipation of its cold spray chilled me in the warmth of my home. The brooding dark skies of the location beckoned me to stand underneath them. The humanoid strangely left no impression. It was only hypnotized by the setting of the scene of his fictional death. For many days, I did not search for filming locations of Prometheus. It was not due to disinterest or indolence. Maybe I was too occupied elsewhere or so I don’t remember. But on one humid July afternoon in Noida, maybe a strand of mist rose somewhere from from that waterfall and was wafted across the unfinished flyovers of Noida city centre, carefully avoiding the hot steel of abandoned cranes, shaking off the dust, that rose from traffic jams below. It went unnoticed and unfelt above the street lights of packed roads, carefully avoiding spirals of sound waves from deafening horns of impatient commuters. It went on that way until it reached a house numbered 33 in C block of Sector 34. There it slowed down a little, stopped, waited a little and then surreptitiously slid underneath a door with glass panes.

With the satisfaction that it had reached the right address it entered my nostrils and left a feeling of unsatiated urge in me. Then it turned around and left whence it came.

I woke up the next morning with a befuddled memory of the fancy of previous night and searched for the waterfall. It's name was Dettifoss and it fell in a country called Iceland just outside the Arctic circle. Added it to my largely unrealized wish list of places to visit with some bitterness and much scepticism. Little did I realize at that time that I shall indeed visit it the next year during the same month.


Dettifoss

There are two approaches to Dettifoss -Eastern side and Western side. If you are driving from Egilsstaðir, Eastern side would come first. However, it is a gravel road and will pound your vehicle with dust and mud. It is a long route too. While driving on the heavily cratered road, we thought we had taken a wrong turn. We kept on craning and moving our necks on all sides to spot the elusive mist of Dettifoss. We drove for 45 minutes on route No 864 till be we reached the parking. But it seemed like an age had passed. It’s a 10 minute walk from the parking along a precipitous gorge to Dettifoss.

The leaden sky gave a melancholy hue to the landscape. The constitution of lifeless cyclopean boulders supplemented the despondency looming large over the area.

"Cyclopean boulders supplemented the despondency looming large over the area"

It was unusually cold and from a distance, we could hear the monstrous groan of Dettifoss. But first as if to avoid the direct of gaze of the waterfall, we first moved to the edge of a precipice overlooking the gorge. The walls of canyon rose prodigiously from rocky banks of grey Jökulsá river. It seemed that the hand of god had chiselled them with a single stroke. Then we gazed left from where we stood, to an obstructed view of Dettifoss. The roar got wilder with every single step we took towards it. With mounting nervosity, I walked to the edge of the fall. An even more eager tourist ahead of me mustered the courage to go to the very edge and take a picture. It was now my turn. A dozen petrified footsteps took me the brink. Swirling rapids bounced over others before them and fell over the edge with mad fury. The roar was deafening and clenched my heart in its feral grip. I could see other onlookers perched precariously below me. I am finally here, told me the pounding of my heart. A feeling of calmness gradually descended neglecting the precariousness of my situation. I now looked at the waterfall as if admiring a painting. In contrast to the feminine grace of Skogafoss, Dettifoss dropped with bestial violence. It was the only thing alive in an otherwise desolate landscape. It has retained its primordial strength despite the passage of many millennia. My being was only too glad to absorb some of its ancient power. Then again, a ripple of fear ran through my body. It warned me this is no place to be lost in poetic contemplation. I remembered the passage from “Wendigo” that “Men were sometimes stricken with a strange fever of the wilderness, when the seduction of uninhabited wastes caught them so fiercely they went, half fascinated, half deluded, to their death”. I did not want to go forth. It is not a canyon one would want to fall into. I took one last look at the foot of the waterfall. It was unadulterated madness. Then I stepped aside.

"The walls of canyon rose prodigiously from rocky banks of grey Jökulsá river"
"An even more eager tourist ahead of me mustered the courage to go to the very edge and take a picture"
Mists of Niflheim
"I could see other onlookers perched precariously below "
"The roar was deafening and clenched my heart in its feral grip"

Since Dettifoss had captured my imagination in the first place and brought us to Iceland we decided to approach it from west side also. It meant that we had to take the route No 864 again till the main road then drive on it and then take route 862. However route 862 is a tarmac road and took us only 15 minutes to reach the west bank of the falls. Here One can see the full spread of the waterfall as you face it more directly.

From you eastern side you can stand right next to the fall as there are no hand railings. You can see most of the 44 metres depth but the contour of the waterfall prevents you from seeing the 100m width.

On the western side the width of waterfall is completely visible but you cannot see the depth as it is obscured by smoky mist. If you are short on time, then we recommend that you pick the west side as the waterfall looks bigger from here.

Our goal of coming to Iceland was realized. It was as good as we had thought it would be. Every atom of my body was dancing with joy.

"Dettifoss dropped with bestial violence"
"I took one last look at the foot of the waterfall. It was unadulterated madness. Then I stepped aside. "

If you take follow the bank of the river beyond Dettifoss, you will reach the edge of another waterfall Selfoss.

If you take follow the bank of the river beyond Dettifoss, you will reach the edge of another waterfall Selfoss.

Here are my blogs on other amazing waterfalls

1) https://www.yatrigulaak.com/post/dudhsagar-falls-of-goa

2) https://www.yatrigulaak.com/post/iceland-day-2-s%C3%B3lheimasandur-and-skogafoss


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