Trust SANJAY MADAN and TUSHAR AGARWAL, partners at Adventures Overland, to take their car where few have ventured before. They recently led a group from India to explore Iceland – driving modified trucks across the white landscape of Iceland, braving snowstorms along the way. Kunzum chatted with them about their unique experience.
What was the trip all about?
It was an adventure drive in Toyota Hilux AT38 trucks designed to handle snowy and icy terrains. Modifications included high ground clearance, jumbo 38” tyres with spikes, snorkel, winch anchor, auto air inflate and deflate system, wireless radio sets, GPS, high-lift jack and more.
It was the first time that 25 Indian participants, including eight women, attempted such a drive to the remote corners of Iceland.
What are the handling tips for such vehicles, especially for those not used to adventure driving?
Four-wheel drive vehicles like these enable you to go to places where ordinary ones would fail. But one can never be too careful when driving these monster trucks. Big tyres increase the turning radius – you have to be extra cautious while taking sharp turns, especially at higher speeds, lest you topple due to the high ground clearance. Maintaining right air pressure becomes critical during different driving conditions. For example, you need to drop it to as low as 5 psi when over thick snow. You cannot abuse the vehicle as it may do the same to you!
Do drivers need any training or orientation?
Yes, there was a half day professional briefing session allowing drivers to get familiar with the machines. Everyone was excited to play with these ‘toys’. Of course, those used to adventure drives learnt to handle these quicker.
What route did you take for the drive?
The trip covered major attractions in the south-west of Iceland including the highlands which can only be navigated in such vehicles. We started from capital Reykjavik going on to the Hraunfossar series of waterfalls, Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Landmannalaugar with volcanoes and lava fields nearby, Thjorsardalur valley, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the geothermal Blue Lagoon (Geothermal lagoon), Langjokull glacier and the Strokkur fountain geyser.
What were the highlights of the terrain that you drove over?
We drove over snow every single day with temperatures dropping to upto nine degrees below freezing. This was the most incredible element of the drive. We also navigated lava fields, crossed rivers and went over rocky outcrops. The beauty of Iceland is virgin – if there is paradise, we were there.
What risks come with such an adventure?
As long as one follows the rules and guidelines, it is a relatively safe drive. We had good local guides – absolutely essential in the highlands. You have to brave the cold though – we needed upto four layers of clothing to stay warm.
You met with a snowstorm on the way. What happened?
We were greeted by a fierce snowstorm on the first day of our expedition. Of course, we were not anticipating it but what better way to start an adventure trip. Many participants were not used to driving in the snow, let alone in zero visibility conditions with wind speeds of 80-100 kmph. This did pose a challenge, but we were all in constant communication over radio sets. Our Icelandic guide, Ingo, was super efficient in talking to everyone personally, instilling confidence in everyone. Of course, the storm eventually quietened down allowing us to reach our destination safe. What was important was the immense faith that the participants had in us as a team – everything was taken in the spirit of a real adventure trip.
What times of the year can these drives be undertaken?Iceland is an all year round destination but snow drives are best undertaken in November and April. The rest of the winters can be quite severe, and only well trained drivers should venture out in their four wheels on such terrains.
How does someone get to do this with you the next time? What will it cost?
We plan such trips twice a year, with at least one in late March or early April. An eight day trip should cost about US$ 4,500 (depending on prevailing exchange rates) per person ex-Iceland to include the vehicle, fuel, accommodation, meals and all activities.
Drive Around the World
Join Sanjay Madan and his partner Tushar Agarwal at Adventures Overland on road drives in India and around the world. Sign up for the next adventure at http://www.adventuresoverland.com.