We’re circling Iceland on the Ring Road, and now, on a detour off Hiway 1 to an old fishing village, the secondary roads are narrow, free of guardrails, and rarely dry. In lesser-traveled or shady areas, only the center of the pavement is clear of ice and snow, with one wheel track either side of the centerline. After a local van passes us with alacrity, I see why the road has that pattern. When no one’s oncoming, the traffic drives in the middle, sharing those two wheel tracks in each direction. Lend a hand keeping the road open, brother!

The sun rose, slowly, for 90 minutes or so, being above the horizon finally at 11:30am. Zenith was roughly two hours later, with the mild disk 18 or 20 degrees above level. There’s still a noticeable vegetation difference between the north-facing and south-facing hillsides, even with the rather dim sun lamp this time of year. The shady patches along the road can preserve enough snow to make even the shared two-track plan insufficient to clear the pavement.

Our Dacia Duster is exhausting to drive in these conditions. Seems like it shouldn’t be …  It’s a compact four-door SUV with a torquey diesel and a manual six-speed transmission, not too tippy, equipped of course with vetrardekk (winter tyres). Feels like plenty of grip on brake tests, but despite these good qualities it’s nerve-wracking. Finally I realize why: the steering is absolutely numb. There’s no feedback from the tires at all. It’s shifted more work onto our visual systems, demanding that we scan far closer to the nose of the car than we’d normally have to. When you give it steering input, you’ve got to look to see what’s changed with your vector, you can’t feel it.

We’re not going to be friends, the Duster and I.

Iceland’s dramatic waterfalls are mostly dramatically frozen, like tall dancers paused with poise, waiting for a beat to pass. This interval will last several months though; might be better to say “a half a year”.  The black stone mountains reek of antiquity, and some have improbably steep slopes. There’s a hint of scree, or perhaps the altered reflectivity on the inverted Vs of landslide tracks has you assuming a pile of rock at the bottom of the runs. Truly, there aren’t piles; the slope almost looks carved, bottom to top, from something that doesn’t really erode.

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