Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Rain again non-stop. I can hang out in my room here at Geysir until 11. Then I leave my backpack there and hang out in the Geysir shop and take walks until my bus leaves at 3pm. I’m very glad to leave by the time the bus arrives. Short layover in Selfoss and change of bus. I’m allowed to keep my backpack in the storeroom at the gas station, so I take some things to the post office and get a bite to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken. The young girl taking my order is wearing blue plastic gloves. She handles my money and touches the cash register before plucking two pieces of chicken to put on my plate. I guess the gloves give them a false sense of hygiene. I think it’s disgusting. The next bus is very full, and the bus driver doesn’t speak any English. All the poor tourists! At least I can speak enough Icelandic to get him to drop me off right at the driveway to Sigrún’s. As I get out and get my backpack from underneath the bus, a German guy gets out and snaps some pictures of Sigrún’s house and the glacier behind it. Makes me feel sort of proud-it’s pretty, and I know it! Sigrún comes to get me with the car when she sees the bus arrive. It’s late evening, and they kept dinner waiting for me. Mathias made tacos.
Monday, July 30, 2007
13°C (55°F) and nonstop rain. I decide to stay another day in my warm room. I need a rest and just don’t feel like moving. I catch the bus to Gullfoss for ISK 500 one way. Again, I had a fantastic bus driver who loaned me his copy of Morgunblaðið so I could check the weather. There are so many people at Gullfoss and the weather is not very pleasant, so I don’t feel like staying there long at all. I’ve been there so many times anyway, I just like to “check in” on it whenever I’m in the area. I had cake and coffee in the café before heading back to Geysir with the bus. Back “home” I take a long walk to Haukaskógar where there’s a cute little church and cemetery. I wander around the woods there for awhile but the constant rain is no fun. Back at Geysir, I run into the Belgian bicyclists who I met in Hveravellir. It’s pouring rain, they’re soaked to the skin and heading for the campsite. Again, I appreciate my warm room. I look through the Geysir shop in detail, and go into the multi-media show.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
It was bitter cold in the tent last night. I was too cold to look at the thermometer, but now at 6am it’s 7°C/45°F INSIDE the tent, so it was definitely colder at 3am OUTSIDE. Again the old rule applies – the colder it is at night, the more beautiful and clear it is in the morning. The sun is out and it’s warming up fast. I snap a picture of the Aussies while we’re all waiting for the bus. Lynn and Vern, thanks for crossing my path, you’re interesting people. Surprisingly Vern says that he finds ME quite interesting and that I’ve left quite an impression on him, and that reminds me of something Mathias once said: For all the interesting people you meet and think you will never forget, you yourself will also leave such an impression on other people as well. This is an interesting realization that I now observe every day of my life. I often run into people who say: Boy are you interesting, or fascinating, or whatever, and I used think: Me? My life is quite boring actually. But I guess it’s not and I like being able to touch and possibly inspire people by just being who I am… With all of this pondering, the bus has already arrived in Selfoss and we all part ways. I have a 2-hr layover and while I’m waiting I discover a flyer for another bus route that goes directly to Hveravellir this afternoon. Thinking I would have to spend the night in Geysir waiting for the morning bus, this came much to my liking… With time to spare before the bus leaves, I store my backpack at the gas station and walk to the post office and little shopping mall. I discover the Snúður and Snælda books that are missing in my collection, and buy the ones I need. They’re just thin children’s books about two playful cats, so they won’t add much weight to my backpack. Then I head into my favorite store in Selfoss, Nóatún, because in addition to high-quality groceries, it’s got all kinds of books, videos, CDs and other household things that I like looking at. Of course I can’t buy anything because I don’t want to add any weight to my pack, but I’m content with looking. I do find some lightweight aluminum tent pegs though, so when I return to the gas station, I throw out the useless plastic ones I had bought back in Vík. Back at the gas station, I hang around outside waiting for the bus and watching the people. I’m eager to get back into the countryside – I feel strange and out of place in a civilized town. As I’m waiting another bus driver strikes up a conversation with me, and later when he drives off, he waves! I’m impressed with his warmhearted friendliness to a foreigner who he’ll never see again, and the obvious pleasure he has in his work. So if you ever read this, Mr. Busdriver of the Þingvallaleið route from Stokkseyri to Reykjavík – you made my day! Then my small little bus from the Trex route pulls up. There are 20 seats max, and the only other people in the bus are a couple and their teenage daughter on their way home to Akureyri. The trip turns out to be a memorable one, the couple and even the daughter only speak Icelandic so I’m not shy about trying out my skills. The daughter pulls out her MP3 player showing me that she likes to listen to German music - Marianne Rosenberg! In fact, the daughter seems like she’s in the wrong time zone. She’s dressed in very old fashioned clothes, and her hair style is reminiscent of the 1950s. She’s wearing thick knit stockings, and if it wasn’t for the MP3 player, I’d think I was talking to one of the Waltons. I saw a young lady, about 20 years old, in Selfoss dressed like this as well. Icelandic fashion, especially for the younger generation, has always floored me. They’re not shy at all about wearing grandma’s hand-me-downs. But I shouldn’t talk. Like I said, I feel definitely out of place in the city in my hiking boots and Gore-Tex from head to foot, so I’m eager to get moving.
We drive along the Kjölur route, F35, and I realize how brainless it would be to drive a Toyota rental car on this route. The potholes get deeper and the rocks get bigger with every mile. As we drive, I stare out the window in amazement. I’m fascinated for some reason with the clouds. They seem to be so low, so tangible, dangling just out of reach out the window. This is one thing that always amazes me in Iceland, but in the highlands, this phenomena is more prominent. We stop at a waterfall on the way to Kerklingarfjöll because the bus driver wants to take some pictures – how cute! The teenage girl is thrilled, saying over and over again: þetta er frábært! Once again I’m amazed at the Icelanders’ love and appreciation of their own country.The campsite at Kerklingarfjöll is nice and I decide to come back there one day. We have 30 minutes to kill, so I walk around a bit and watch two bicyclists arrive and set up their camp. Respect! A short time later we arrive at Hveravellir and the family from Akureyri promptly invites me to visit them sometime. The man thanks me for my pleasant company and said I’m an inspiration. His wife translates, although I’m sure I understand it correctly. It’s strangely sad to see them go and I’m left with that odd feeling again that I’ve touched people’s lives in some memorable way without even realizing it. It’s bitter cold in Hveravellir, time to dig out the winter jacket, hat and gloves. After setting up my tent near the toilets, I take a short walk around the bubbling geothermal pots and make dinner, eating for the first time with my gloves on – it’s 6°C/43°F. The warden is a friendly older gentleman from Reykjavík who is a choir singer when he’s not watching over the hut. He gives me some hiking tips and tells me a few stories. I spend the evening warming up in the hot pot, boy the water is so hot and feels wonderful. This is definitely one of the nicer hot pots I’ve experienced. A Dutch couple tells me there was fresh snow in Nýdalur the other day. Otherwise, there are mostly Germans here.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
That evening, it rains nonstop until the campsite is like a soggy sponge. I sit in the café, the Australian couple is playing cards at the table next to me. I ponder on why I’m actually doing what I’m doing. It’s not exactly fun, it’s painful, it’s hard, it’s cold, it’s tiring and it’s lonely. But there’s something about it that I masochistically love. I think of Nietzsche who once said something like: “If it doesn’t kill me, it’ll make me stronger.” I’ve always liked physical and mental challenges like this. But as much as I enjoy being a solo fighter in the Icelandic outdoors, I also enjoy meeting people from all over the world in the hotpots, on the bus and at the campsites. A mixture of the two is just right.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The day begins sunny and warm, and quite picturesque. I throw some food and gas into my backpack, take my clean clothes from the dryer and pack up my things. Mathias drives me to Seljalandsfoss so I can catch the bus, and Mona rides along. We’re pressed for time, and Mathias flags down the bus on the road so I can hop in – ISK 1700 (€29/$28) from there to Þórsmörk. I pitch my tent in Húsadalur. It’s hot and sunny, almost too warm for my liking, but that changes quickly. I make some lunch and take the leisurely 30-minute walk to Langidalur. I like the campsite there, it’s much prettier, especially the isolated spots along the river. The showers are nice (ISK 300 for 5 min), too, but there’s no hot water in the sinks (a luxury I’ve gotten accustomed to). I decide to leave my tent where it is, since I enjoy the hot pot and being able to sit in the café when the weather gets bad – a decision I certainly wouldn’t regret later. It’s 13°C (55°F)and cloudy in Langidalur. On the way back, I climb the mountain Vanahnúker (455m/1500ft). The wind gets strong and it starts to rain. 8°C (46°F). The steep path is getting slippery, but I make it to the top, snap a few pictures and scurry back down. Back in the tent, I make some coffee to warm up. It’s pouring rain and even too wet to make dinner (I don’t like to cook in the tent), so I have some hot chocolate in the café to sit it out. By 8:30 pm, the weather had cleared up and stopped raining. I treat myself to a “real” shower with an endless supply of hot water and lavender soap that someone had left behind. Afterwards, I go back to the café to sit until my hair dries, smelling like a flower, and then go for an evening walk. At 10 pm, you can see your breath outside, but the sky is clear – it’s 9°C (48°F). The hotpot is full, so I go to bed early.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Drizzle all night turned to a steady rain by morning. High of 13°C (55°F) today. I slept in, then went to the Visitor Center to ask about ice climbing, but the course for today is full. The weather is cold and wet and windy – nonstop rain. I regret leaving my long underwear at Sigrún’s and I’m always cold. I hang out in the Visitor Center, watching the film “Explosion at the Icecap” in several different languages, just enjoying the warm, dry seat. I had some coffee in the shop, wrote some postcards, used the internet, read and napped. Dinner is the highlight of the day. The cold and wet, and above all, the non-action, make me restless and I decide to leave the next morning, taking the bus to Eystri-Sólheimar to wash clothes and pick up supplies, and then continue on somewhere else with my adventure.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
They offer guided walks up on the glacier, so I sign up for a tour in the afternoon and just hang out until then, watching the film in the visitor center and relaxing. Our guide is Ben from New Zealand and my perception of a true hunk! A man looks so good carrying an ice pick and wearing mountain gear. I attached myself to an interesting couple from England for the company, Ruby and Andrew. The lady had played cello in the Reykjavík orchestra 30 years ago, and her husband surprised her with this trip to Iceland for their 25th wedding anniversary. Not having the proper clothes packed since it was a surprise trip, I gladly loaned them my second pair of gloves. There was a short bus ride to the tongue of the glacier, and we got out and strapped on our crampons. The ice was black at first, and hard to even recognize as ice. It was a strange feeling underfoot, and it was all very beautiful. Ben explained what a jökulmús is, which literally means glacier mouse. It’s one of the few life forms that actually survives on top the glacier. It’s a rock covered with moss on all sides, and the moss is able to grow on all sides because the rock moves and rotates ever so slowly with the natural movement of the glacier. That way the sun can hit all sides, allowing the moss to grow.
It’s –6°C/21°F up there. In the evening the skies cloud up and it begins to rain. I take a walk to Svartifoss and beyond, but have to put on my rain jacket. Back in the tent, I fill my water bottles with hot water from the faucet and put them into my sleeping bag. What luxury! I feel comfy and cozy and content.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
By the end of the week, I’m getting restless and start planning the continuation of my trip. It’s full house at Eystri-Sólheimar with Kristín, Mona and Mathias there, so there are plenty of people there to help. Besides I’ll be back in August!
I can put on a boot now if I wrap up my foot well, but I sure can’t do any hiking like that yet. I decide to take the bus to Skaftafell National Park and just camp there for a few days, doing short day hikes as my foot gets better. By chance, a friend of mine is staying at ES and is planning to drive to Jökulsárlón, so I pack up my tent in the rain and get into her jeep. I enjoy the conversation with Súsanna and when we stop at Kirkjubæjarklaustur, we realize that the trademark waterfall is dried up! Iceland has not gotten enough rain this summer and I’ve seen things like this all throughout my trip. The bad weather in the South dissipates the further we move East, as is often the case. Kirkjubæjarklaustur marks sort of a weather barrier, where there is often a change in weather. In Skaftafell it’s dry and I find a nice spot for my tent before having coffee in the Visitor Center with Súsanna and her friends before they move on.
It’s about 14°C and I decide to take a short walk in front of Svínafellsjökull to see how my foot is doing, but to my dismay I realize I’ve forgotten my adhesive tape! Bandages alone will never hold up to hiking conditions. So I patiently wait in line at the desk inside and ask if they had something I could buy off of them. The young man promptly gives me a roll and insists I don’t have to pay, and although it’s a very thin tape and not exactly what I was looking for, it will work just fine. Back in the tent, I wrap up my foot, adding a tissue for extra padding under the tape. I make dinner before I set out for the glacier. The route is paved all the way to the tongue of the glacier, but I leave the path and walk along the rocks. I love looking at the rocks and stones and notice may types here that I haven’t seen in other areas. One is a type of pretty, sparkling multi-colored stone that is crumbly to the touch. Another is the dull gray rock that is split into thin slabs – in warm weather, moisture enters the pours of the rock which freezes in the winter, causing it to expand and crack into perfect slabs. So close to the glacier, it’s quite cold and I put on my hat and gloves and down jacket.
My foot is quite painful but I’m not in a hurry so I just take things slow.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Sigrún’s husband Mathias arrived from Berlin last night. It’s wonderful to have so many nice people around me. He drove Mona and me to Vík and we took a walk on the black sands. Stopped at the clinic to get some bandages for my foot and since there weren’t many people there, I decided to see the doctor too. I’m impressed with the uncomplicated manner in which the clinic works. I have no identification on me, no passport, no proof of insurance – nothing. Still, I’m in the doctor’s office within minutes and he prescribes an ointment and says the toe is healing well. At the window I pick up the prescription and bandages and pay the bill – ISK 700 (€8/$11).
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The infection is healing already, but it’s obvious that I won’t be able to wear hiking boots for at least a week. The busses that pass through here only travel further into the highlands. Luckily one of the Hrauneyjar employees of has to travel to Skógar today and I can travel with him. From there it’s just a short ways to where my friend Sigrún lives in Eystri-Sólheimar. I can rest and recuperate there, while helping her out with her bed & breakfast. I enjoy the ride, the sun is still shining bright and there’s no wind today. It’s warm and the garbage in the back of the car that we’re transporting stinks incredibly. In Hella we deposit the laundry and continue on to Hotel Rangá to pick up some more things and have lunch. In Skógar the weather is gray and cool and the wind has picked up. So typical for the South! I chat with an Iranian who just came through Fimmvörðurháls through rain and fog. Then a little red car pulls up and it’s so good to see Sigrún! Mona is with her, a young girl from Berlin who is here to improve her Icelandic and help out in the guesthouse. Back in Eystri-Sólheimar, I fill everyone in on the details of my trip. Sigrún’s sister Kristín is there, too. It’s so good to see everyone. Sigrún cooks a fantastic meal of fish and there’s wine, too. There’s lots of story-telling, for example about the sheep that was in the house the other day. Evidently some of the guests had left the basement door open, a sheep had come in the hallway and the wind blew the door shut again. The sheep was bleating all morning and no one could figure out where the sound was coming from… The house is full of guests, family and friends, so I put up my tent in the yard. It’s 14°C (57°F), the sheep and horses are grazing; I absolutely love it here and always feel at home.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I rise at 8am. It’s still sunny and beautiful outside, but the wind is strong. My toe doesn’t look any better today. It keeps refilling with pus and the infection has no chance to heal since it’s under the skin. I spend the day writing emails and reading, and soaking my foot. In the evening I finally decide to perform “surgery”. With a tweezers and my pocket knife, I remove the infected skin from the wound. It peels off easily and surprisingly doesn’t hurt. I wish I had a razor blade, since my knife is quite dull. Now that the wound is open, I cover it with a disinfecting powder and dress the wound. This should help it heal better. By evening it looks better already. I’m enjoying the rest and the laziness and am not at all bored. In the evening, I visit with a pleasant German couple.
(Instead of showing a pretty picture of my toe here, here’s another one of the first days of my hike)
Friday, July 13, 2007
I’m on the road by 8am. It’s chilly, windy, but sunny and mostly clear, and it’s the first time I put on my warm jacket, although I shed it again just a short time later. I actually enjoy the first 2km. The soft grassy, sandy terrain feels good on my foot, but the pleasure is way too short. The ground turns rocky and in between the rocks is something resembling quicksand. It looks like wet sand with a thin moss growing on it, but strangely there are no rocks on it. It sinks under my feet and my poles sink. If I scurry across quick, it’s ok but I prefer to avoid crossing these patches altogether. The rocky terrain twists and turns my foot, I’m in agony. Plus the wind is so strong that it blows me one step backward with every two steps I take. I find myself resting way too much. I climb a fence and reach the gravel road F26. The road is in horrible condition and I wonder how any vehicle at all could drive on it. I briefly consider hitchhiking, but decide I can make it to the next road, F30. The terrain is the same and soon the wind, the weight on my back, the terrain and the pain in my foot very quickly take their toll. I feel weak and tired and I have no ambition to eat or drink anything. I’m stumbling a lot and realize what a sight I must be if someone could see me. I think it was a mistake to leave the road again but now I have no choice. These two kilometers were an interesting psychological battle. I considered my options, such as pushing the button on my emergency beacon. But being so close to civilization, nestled between two roads, and with nothing but a bad blister and being overtired and dehydrated, I don’t think that “qualifies” to call for professional help. I decide not to rest anymore because every time I stop I realize how easy it would be to just not get up again. I focus on the spot off in the distance where I think the road should be and in fact I do see a car pass by once. When I reach the first paved road that I’ve seen in a long time, I’m beyond exhaustion. I’m cold but I have no energy to find a jacket or set down my backpack. I just stand there, leaning on my poles since I can’t put any weight on my foot, with the wind whipping in my face and hope that someone drives by soon. After about 10 minutes, a red sportscar drives by. The driver, a young Icelander (who else would drive a sportscar in the Icelandic highlands?), is alone but he just laughs at me and drives by. I guess I have to be a little more assertive than just sticking my thumb out. The next car approaches about 15 minutes later. I stand in the middle of the road waving frantically with a pleading look on my face. I’m not hitchhiking, I really need help! But the two ladies in the jeep do their best to swerve around me and drive on! Never have I felt so alone before. I wanted to at least walk a bit, but I wasn’t sure which direction I should walk in. The next hut was about 10 km to the southwest, but considering the pain in my foot and my exhaustion, I preferred to get to the highland hotel at Hrauneyjar about 20 km to the northeast. Another jeep approaches and stops! A German traveling alone who is more than happy to help. He had spent some time in Iceland 20 years ago, traveling by motorcycle and this time he only has a week, so he rented a jeep and is driving like mad – from Reykjavik to Höfn, via Landmannalaugar, in one day. Hrauneyjar is quite full, but Harpa finds me a room. It’s Friday and the next bus doesn’t leave until Monday so I book a single room with sleeping bag accommodation until then. That should give me plenty of time to rest and see what’s up with my foot. If all goes well, I could take the bus to Landmannalaugar and continue from there. But first comes first. I’m still freezing and even a hot shower won’t warm me up. I crawl into my down sleeping bag and sleep, sipping tea at every chance I get. After a few hours, I finally have the energy to examine my foot. The blister is filled with yellow pus and there’s a red rim around it. The infection looks deep. I hobble to the reception and ask Harpa for a bucket so I can soak it in warm water. The instant my foot hits the water, thick pus oozes out. Once it’s cleaned out, I put on some antiseptic and hobble to the cafeteria for some hot mushroom soup. I still feel very weak and I’m not at all hungry. After eating, I notice that the blister is full of pus again, so I soak it again before going to bed. The wind is howling strong outside my window and I can see Hekla raging with her snow peak against the blue sky. I’m so thankful for my warm bed and I fall into a deep sleep for 12 hours…
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Just a short way out of Landmannahellir I see a blue dumpster and decide to examine it more closely. Ah yes, I can get one of the doors open. I toss in my thermos bottle and fleece sleeping bag liner, neither of which I had used the whole trip anyway. Feeling lighter, I pass a group of horses as I near the fjord. At the edge of the water, I change into my wading gear and scout out the best place to cross. The water is knee deep but the current is strong. I fill my water bottle and move on. The next 5km trudging along the road are pretty dull and it doesn’t get real pretty again until the Hekla volcano comes into sight. The wind has picked up and a fair amount of jeeps pass, kicking a storm of dust into my face every time. For the first time, I dig out my sunglasses to keep the sand out of my eyes. Hekla is beautiful and I take a short break to admirer her. The sky is blue and only a few thin white clouds dot the sky. The snow-capped peak of Hekla with her rugged black garden of lava at the base form a bizarre contrast to the friendly skies. My hips and shoulders are hurting bad again. In fact, I dug out a pair of socks to use as extra padding where the backpack pushes on my shoulders. At kilometer 21 (mile 13), I’m really tired and just about ready to leave the road and cut across over the hill to approach Áfangagil from the back, when Þóra, the warden from Landmannahellir, pulls up in her jeep and offers me a ride. I gladly accept since I really don’t feel up to hiking uphill right now and if I stayed on the road it would be way too far for one day. I will remember in the future that 20 km with full gear in one day is just too much for little ol’ me. Þóra tells me she’s going to the University in Reykjavík and works as a warden in the summer, and that she absolutely loves her job and being in the outdoors. She’s on her way to Reykjavík for the weekend though. The way she expertly guides her jeep along the rough road shows me that she’s quite experienced with highland driving. At Áfangagil, there’s a large group of horse riders from Germany, but there’s no warden at the hut. It’s still very windy so I put up my tent in the little valley behind the hut. There’s an outhouse and a sink – what more could I ask for! After a fantastic diner of couscous, I sit down with some of the men while their wives are off taking an evening horseback ride. The ladies travel every day by horse, and the men follow with food and supplies in the car. There are two Icelanders traveling with them, a man who’s missing a few teeth who takes care of the horses, and a lady who guides the riders. As I converse with them, I realize what a mark I am leaving on the people I meet. At first I’m surprised at the respect they show for me, a girl traveling alone on foot through the mountains, but throughout my seven weeks in Iceland, I will run into this often. They give me an apple, an orange and a banana which I gladly accept, then I take a short evening walk, snapping some pictures and scouting out my route for tomorrow. Again, it’s been a beautiful day. Sunny, warm and clear, only the wind seems to be getting stronger and stronger. I crawl into the sack at 9pm and doctor up my feet. I have four blisters on my left foot and the one on my big toe looks infected. It covers the whole side of my toe and is filled with yellow pus. Again, my body aches and I’m really sore, especially my shoulders and hips. As I doze off, the riders begin to sing a mixture of English, German and Icelandic songs. What a pleasant way to fall asleep.
In the night the pain in my toe keeps me awake. I realize that there’s something really wrong with it if it hurts like this even when I’m not walking and not wearing shoes. I’m looking forward to resting a day in Hólaskógur.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The terrain turns into soft black moss. It’s easy going for a long time, except the hunt for the trail markers. Luckily the fog has lifted – in bad weather, the trail posts would be impossible to see. The terrain gets rockier. There’s snow in spots and patches of obsidian! It’s beautiful how the black rocks glitter in the sun. There’s not a soul in sight, I haven’t seen anyone all day. According to the map, there’s another “red” spot coming up, and indeed, red means difficult! Again it’s straight uphill, this time up a grassy slope which is a bit easier for footing. My knees are starting to feel the strain. Now I’m way up in the sky, near lots of snow-covered peaks that I can reach out and touch. The wind is stronger now, and I put on my wind-shirt. The fog is gone entirely, and it’s partly cloudy but doesn’t rain. The trail begins to descend again, another “red” spot indicates a steep decline, but downhill is definitely better than uphill! Just before the trail meets the road there’s a beautiful grassy spot where I stop and rest. There’s no wind here. Sheep graze in the distance, and I can see an occasional bus rumbling by. I take off my shoes and doctor up my feet. There’s a fat blister on my left toe and one starting on the back. I notice that I’m never hungry when I hike. I have to remember to eat a granola bar once in awhile. I have no problems drinking though. I’ve mixed Crystal Lite with my water and carry a bottle on my belt, always handy. The trail veers off to the left, but I see the road straight ahead – I’m eager to get to the campsite. I’m getting very tired and my shoulders are hurting from the weight of the backpack. Whenever a jeep passes by, I wave and put on a smile. Off in the distance, I see a red jacket and a lone Frenchman comes closer. He said I was the first person he’s seen traveling alone in 5 days. The track goes off to the right and a sign says “Landmannahellir 2.4 km (1.5 miles)” (it actually turned out to be over 3 km). It’s torture trudging along the road. I'm quite tired and my shoulders and hips hurt where my backpack touches my body. I reach the river and change into my wading gear (sandals and shorts), making sure to strap my boots and pants tightly to my bag. The cold water feels good on my feet. I snap some pictures. The light is fantastic, the weather sunny and dry. It's a beautiful view. I really like the landscape around this area. A jeep goes through the fjord. Only 300 m to go, but my right knee is hurting. Did I hurt it getting up again after putting on my boots? I finally arrive at Landmannahellir at 4:45 pm after hiking 17 km (10.5 miles). I lost one kilometer and an hour finding the trail at the start. I visit the warden and pay the fee of ISK 650 (€7.50/$10). There’s a shower, but all I need is the river tonight. It’s just wonderful to have a toilet and a place to get rid of some garbage. It takes me a long time to put up the tent, but I'm the only one there. The wind is strong and I want to make sure it’s stable after the damage it received on Vestmannaeyjar. There’s a little shack with a picnic table in it, so I go in there to cook, away from the wind. Pasta with spinach, and rice pudding for dessert. At 9pm, it’s still sunny, there’s a slight wind and it’s 10°C/50°F. My whole body aches.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
20°C/68°F and sunny. I hike 17 km (10.5 miles) to Ljótipollur (meaning “ugly puddle” - a crater lake formed in a volcanic eruption in 1480), making sure to tell the warden where I’m going and when I’ll be back. Despite the beautiful weather, my pictures don’t turn out very well today. All day I only see two people while hiking – both hiking alone like me. Back at camp, I report to the warden, make dinner and use the hot pot. It's already 11pm, 16°C/60°F in the tent. I’m too tired to make any significant notes in my journal. All I can say is - the hike to Ljótipollur is definitely worth while. The colors of the earth are amazing. The trails are well-marked, and although steep at times, suitable for people of all levels.
I plan on hiking to Landmannahellir tomorrow. I’ve discovered a newer route (2005) through the mountains in the hiking map that I bought. I asked the warden about it, but she didn’t seem to have any information. But another girl in the office piped up and said that it’s a nice trail and marked all the way.
(PS The picture here is NOT of Ljótipollur. As I said, my pictures didn't turn out well, so this is a picture of an old crater in the same region)
Monday, July 9, 2007
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Unfortunately, it’s already time to leave this beautiful little place. I would have liked another day or so here, to walk along the southernmost coast where the puffins like to sit. And there are plenty of hills I haven’t climbed yet either.
As I walk to the airport at 7am, there are several drunks out on the street. Out in the country, I pass sheep and horses and the little lambs run up to say hello. It’s a beautiful, sunny warm day. A bit of fog hangs low in the hills. The sheep here are curious and friendly, as opposed to most other ones I’ve seen on the mainland who are skittish and shy. My backpack feels comfortable and I feel confident about the long hike ahead. I reach the airport in just 30 minutes, but it’s still locked up so I sit on a bench and read. When they opened the doors, I found a seat in the waiting hall and a nice man came up and said I could check in already if I want. He hands me my ticket, saying proudly that he gave me the best seat with a nice view of the island when we take off. In the plane, the Icelanders behind me smell of alcohol and smoke. One is stuffing cheese popcorn into her face. What a tasty breakfast! The view of Reykjavík from the plane is beautiful as well. I walk to Aurora Guesthouse and leave my backpack there since it’s too early to check in, and wander about the streets for awhile. I decide to buy a warm fleece sweatshirt at 66° North, a decision that I would later be very grateful for. Then I walk to the Kringlan shopping mall, which is always a fairly long hike, especially on pavement in hiking boots when it’s 22°C/70°F. At the outdoor shot Útlif I buy two polyester t-shirts for my hike. In my first few days, I’ve noticed that the heavier part-cotton ones are utterly useless. Besides being so heavy, it’s impossible to wash them by hand and get the sweat smell out of them. Plus they take forever to dry when wet. The polyester running shirts are much lighter in weight and overall more practical. I hereby do solemnly swear to never again bring cotton t-shirts on a hiking trip! Before I leave the mall, I get a few groceries at Hagkaup – but they don’t have that Icelandic dried beef that I so much love! Later, I mail my excess clothes to my friend’s house and check in to the guesthouse. I have a much nicer room this time – with a tiny kitchen and a TV! Then I head outside again on the hunt for some real food. I end up at Kaffi Sólon, which is where I often eat. They have wonderful fresh fish and their prices are reasonable. I order some seafood soup and chocolate cake and watch the people walk by the window. After wards I make a phone call and send some text messages. After all, I won't have phone service now for awhile once I get into the highlands.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Friday, July 6, 2007
I give up! What a horrible windstorm. I didn’t sleep a wink all night. The tent was nearly suffocating me, the wind bent the poles until it was flat. I got out every hour to make sure the stakes were in ok and to tighten everything down. Luckily there wasn’t much rain. As the storm progressed, more and more campers gave up. Lots of tent cadavers were strewn across the campsite. People lay sprawled on the floor of the bathrooms trying to catch at least a wink of sleep. Lots of long faces, but I didn’t let it get me down. I fought bravely for the life of my tent. Sometimes I just stood outside and held it up with my bare hands for awhile. It’s morning now, the storm rages on. I run into town for a few things, come back and try to take a nap, but the wind is still too strong. I notice that the wind in town is much milder, so I start looking for a room. This is the weekend that the islanders celebrate the end of the volcano eruption, so nearly every place is booked. I finally find a cheep room with sleeping bag accommodation (that means you get no sheets, no pillow, no towel, and use your own sleeping bag on a mattress-common practice in Iceland, and a nice way to save money. There are also cooking facilities.) Price: ISK 2000 per night ($31/€22). But at least I have my own room and a wind-free bed. Warm and happy, I set out in the rain to find something to eat. All the tables in my soup café are reserved – must be the festival going on tonight. I end up with a nasty burger and fries, race back to my room and go to bed early.
I sleep wonderfully until the other hotel guests come home. They’re loud and drunk and the couple in the room next to mine insist on having three minutes of passionless sex before they fall into a drunken stupor. I put on my headphones and try to ignore everything.