Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bus thru Sprengisandur to Hrauneyjar

(Photos: Aldeyjarfoss, hut at Nýidalur)

The bus through Sprengisandur leaves at 8:30 so I’m up early to pack my things. The sun is shining again and it’s very warm. I count 12 bicycles being squished into the bus. All of the passengers are on their way to Landmannalaugar, except 2 who want to get out at Nýidalur and myself. I’ll be meeting my friend Ernesto from Germany in Hrauneyjar. After making sure that my backpack gets loaded near the top, I find a window seat on the bus. Although the luggage area of the bus is filled to the brim with various types of mountain hardware, there are not that many passengers, so I get a double seat to myself. I have a plastic bag full of “supplies” for the 9-hour trip – a few things to eat and plenty to drink, my MP3 player and a book. This is my first time on the famous Sprengisandur route.

After just about 45 minutes, we stop at the waterfall Goðafoss. The last time I saw this waterfall it was -4° C and snowing like crazy, and the snow and ice in contrast to the black lava were breathtaking. Today, it’s a clear blue sky but still pretty. After snapping a few pictures, I cross the bridge to the little shop to wait for the bus. There’s still some time left, so I get an ice cream bar. It’s so warm outside, that several other people have the same idea. A few passengers buy some last-minute groceries before heading into the highlands – the store there is pretty well stocked.

The next stop is a spectacular waterfall called Aldeyjarfoss. It’s framed with long, natural basalt columns and we have plenty of time to walk right up close to it. I’d like to get a closer look at this one some day and spend some more time in the area, so I vow to return.

Soon the landscape turns desert-like. It’s hot and sunny and the bus is full of sand. My eyes are burning from the dryness. The bus stops about every 60-90 minutes so we can stretch our legs. But after a few of these stops in the middle of the desert, most people don’t even bother getting out. Not much to look at, and everyone wants this ordeal to be over as soon as possible. The road seems endless and desolate. I can’t imagine hiking or cycling here. It’s certainly not a place I’d like to see again soon. Occasionally there’s a neon blue lake or river to break up the monotony of gray. We finally make it to the hut Nýidalur after crossing a few fjords. I was hoping it would be cooler in the highlands but there’s just no relief. It must be about 22°C and the sun is blazing down mercilessly. There are some pretty purple flowers along the river and everyone gets out and has some lunch in the sun.

After a 9 ½-hour psycho trip, the bus finally pulls into Hrauneyjar, and I grab my backpack and wave goodbye. Ernesto is already there with a rental car, so we get rooms, clean up a bit and have some dinner in the restaurant. Kristín (my friend Sigrún’s sister) is working there today, and it’s great to see her again! As usual, there’s a polar fox playing near the window and she gives me her binoculars to have a look. After dinner, we go out for a walk. The sky is clear and snow-capped Hekla is beautiful off in the distance. It looks like Hekla has a lot more snow on top than last year.