Photos: (1) The jeep track to Hvitárnes; (2) Hvitárnes hut
After a day of rest, travel and indulgence in fast food, we’re headed for the trail again. I think we’re both a bit worn out. Our daily schedule was tight on the trail with little time for relaxing or processing everything that we’ve experienced. My body aches too, and my fingers are cracked and dry. I feel like I could sleep for 15 hours straight. But Henning leaves in just a few days and we had planned to hike a bit more, so that’s what we’ll do – just nothing too adventurous. If we had an extra day or two, I’d like to visit Karlsdráttur, but we’ll stick to Kjalvegur all the way instead. I hiked Kjalvegur last year and enjoyed it, so it will never be boring to me, but it’s Henning’s first time. Being on a familiar route is interesting anyway. On the one hand, I often discover tiny details that I missed the first time. Also, on a familiar trail, I don’t have to worry much about orientation or map-reading, so I can let my thoughts wander into a sort of trance. This is quite relaxing.
The bus driver is a bit chaotic and seems to be quite new at the job, which his unusual procedures indicate. We give him two bags to take to Hveravellir and cross our fingers that he remembers! The bus deposits us at the crossroads to Hvitárnes, along with another hiker, Peter from Belgium. We haven’t officially met Peter yet, but we’ll encounter him and his adventurous stories more in the next few days. The weather is quite miserable when we get off the bus. A very cold, strong wind whips dust in our faces, and the sky is on the verge of rain.
The 9 km to the hut are easy but the wind is a battle, although the exercise quickly warms us up at least. Along the way, we take one longer break after finding a suitable rock large enough to shelter us a bit from the wind. My heel is hurting again, so I’ll have to pad it again tomorrow. I check the date on my wristwatch and realize I was in this same spot exactly one year ago, just off by one day. It wasn’t really planned like that, just an unusual coincidence. This year there’s a warden at the hut with his two children and a dog. The kids play outside, oblivious to the wind that Henning and I are cursing. We decide to sleep in the hut since no group has booked for the night and we’re the only ones there at the moment. It’s early in the day, and the weather is just too uncomfortable to spend outside if we don’t have to. The warden comes in and stokes up the fire for us in the old wood-burning stove. I ask him about the rumored ghost in the hut and he tells us the story: The ghost is an old lady with one arm who goes out to fetch water for tea and passes through the bodies of those sleeping in the bunks along the wall parallel to the front door. With a wink, the warden says that single young men in particular feel her presence. I spend the afternoon reading the guestbook and writing in my journal, and wish I had a book along. I wash clothes and my hair and later Henning and I huddle around the warm stove for another backpacker’s cocktail and some hot wine. They’re both pretty good and really hit the spot. A German couple comes in to make tea, and disappears shortly afterwards since they’re camping. All in all, there are 2 tents outside, but no sign of Peter…