Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mælifellssandur/Móhella --> Álftavatn (16.5 km/10.3 miles)

Photos: (1) Dust storm at Mýrdalsjökull; (2) Somewhere on Mælifellssandur; (3) More dust; (4-6) Sunset at Áltavatn

I’m awake at 3am and leave the tent to peek at the sky, it's 4°C (40°F). Clouds have moved in except for a thin ridge of blue sky right along the horizon and glacier. The wind has picked up quite a bit. Its 7°C (45°F) when I finally get up. The clouds and wind make it feel much colder. We have breakfast in our tents and start out the day wearing long underwear. The sky clears up throughout the course of the day, but the sandstorms continue. We start off the day by somehow getting off track. We pass Móhella on the left instead of the right, which throws us way off track. It wouldn’t be a problem, but I realize the mistake quite late and we are headed straight towards the jeep track. Not until after curving around Slysaalda do we turn back north. As a result, we don’t make the turn into the valley behind Einstigsfjall leading to Hvanngil. We end up walking around the south side of it, looking for a way into the valley behind it. We cross the deep river Kaldaklofskvísl right in front of it, and it’s bitter cold, just as the name says. We try cutting through the small space between Einstigsfjall and a smaller mountain next to it, but the water is too deep. We cross Kaldaklofskvísl again and head up the grassy slope of the smaller mountain. With great difficulty, we find a grassy spot that we can descend on the other side. We take a short rest and realize we’re sitting next to a large bone – looks like others have tried this feat as well and failed. But seriously, it’s just a sheep bone, although a bit larger than usual. We cross the swampy area of the Kvísl again and see a trail heading into Hvanngil, even marked with sticks.

Hvanngil is green and wind-protected, so it’s quite warm. It’s sunny when we reach the hut. The campsite is nice and set among lava stones, but we’d like to continue if possible. My feet are hurting quite badly, but I think a rest will be all I need. We have lunch and clean up a bit. Soon an Icelandic group of hikers enters via Hvanngil and a lady offers me a plaster when she sees my blister. Since Hvanngil is accessible by road, there are mostly quad drivers there, and other jeeps. Everyone is fine-tuning their vehicles, which seems to be a sport in itself. After checking in with the warden, we continue our hike towards Álftavatn, arriving at 6pm, much quicker than we expected. It’s unusual to be on such a clearly marked trail and maybe we’re a bit faster because of that.

The warden is a British guy, pleasant and jovial. My first priority today is cleaning up, since the sandstorms and swampy terrain made me quite dirty. I take an ice cold shower that costs me ISK 400. Despite putting my money in the box (and waiting over an hour in line), the water refuses to get warm. It’s the fastest shower of my life and I don’t even wait around for the entire 5 minutes to be up. It’s 12°C (54°F) in my tent afterwards as I try to warm up. The best way is by walking, so Henning and I take an evening stroll along the lake. The sun is still shining, and the wind has died down. All in all, we’ve been so lucky with the weather! ;-)