Friday, July 10, 2009

Strútslaug --> Mælifellssandur/Móhella (18.2 km/11.3 miles)

Photos: (1) Full moon over Strútslaug; (2) Hólmsárbotnar; (3) Strútur mountain; (4) Sandstorm in front of Mælifell (5) Crossing the desert; (6) Campsite at Móhella

At midnight I look out of the tent to an amazing sky. It’s a full moon, and it’s positioned right between two mountain peaks. I take a few pictures and thank the gods for this sight. The night is crisp and cold since the sky is clear, and steam rises from the hot springs. In the morning, the sun beats on the tent and quickly warms up everything, but not before I can witness beads of dew on the tips of the grass blades.

We’re on the trail at 8:45. The path is beautiful, but mostly not clear and it would be difficult without a GPS. The mountain Strútur (968 m) towers magnificently in the distance. At times there are lots of small obsidian stones along the path. Before descending down to the hut, we hesitate at a spot where the trail and the map say to verge around the mountain Skófuklif, but there’s a sign on the ground pointing straight ahead. We opt for the direct route and find ourselves at the top of a steep incline with the hut in sight and no way to descend. We try the gradual slope emerging behind the hut and quickly realize this won’t work. We backtrack and try walking along the river, but the gorge gets narrower by the step and we have to backtrack once again. We take a closer look at the steep slope, and since it’s mainly grass, decide it should be doable. It’s tempting to throw our backpacks and let them roll down the hill, since without the added weight on our backs, it would be no problem at all. We’re at the bottom in no time at all, but the steep slope really hurts my knees. I’m ready for a break, and at Strútsskali we’re treated with a special surprise.

A pleasant couple from South Tyrol in a camper offers to make us a real cappuccino and presents us with a superb bar of chocolate as well. I guess they feel sorry for us when they see us eating our lunch of power gels and dried fish. We all take the time for a good lunch and interesting conversation. They want to hike to Strútslaug for a swim, so I gladly give them my laminated map excerpts of that area that I no longer need. After exchanging email addresses and saying our goodbyes, I have a quick look at the hut and facilities. There are showers, mirrors and good toilets. All new and in good shape. Inside there’s a pot of water boiling on the stove, but no people in sight. We freshen up a bit, pay the service fee, and continue our hike.

We stay on the sandy jeep track for a bit leading away from the hut and get a good look at Mælifell in the distance. It’s warm, dry and windy, and dust storms are raging in the distance. I mainly used the route in the Sérkort map “Fjallabak” as a basis for my planning, so we cut across to the east after passing Veðurháls. The route takes us through the lower foothills, parallel to the flat, sandy jeep track F210. The hills are nothing but black sand and reminiscent of traversing a desert. Except for the icy view to the south of the glacier Mýrdallsjökull. At times, old snow patches stand out against the black sand, and some we have to cross carefully. The view of the glacier is breathtaking and I keep my left eye on it all the time while hiking. At times, there are wide swamps to cross, and we would sometimes sink in the sand quite deep. As we descend into the valley before Móhella, we decide that it’s a nice spot to camp. We pick a sandy spot right alongside the river. Unfortunately, the last humans who were there had defecated in the open without covering it up, ruining a perfectly good spot. But we still find a nice area for our tents far enough away. Again, it’s one of the prettier campsites we’ve had. The neon green moss alongside the water and the black sand and hills towered over by the glacier offer a striking contrast. A large rock offers protection from the icy wind coming off the glacier, so we can comfortably eat our dinner outside, topping it off with hot chocolate and Icelandic licorice chocolate. As we sit eating dinner, a small airplane flies close by overhead, turns around and flies by again.