Saturday, August 7, 2010

Faxasund --> Landmannalaugar, 9km hike & bus ride

Photos: (1) Early morning at Faxasund; (2-3) Evil weather at 700m; (4) Soggy Landmannalaugar

I’m awake often in the night, it’s raining so hard I never thought so much rain would be possible. All of the idioms for rain pop into my head: it’s raining cats and dogs (where on earth did that one come from?), it’s raining buckets (now that’s a bit more realistic), rained out (I hope that doesn’t happen to my tent), etc. Plus the wind is mega-strong again, a storm. The river is swelled with water and babbling quite loud. That’s another nice expression, a babbling brook. And indeed it does sound like voices at times. I often swear I hear people talking and look outside the tent to see nothing at all.

I’m undecided what to do in the morning. I should probably stay put and spend a rainday in the tent. But I admit that my psyche is not doing that well and I would probably drive myself bananas a whole day with just me, myself and I in this blasted tent in the rain. (You can see that my nerves are a bit raw today) :-) Besides, I really don’t think the weather will improve much, considering the pattern of the last week and the look of the sky right now. What would I gain by spending a day in the tent if tomorrow’s no better anyway? The only thing that kept me going in my dreams last night were thoughts of a hot shower or soaking in the hotpot at Landmannalaugar, since that’s one of the options that’s been running through my head. I initially planned on hiking another two days to reach Landmannalaugar, but there’s a bus that comes by at 11am from Eldgjá and I could hitch a ride if I just hiked to the main road (another 6 km) and found a nice spot to wait.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Get me out of here, get me out of these blasted highlands, out of the rain. A human being can only take so much :-) I admit I have reached my limit, and it feels great! This is why I do things like this. I love to test my limits and learn to stretch them. I guess some people call it “getting in touch with oneself”. It’s 8°C as I sip my morning tea, content with my decision. When the rain reduces to a heavy drizzle, leaving the wind as the main enemy to battle, I seize the opportunity and pack up my gear. As soon as I’m back on the trail, the weather turns evil again. The track climbs to a pass over 700m with whiplash wind and horizontal rain. They thrash me head on, right in my face, with occasional gusts from the side to throw me off balance. Visibility is zero, and progress is snaillike, uphill against the wind. But this time I remember to snap a few pictures to remember this moment. Good thing my camera is waterproof. Again, I remind myself to take some waterproof gloves along next time. It’s way too cold without, and my windstoppers are soaked in no time at all.

In the distance I see something, it must be a sign marking the road but in the fog my imagination runs away with me. As I approach, it is indeed a sign pointing to Faxasund, where I just came from. The main jeep track F208 intersects shortly after that. The road is broad and easy to follow, but I’m still atop this high mountain pass in the relentless wind and rain. But as the road snakes down the pass into the green valley, the wind lets up a bit, and my spirits rise. But there’s still no sign of weather improvement, so I look for a sheltered spot to wait and have some lunch. There’s a large rock that I can stand under that just barely blocks the worst of the elements. But nonetheless, it will be a horrible wait in the pouring rain and wind. After an hour of waiting, I’m frozen to the core. The sweat from hiking has cooled and I’m soaked and the wind is freezing. I put on my backpack to keep me warm and hop around a bit. I end up waiting nearly another whole hour and it turns into one of the most psychologically taxing moments of the whole journey. I think I’m close to hypothermia because I reach a point where I just don’t care about anything. I could hike to stay warm and catch the bus later, but I can’t move. I just stand there, rooted to the spot.

The bus finally comes and I wave it down, the driver gets out to help store my backpack and doesn’t seem to mind the rain. The bus is very full and no one wants to make room for me. I must look like a soggy dog and smell like one too. Finally someone relents and when I sink in the seat next to him, he asks with amazement if I was actually waiting for the bus out there. The bus is full of day tourists, and I envy their warm, dry clothes. I shiver for a long time, but now I have a roof over my head and it’s dry and I’m happy. I feel extremely out of place here though, among these people and in this bus. But I hope the ride never ends, I’m content just sitting where it’s dry, and outside it continues to rain.

The weather in Landmannalaugar is miserable and the campsite is soggy. The first thing I do after setting up camp is take a hot shower and it feels so good! Then I pick up the supplies from the warden that I had sent here with my friend. I spend the rest of the evening in the tent. I don’t even venture out to the hotpot since there’s no break in the rain.

There’s a storm in the evening and I even get out to see if the tent is holding up ok. The ground here in Landmannalaugar is so hard, it’s difficult to get the tent stakes in properly. Everything is ok with my tent, but many of my neighbors are having problems, and some try to dig a rain trench around their tents. Once again I have to say that I really like my tent. It holds up reliably in the most horrible of weather. The only problem that is starting to show this year is that the zippers on the inner tent are starting to go and I have to be very careful how I open them.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll do tomorrow; if the weather is nice, I may stay, but if there’s rain, get me out of here!