Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hike: Langisjór --> Örk, 19.5 km

Photos: (1) Sigrid on the morning’s first uphill climb; (2) The first nameless lake near Örk; (3) The mountains surrounding Örk; (4) Ford crossing with Örk to the right and “my” lake on the left

I hear lots of birds in the night – ducks and ravens and a few other varieties. There’s a little duck family that swims around here sometimes – a mother and a whole flock of little ones. As I lie in my tent in the morning, I can’t hear any rain, but the silence turns out to be perpetual drizzle again. Sneaky and silent, it makes no noise on the tent. It’s 11°C this morning at 6am and very still, no wind. I had a hard time sleeping because my body aches, although I love the Downmat I’m using for the first time. It’s not only much more comfortable than the old Thermarest, but it also warms me from underneath. I feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud. The only drawback is that it’s slowly losing feathers as they get clogged in the deflate valve.

It’s time to say goodbye this little place. Luckily the rain makes departing a bit easier. If the weather were good, I might stay another day; I have time and plenty of food, but Sigrid has to move on to another rendezvous. We take a few last pictures of our campsite, our tents and ourselves and pack up in the rain. We’re on our way by 9:30 am and the first uphill climb is hard. On the way down when we arrived the other day I slipped, with it being quite steep and wet. So with this tumble still fresh in our memories, we climb slowly and deliberately. The rest of the way is mostly flat, but the rain is relentless, harder, thicker, and there’s not much to see but clouds and black sand. But even this is spectacular somehow, and there are not many people in the world who can truly enjoy something like this. As we approach the southern tip where we first met two days ago, the rain stops briefly, though the wind is strong and it’s cold. I consider going to Sveinstindur with Sigrid to dry off in the hut. Our things are pretty soaked after so much rain the last few days. But in the end, I decide to move on and after a few last pictures, we hike the last few meters together before going separate ways at the Breiðbakur intersection. Two or three jeeps pass, the first I’ve seen in days…

Alone again, I trudge west up the Breiðbakur route; visibility is still poor but there are often dry patches interspersed with the rain so it’s not all that bad. The route is sandy, black and monotone for several kilometers, with occasional green mountain peaks breaking through the clouds. I come across the first nameless lake amidst the dusty landscape. The weather is dry and there’s even a bit of sun, so I take a long lunch break. As I’m resting, a jeep passes by, and a bit later another one – Everyone waves with a friendly smile; I’ll see them later at the privately owned hut Örk.

Not too far beyond the lake, the landscape changes, getting greener with water and beautiful mountains. Örk is a flat-topped building that looks a bit like a mobile home from the distance, but nestled among some spectacular mountains. It looks like people use it for fishing. The two jeeps are parked alongside and a child is playing in the water. But first I have a river to cross, and this one is too deep to scoot across with my shoes on. The sky is heavy with clouds that look like they could burst at any moment, so I’m hoping the weather holds until I cross the river and find a place to camp. But I’m feeling a bit lazy so I merely zip the legs off my pants and change into my sandals, carefully strapping boots and pant legs to the top of my backpack. The river is a bit deeper than that and I get a little wet, but I’m used to being soggy and it doesn’t bother me much. On the other side, I go through the whole routine again – drying off the feet, putting back on shoes and socks, zipping up pant legs and hanging my sandals on the outside of the backpack to dry. The child playing off in the distance watches me with obvious amusement.

I’m feeling good and think about hiking a bit further today, but when I see the cute lake opposite Örk that I can have all to myself, I decide to call it a day. I pitch the tent in a soft bed of moss below the hill and the minute my little house is standing, the sky breaks loose and it starts to rain. But I’m dry and my gear is fairly dry in the tent. Only later do I discover that I’m camped in a bed of sheep poo! The weather is mild, only 14°C but the rain is relentless all evening and night, keeping me inside. Once I hear one of the jeeps from Örk but by the time I get the tent flap open to look outside, they’re pulling away. I guess they’re curious to see who’s out here in this weather, and I would have liked to say hi but they were gone too quickly.

I have plenty of free time cooped up in the tent in the rain. I try some goofy self portraits with the camera, and doctor up the blisters on my feet. I’m proud to say that I only have two blisters this year, one on each foot, but boy are they doozies! Both are underneath the toenail – the toenail is loose and about to fall off and the blister is bulging both at the cuticle and under the nail. This is the kind I had two years ago that got infected and I ended up having to take an antibiotic. So I’m careful this time and I disinfect them morning and night and dress them with fresh bandages. In the past I used to get lots of smaller blisters all over my toes – it wasn’t uncommon to have six or seven on each foot. But thanks to my new Injinji toe sock liners (thanks Carol for the tip!), my toes aren’t rubbing much anymore and blisters are reduced to a minimum.

I still have more chores to do though, like sew a hole in my woolen long johns and tie strings to my new sand/snow tent stakes, then I treat myself to some hot apple cider for work well done. Around 11pm the rain turns to drizzle and I drift off to sleep …