Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hesteyri, Hornstrandir

Photos: (1-2) Boat landing and old village of Hesteyri; (3) Me in the rain (4) Sléttuvatn lake; (5) Camping at Sléttuvatn

It’s a restless night in the tent. The sky is so bright all night long, kids are playing outside in the wee hours and the sound of traffic makes sleeping difficult. For breakfast I head to the Gamla Bakari for an excellent vinarbrauð pastry and mediocre coffee. Afterwards I pack my gear, store some things (free of charge) at the campsite/hotel reception and trek to the boat landing for the boat trip to Hesteyri. Hesteyri is an old fishing village in the nature reserve Hornstrandir that was finally abandoned in 1952 due to its remoteness. Although no one lives in all of Hornstrandir anymore, the handful of scattered houses in the inlets are still used and maintained by the locals as summer cottages from mid-June to mid-August when the region is serviced by scheduled boats. This is my first time to this uninhabited, remote region of Iceland and the goal of my first expedition here is get acquainted with the area, the infrastructure, the weather and terrain, and then I will come back one day for more extensive exploring.

The boat today is packed and I make the mistake of deciding to sit outside. Out on the ocean with the arctic wind whipping, it’s freezing! To top it off, it begins to rain. The rain continues all day in fact. After landing in Hesteyri, I really have to warm up so I have coffee and pönnukökur (Icelandic pancake resembling a sweet crepe) with a new friend in the cafe at the Old Doctor’s House, which also offers sleeping bag accommodation. The cafe is warm, steamy and packed full of people, and after sufficiently getting back my strength and ambition, I venture out into the rain again. I plan on hiking a bit to find a quieter place to camp since the campsite here already has a few tents.

I head south of Hesteyri, following the coastline. The rain is relentless and the clouds are thick, so there’s not much to see. There’s a clear trail marked with cairns heading east, uphill a bit and finally into Sléttudalur valley. After 5 km I’ve already had enough and set up camp at Sléttuvatn lake. It’s not the best spot to camp since the ground is very soft and mossy, but it’s late already and the weather is not letting up. The tent is up quickly and I fetch water from the lake to make dinner. The warm meal and hot chocolate round off a nice day and by the time I clean up the dishes, the rain has stopped. It’s a mild 15°C/59°F inside the tent.

I stretch out to sleep and realize that I’m quite sore already after just 5 km. Shoulders and hips, and my legs tingle throughout the night, keeping me awake. Although I’m in good shape, it’s always different carrying a load. But I’m not the type to hike up and down the streets of Berlin with cat litter in my backpack to practice, so I don’t mind the aches and pains which usually go away in a day or two anyway.