Monday, July 6, 2015

Hike -> Keflavík via Stæðarvötn

Breiðavík hotel & campground

It’s 12:30 am and I wake up for nature’s call. There’s a beautiful midnight sun over the ocean. Sleepily I crawl out of my tent to take a picture and realize many other campers have the same idea. I fall back asleep until 6:45. I’m the first person in the shower – I like to be an early bird. The breakfast buffet for ISK 1900 (€13) is really nice and worth the price. It’s quite large and nicer than the past few days in the hotels. I particularly enjoy the waffles again. In any case, I stuff myself to the brim. It will be a tough day of hiking. Before I head out, I tell one of the employees my plans for the day for safety reasons and she gives me some valuable tips about the trail.  

The small, lower lakes 

My goal is the bay of Keflavík. If the weather is clear, I should be able to see the red sands of Rauðisandur as well. After hiking up to the main road, I cross it and head out into the moss-covered lava. There is no trail and for the most part it isn’t marked. It’s a gradual uphill all the way. I pass several lakes belonging to Stæðarvötn, keeping south of them until the largest and last lake, where I hop a small river and cross to the north shore. This lake offers grassy shores, so it’s a nice place for a first longer rest and swig of cold water from the river. A singe loon (himbrimi) floats on the serene lake for me to admire. The water is fairly warm – at least not ice cold like most mountain lakes.
So far the terrain has been tough on the feet – very soft moss covering lava in some spots, twisting my feet as I sink into it, and in others very hard, rocky lava with lots of gaps in between to catch feet and ankles. It’s very strange seeing this route in person after planning it so carefully on maps two years ago. 

Larger, upper lake

At the end of the lake, the cairns begin marking the way over the pass. I lose them once and get off the trail, but it’s not a problem with GPS. The terrain is vast and simple, with no dangerous surprises if you take a wrong turn. I hike just beyond the pass, to a spot with the best view over the bay and red sands, with the little red emergency shelter dotting the coast. And there I sit for a long time admiring the view. I don’t want to hike down to the bay because that means going back up on the return trip. (Later I find out there is a beached whale down there, it’s a shame I missed it although I heard the stench was pretty bad). 

I head back when the wind gets chilly and the return trip is much easier, quicker, going downhill all the way in familiar terrain. The cairns are also easier to see from this perspective. As I pass the upper lakes again, I think this would be a nice place to camp. Grassy shores, and a river or two for fresh water, offer all a camper needs. 

View of Keflavík
At 4pm I’m sitting on the terrace of the hotel restaurant sipping on free coffee. There’s a bit of sun and I’m alternating between writing, reading a book, and watching people come and go. Afterwards I take a refreshing nap in the tent, before heading back to the café for a burger. After a day of hiking in the vast outdoors, this burger tastes real fine. While munching, I see a huge container ship on the ocean off in the distance. I wonder where it’s going, where it’s from, it seems so close to shore. It reminds me of an Icelandic movie I saw, where the country folk would swim out to meet passing foreign ships to trade alcohol when it was banned for a period.  

Heading back
I top it off with more coffee, and deem my feet sufficiently rested for an evening walk. Off in the other direction this time, past the old cemetery, then following an old road towards Hafnargil until I reach a river that is too wide and deep to hop. I don’t have my wading shoes or a towel, so I call it a day and head back. After yet another shower, I treat myself to a glass of wine in the café.