The Land of Ice and Fire
“One feels the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech in trying to describe things intangible” – Sir Ernest Shackleton
Iceland! What can I say about Iceland? Well, it’s… It’s raw. I think that was one of my first thoughts there. It’s old yet new, dynamic yet undisturbed, it’s Natures laboratory. The pictures do the place more justice than my words ever could, and even they fall far short of the mark. Just go there, and you’ll see (but avoid all the touristy crap. That’s not Iceland).
I’ll briefly summarize my trip so you can get back to ogling. The morning after flying into Reykjavik I got a bus to Landmannalauger in the central highlands via the moon. Yes, the moon. We drove across the moon in a bus. That’s not even the best bit, not even close. I was dropped off on a plain next to a braided river – some parts hot, too hot to bathe in, but you could bath in the confluence between the hot and cold parts quite comfortably – surrounded by colourful mountains – orange, golden, brown, even green! Oh, and there was a huge lava field looming over the campsite, just waiting to engulf us. And there was daylight, all the time. Though not always sunny…
After spending a couple days there doing shorter walks with Beth, Jo, and Taz, who I met on the plane, I set off on the Laugavegurrin hiking trail, a 3 or 4 four day hike to Thorsmork, past lava fields, snow fields, glaciers, fumeroles, mountains, waterfalls and some spectacular scenery. On the first day I was lucky enough to bump into a very nice group of Americans who made the next week a real pleasure! Thank you guys!
After a couple days walking in rain and wind, then another in beautiful sunshine we arrived in Thorsmork where we decided to continue to the coast via the Fimmvorduhals! Which is as cool as it sounds and goes something like this: You traverse Mount Valahnukar before crosser the Krossa river and head then with caution to the Strakagil ravine before reaching Kattarhryggir – a narrow crest with deep ravines plummeting down to either side. After making a steep, slippery climb you eventually reach the Plains of Morinsheidi! Then ascend to the Fimmvorduhals, the five cairn throat, via Heljarkombur and Brottafonn, between the glaciers Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajojull. If you survive all that then its a pleasant descent along the Skoga river passing no fewer than 23 waterfalls. Not a bad day, really.
After arriving in Skogar we went our separate ways; Dave, Nicole, Emily, Joel, Lexi, and Jed went back to Reykjavik to get their flight home, and I decided to hitch hike round the island, some 1300km, but there’s only really one road in Iceland so its actually very, very easy to hitch hike there. The main places I stopped at were: Skaftafell – touristy, wouldn’t recommend it; Jokulsarlon – very touristy and not that impressive but cool nontheless; Seydisfjordur and Eskifjordur in the east fjords, which was one of my favourite places and where I had a mini epic on a day walk; Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe when measured by discharge; Myvatn area including Hverir, a geothermal area, next to the richly coloured rhyolitic Namafjall, littered in boiling mud pots and fumeroles, which reek of sulphur, and also the Krafla volcanic area; Akureyri, a lovely town/city in the North; and Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where I stopped in Grundarfjordur and climbed Kirkjafell, before going on to Djupalonssandur and Arnastapi; finally finishing in Reykjavik where I did the famed, yet utterly terrible, golden circle – its been completely overrun by tourists and the attractions are far less impressive than a lot of the other stuff I saw in Iceland. Enjoy the photos!