So over the last weekend I, my two cousins and their girlfriends went on a hike in the Icelandic country side. The first weekend in August is usually reserved for festivals held around the island and involve a fair bit of alcohol. This year we decided to go on a two day hike and experience nature. The hike was somewhere around 40-45km all in all.
We decided to go first to Hólaskjól, which is a camping center at one of the entry points into the highlands. We stayed there the first night there, waking early on Saturday morning to head out. We noticed a group of Brits there, all kitted out in Land Rovers and some pretty impressive gear. I got talking to one of them and turned out they were heading deep into the highlands for the next two weeks. The cool thing was they had lots of kids with them, ranging from first graders all the way to late teens. That is going to be one cool trip those kids are going to be experiencing!
We also noticed a group of mountain cyclists, all kitted out in brand new multi colored clothing. Cycling has become quite the sport here in Iceland in the last couple of years. But I get the sense that some people take part in it due to elitism. Buying the latest and greatest gear is expensive, and old gear seems to have a stigma attached to it. It turned out I was right, as we not only overtook them later in the day but actually beat them to the Strútslaug where we stayed the night. A hiking group beating a group of mountain bikers, on rough off trail terrain. That should simply not happen.
But I digress. The first day we had clear skies, and the sun scorched us. Sun burns were had. But since we had to cross 4 rivers that day, and the water was melted glacial water we didn’t mind the sun warming us up. The terrain was fantastic, and as soon as we had reached the top of Ófærudalur (around midday) we had seen some great vistas and waterfalls. The valley it self was mostly down hill, but on rough terrain. Few hours after that we reached our camping site, Strútslaug. It has a small pond where water from hot springs mixes with water from the glacial river, creating a nice place to bathe. Beers were had, and all was good.
I took my Aeropress and grinder with me, and also brought roasted beans from Reykjavík Roasters on the trip. Quality coffee in the morning after camping makes all the difference, and puts me in the right mindset no matter the weather. And good thing as well, since later in the second day we would get pretty fierce rain for a few hours.
We walked south along Hálsárlón glacial lagoon then at the end turned up the mountain ridge, along side Svarthnjúksfjöll. The incline was steep at times but it was a pleasant walk. Having good equipment is key while hiking in Iceland, as the weather can go from sunny to beating rain in an instant. And that is exactly what happened during our uphill walk.
Some of us had old equipment, which started leaking through, while I had just reinvested in new equipment earlier this summer. I enjoy walking in bad weather when using quality equipment. Protected against the elements, it feels like you are invincible and can take on anything. After coming down of the mountain we were thoroughly wet and tired, after being blasted with wind and rain.
But when we finally reached Hólaskjól later that day, the weather was better. Which was a good thing, seeing as we had brought with us enough food to have a feast on the last night. We grilled some lamb prime, corn on the cobs, potatoes, made some mushroom sauce, and opened a couple of bottles of red wine. After a 25km walk in one day, that was one fantastic meal!
For our way back to Reykjavík, we went through Fjallabaksleið Nyðri up to Landmannalaugar, and then took Landmannaleið down passed Hekla and onto the ring road again.
While a big part of the Icelandic population had hangovers after the weekend, we had sunburns and sore feet.