Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

Ed and I began our adventure on the Laugavegur Hiking Trail last Wednesday. We got on a bus from downtown Reykjavik that was taking people to Landmannalaugar, the typical starting point at the north end of the trail. There were 11 students from Belgium on the bus, plus an assortment of other folks. The ride took 4 hours. The first two or so were on highways, and then the bus turned onto a gravel road. And then onto a really small, winding, rutted dirt trail. None of us could believe a huge tourist bus could navigate these trails. The bus even went across several streams, which caused all of our eyes to bug out a bit. And then we were there.

Landmannalaugar has spots for camping, a natural hot springs area you can soak in, an information office and bathroom facilities. We tried to pick up a trail map, assuming there were free ones in the office, but all they had was a (poorly-written) guidebook for about $20. First lesson learned -- Iceland is a very expensive country to visit.

Neither Ed nor I have ever backpacked before, and I was surprised that I didn't mind carrying a heavy pack at all. After the first 20 minutes or so, you don't notice it at all.

The trail took us through gorgeous rhyolite mountains, which look sort of like colorful sand-dune mountains. We saw lots of shiny chucks of rock -- obsidian, we later learned -- and light rocks made of pumice/lava. It rained lightly on and off, and then the sun would come out and create rainbows. They were everywhere. It was truly magical. You could also see steam coming out of all sorts of vents because of the volcanic nature of the island.

About halfway through our 4-hour hike the weather got quite windy. As in really windy. This happened right when we were walking along the top of a ridge on a path only as wide as our feet. With the wind and my big pack, I was afraid I'd blow off the mountain and I began crouching as I walked. I was just about to start crawling to be safe when the winds died down a bit and we got off the ridge. That was definitely a bit scary.

Toward the end of the hike we crossed a small snowfield, then went past a memorial for a 24-year-old who died here, just about 1.5 miles from the hut. Yikes! Shortly after that it began raining hard, and got foggy and cold. We hoofed it to the hut and decided there would be no side hikes later, as planned.

The hut was old but clean. We shared a room with a couple from Germany and two guys from Austria. We made our first freeze-dried meal -- Kung Pao chicken (good) -- and were happy to collapse into bed at 8:30 (we were still jet lagged). 

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