Boy, did we sleep well last night! Jet lag and a long hike will do that to you. We had hoped to hike to these much-acclaimed ice caves yesterday afternoon after our main hike, but the weather was too lousy. So Ed and I hiked there this morning when the rest of the hikers headed to Alftavatn. WOW.
The ice caves were large and impressive, although we couldn't go inside because there was a danger of collapse. The neat thing was that there were all of these hot springs bubbling up on the outside of the caves, so there was a juxtaposition of the white-and-black icy caves and the hot, bubbling springs that created lush green and yellow vegetation.
This side hike was only about 1.5 hours, so we were able to start the main hike around 10:30 a.m. The first part looked like we'd be hiking across a long, flat area with some short ravines to hop over. In reality, it was much more strenuous. Normally these ravines fill with snow over the winter, so early in the hiking season, when the snow is still melting, you can easily hop over the ravines or walk across them on the snow. Since we were hiking at the very end of the season, all of the snow had melted and the ravines went all the way down to the bottom. So we had to keep hiking down steep, sandy cliffs, hopping over streams, then hiking up steep, sandy cliffs. It was quite tiring, and the footing was difficult at times. But gosh, the scenery was gorgeous.
From there we moved to some mountainous areas, and then we saw a beautiful lake in the distance, with lush, green vegetation growing out all around it. To get there, we first had to hike down a very long, steep, rocky hill. We hated that. It was pretty dangerous, and you had to move very slowly. At the bottom, we faced our first stream ford. Ed managed to hop across on some pointy rocks, but I had to take off my boots and socks and wade over in my Keen sandals. The water was very cold, not surprisingly.
We reached the hut mid-afternoon. It was new and very nice, although instead of bunkbeds they just had a row of beds touching one another. Ed tucked me next to the wall, and then he was next to me. Luckily the hut never filled, so no one was right next to him.
Once we got settled in we did a side hike up two nearby mountains, which offered sweeping views of the valley. Then it was back to the hut for showers ($5 for 5 minutes) and dinner. We got to know our hiking friends -- Barrie and Laurie from Ottawa (our age); Lynn and Enn from Toronto (30); Eli from Israel (24); and Josep, Carlos and Esteban from Spain (30s-ish).
While we were getting dinner ready, a group of 19 dirt bike/motorcycle riders roared up. It was some organized ride. They filled the hut and largely kept to themselves, although one older guy told me it was the first day of the ride and one person already had broken bones and was going to the hospital. Yikes!
All in all, another great day.