Saturday, September 20, 2014

Day 4: Emstrur to Porsmork

Today's hike was great. We woke up to balmy temperatures and no wind. The main group of 5 took off a little bit ahead of us. We left before the Spaniards, per usual. I was intrigued to see how they were going to fare. They were intending to catch the 4 p.m. bus out of Porsmork back to Reykjavik (Porsmork is the official end of the Laugavegur trail), but when we left around 9:30 a.m. they were just starting to eat breakfast -- and today's hike is billed at 6 to 7 hours.

The first segment was beautiful, winding up and down the mountains and across a bridge that led to a narrow trail etched into the mountain, with a chain drilled in to help you haul yourself up. Yikes! 

Next we spent several hours traversing a mainly flat area filled with interestingly shaped rocks and scruffy vegetation. At one point I wrote "Hola!" in the dirt and drew a smiley face, hoping the Spanish guys would see it. We finally caught up the lead pack late morning, when they had stopped to eat lunch. Apparently Eli had planned to camp on this hike, not stay in the huts (he changed his mind after his harrowing first day in the fog/wind/rain). So he had cooking equipment with him -- and there he was, making some dish over a little stove. Ha! We just stop for about 10 minutes at lunchtime -- enough time to scarf down an energy bar or PBJ.

Near the end of this stretch we had to climb a long, super-steep hill. We stopped at the top for our lunch, and were surprised to see the Spaniards walk up. They were hiking very quickly today because they were under a time crunch due to their late start. They had seen my note, and it made them laugh. :)

We quickly finished eating and joined the guys on the hike down the hill, which ended in a river ford. While we were taking off our shoes and socks, the other 5 walked up and we all crossed the river at the same time. It was quite cold, but only up to our knees.

The final portion of the trail went through a pretty forested area. Icelanders think their island originally was about 25% forested. A few years ago, only about 1% was left forested, so they began a huge reforestation effort and are now up to about 4%. So it was a surprising sight to see all of these trees.

We arrived in Porsmork to bright sunshine. The Spaniards had gotten ahead of us, and were already enjoying a cold beer when we walked up. The four Canadians were also planning to go back to Reykjavik, but they were catching tomorrow's bus, as they planned to spend much of tomorrow morning and afternoon doing day hikes (there are supposed to be lots of great ones here). Eli wanted to hike with us on the next trail, which goes to Skogar, but decided instead to go back to Reykjavik with the others tomorrow.

Porsmork has a hut, per usual, but also offers room rentals. I'd booked us in the "motel," where we had a room with a bed made up with linens, plus a common toilet and sink down the hall. It was small, but nice. We were able to shower in the main building (free, thank goodness). We did a short hike with Laurie and Barrie first.

Porsmork also has a restaurant, so the 7 of us met for dinner. We ran into Ryan and Emily there, the Canadian newlyweds we'd met on the first day. We hadn't spoken with them very much because they were camping, and the campers weren't allowed into the huts. But we pulled them into our dinner and conversation, and it was fun having a larger group. Ryan and Emily said they were also planning to hike to Skogar tomorrow like we were, so it was nice to know Ed and I wouldn't be alone.

The hike to Skogar is 10 to 12 hours long if you do it in one day. It's supposed to offer spectacular scenery, but be rather dangerous if the weather's bad, as you climb 1,000 meters and at that altitude, as Hafta said, the weather can change in seconds. For the worse. So yes, knowing we'd have Ryan and Emily hiking with us was a bit comforting.

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