Iceland Kicked Our Ashes

One of our main things to do while in Iceland was to hike the Laugavegur trail between Porsmork (pronounced “Thorsmork”)and Landmannalaugar. The trek is 55 km long and has 3 mountain huts along the way, so it is best to do in 4 days. We were really excited to experience some of the gorgeous scenery of Iceland while hiking.

Most hikers start from Landmannalauger and go south, but after talking to the information center they suggested we work our way north and then catch a bus from Landmannalauger to Akureyri, our next destination, instead of coming back to Reykjavik. This made sense to us and we liked the idea of going against the flow of the main traffic on the trail since it was supposed to be fairly busy.

So on Friday, we caught a bus destined for Porsmork. We had heard that we would need four-wheel drive to get to the trail head, so when the bus showed up we were still surprised by the height of the tires (3’) and suspension system. This bus looked like it was ready to take on the mountain! The drive was four hours long. The first few hours had a few stops and we changed buses at one of them. We were two of the three passengers on this final bus. The last 1.5 hours was on a gravel road traveling up a wide valley with a large glacier river flowing through the center of it. We crossed many tributaries in the bus. Some were narrow and shallow and some were quite deep and wide! At one point, I started getting nervous that our bags underneath the bus were going to be soaked due to the height of the water!

We made one stop to see a glacier from the volcano that erupted in April 2010. There used to be a giant lagoon at the base of the glacier and now it is completely filled with debris! We eventually arrived at our destination and got of the bus. The views were amazing and we were surprised by how many glaciers we could see in all directions.

 

The first day was 15km long and mostly uphill. Neither Mike or I had been exercising much for the past few weeks due to the road trip, so it was a hard day. Plus our packs were really heavy due to carrying all our stuff including our laptop, 10 travel books and all our toiletries! This was not our normal backpacking pack!

We had to cross one river that was knee deep, freezing cold and about 20‘ wide. I was nervous as I have never crossed a river like this and with this heavy of a pack! We changed into our Keens and started across. It ended up being easy, but cold! After the river crossing the scenery changed from green to lava fields.

There was plenty of beautiful mountains to look at. We eventually made our way to camp in the little valley and it was packed with tents. We found the warden and she said to just put our tent wherever, so we started looking and didn’t see anything. A teenager finally told us we could put our tent next to theirs. The tents were so packed, there was maybe 2’ between each and we ended up being literally inches off the trail! Mike and I were tired, so we had our peanut butter sandwich and went to bed! 

The second day was 16km long and mostly flat. The morning was sunny and breezy and we walked through black sand dunes with hillocks surrounding us. The hillocks were beautiful green hills rising out of the dunes. They were very tall and steep.

After an hour or so the wind started picking up and the sand started blowing hard. It was crazy and came in waves that you could see coming and we even saw a few small twisters! At one point, we both had to stop and Mike blocked the wind for me so we wouldn’t get knocked down! It was quite miserable and by the time we got to camp, our faces were completely black and we looked like we beat each other up! Even the warden laughed at us!

However, the last 2 miles of the trek to camp were some of the most beautiful views that I have ever seen! There were many lush green valleys with small creeks and neon green moss growing along side the rocks. When we crested the hill above the hut, our breaths were taken away with the big mountains so green with small snow fields. It truly was unlike anything we had ever seen before and made the sandstorm worth it!

We quickly put up our tent in the wind and put all our stuff in there to make sure it was secure. They had hot showers for about $5 so we did that to try and get the sand off of us. Felt great! We ate dinner in the tent and read our books. I think we ended up spending 14 hours in the tent that night and into the next morning. The wind picked up and it started raining. It was so windy, I started to get scared that our tent poles would break or the tent would rip apart. It was crazy!

Neither of us got much sleep! Our tent leaked that night too as the rain was blowing sidways, so we woke up soaked. We stayed in the tent as long as we could to wait our the rain, but no luck. So we packed up and got even more wet and cold! We were just getting ready to head out when a threesome from Belgium mentioned that there was a bus pick-up at 1pm that would take us back to Rejkyavik. Tempting, but we decided to continue. Well that lasted for about 200 yards after getting blown around like crazy and looking at the mountain pass we were supposed to climb. The fun factor was 0! So we waited with about 20 other hikers for the bus. We got to know the threesome from Belgium and two guys from Germany – Timon and Michael.

The bus arrived and we all jumped on. I was happy to be in a dry warm place! The ride back followed the same direction as we had just come from, so we got to see all the same sights on our way out. Sure was amazing! We eventually got back onto the main highway and stopped at a gas station and were told we needed to switch buses. There was some confusion, but eventually another bus arrived to take us all the way back.

We arrived in Reykjavik and made our way to the city hostel where Mike and I planned to splurge on a private room. Well everywhere was completely sold out and the only room with twin beds was going to charge $90 per person! So us and Timon and Michael camped out in the campsite for $20! We put up the soaking wet tent and hung up the sleeping bags to dry. It was going to be okay. The four of us ate dinner together at a pizza place and enjoyed a beer together to celebrate our survival of the Iceland backcountry! The beer was excellent – Thule an Icelandic beer pilsner. Back to the campground, where the tent and sleeping bags had dried out, and we slept so soundly!

**Pictures are taking a very long time to upload.  So we will add them as we can.

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6 Responses to Iceland Kicked Our Ashes

  1. Tracy says:

    That’s what I love about travel – all of the cool people you meet (even if for a short time!). Glad you are safe and dry – here’s to better weather in your future endeavors!

  2. Dad says:

    Very good write up. Tough decision, but correct I would say – was the weather unusual or is that normal for this time of year? The pictures were great.

    • Mike says:

      Hey Doug,

      I think that it is pretty normal, especially the wind; hard to get a four-day window of good weather, and we weren’t really equipped for the snow crossing we would have faced. Thanks for the positive comments.

  3. Mary says:

    Sounds like flexibility will be key for this journey! Glad you found a good beer too. Good beer shared with new friends – sounds like a tradition in the making!

  4. Ryan says:

    Sounds like quite the adventure already! I’m glad you guys were able to find a bailout plan – complete with beer, pizza, and new friends!

    Thanks for sharing stories of your journey (especially the part about the blackened faces – hilarious!). Looking forward to hearing more!

  5. Steve Heikkila says:

    Aha! Now the adventure has begun in earnest! Bravo you two.

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