Iceland Adventure (Part 2)

Finally the sequel to Iceland Adventure (Part 1).

The sun rose; the temperatures rose; and we finally did too on the second morning of our Iceland adventure. After a quick mug of tea and bowl of porridge, we were on our way. We rejoined the well-marked trail for the first hour until we stumbled upon our first of many waterfalls and realised that the Laugavegurinn Pass trail is truly special in that the scenery changes so completely and so rapidly. Seemingly with every ebb and flow of the path, we would be amazed by something novel in the paradisical landscape around us: vast glacial valleys, shear ice cliffs and geothermally-heated hot streams to name a few.

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We took a steep descent off the glacial plateau to find ourselves by a beautiful river surrounded by the first grass and flowers of the trail so far; an ideal spot for a lentil lunch.

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After a further half-dozen kilometres on our Iceland adventure, we reached the second hut on the edge of the large Álftavatn lake for a mid-afternoon snack. We were beginning to flag a little bit at this point, and struggled to persuade our weary legs to leave the comfort of the benches and to bear the weight of our packs once more, but we were soon rewarded with our first river crossing. We’d been warned about these, and most people carried a pair of lightweight shoes for the purpose, so we strode through, underestimating the depth!

Once we’d poured the icy water out of our shoes and changed our socks (it can’t be called an Iceland adventure without getting wet feet at least once!), we were on our way to camp 2. Another patch of paradise, by the edge of a gentle stream and surrounded by rolling grassy hills, with a view of the vast Eyjafjallajokull glacier on the horizon.

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After another well-deserved supper, we wrapped up well and slept solidly through the night so that by half eight, we were in high spirits and trekking again for our third day.

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A colder and deeper river met us soon after departure, but we’d learnt our lesson from the day before by now. We took off our boots and socks, rolled up our trousers and strode out into the thigh-high current. “Never again will I complain about being cold”, Katie shivered as she reached the other side, grabbing a spare towel to dry her blue and tender toes.

Whilst the first day had consisted of hills so beautiful that the whole place seemed fictitious, and the second day was marked by vast waterfalls and lush greenery, the third day of our Iceland adventure was like trekking across an alien world. Once we’d crossed the river, we were faced with 10km of barren volcananic wasteland. We walked through the middle of a huge valley, covered with pumice stones up to the size of footballs that had been flung from the top of the surrounding volcanoes. There was no movement on this bed; no rivers or wind for noise; not even a weed as a sign of life. It’s no wonder that NASA used parts of Iceland to train it’s Apollo astronauts.

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By early-afternoon we arrived to rest our feet and to enjoy a much-earned lunch whilst reading a sign instructing us on the fascinating and ever-present local volcanoes.

Along the way to our final camp, we abseiled down a fixed rope to cross a vast vertigo-inducing ravine on an old, rusty and rickety footbridge, which marked  the entry into a green and idyllic world. Our camp was surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, there was birdsong in the air and again we had a quiet stream running next to us. Another perfect camp in paradise.

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Our final day of this Iceland adventure didn’t disappoint. As every day had been marked by its own special type of landscape, our last was increasingly green. We set off under our fourth day of beautiful skies, with grass under our feet. As the day progressed, the skies darkened as we came across waterfalls and forded the largest river, getting closer all the time to the surrounding glaciers. By lunchtime, the grass faded into woodland, growing denser and denser, protecting us from the first rain we’d had, until we descended into Þórsmörk, our final destination.

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As we sat waiting for the bus in the cafe, we didn’t want to leave. The rain was growing heavier, but we knew that if we didn’t have a flight to catch we’d continue on into the glaciers in front of us, with only wooden pegs marking the extension of our trail. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case, but we also knew that this wasn’t to be our last visit to Iceland; an idyllic and truly alien country.

If you’ve been inspired by this account, then feel free to get in touch as we are planning a repeat expedition during the summer of 2015.

Keep an eye out as well for a video account of this expedition in the coming weeks!

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