Sunday August 7th - In Iceland again

A bit chaotic scenes on the transfer from the plane to the flybus that would take us to Reykjavik. People for at least four busses tried to get in the only accessible first one. In the meantime more and more people kept arriving. Not everybody stays polite in such a situation but even when you stay as calm as the Icelanders you get in a bus surprisingly quick.

Monday August 8th - Reykjavik to Egilsstadir

The Park hotel had a beautiful terrace for people who wanted to smoke. Took a coffee with me after our breakfast and smoked a cigarette with some nice Icelandic elderly.
Welcome at the Reykjavik marathon office was as warm as always, we immediately feel at home. Took over Frimanns office but only we seemed to notice.
Egelsstadir is fantastic. Phoned Angur from jeeptours.is again. Postponed our departure to Snæfel to 11 o'clock tomorrow morning, gives us more time for some last shopping.
Internet was available at the tourist information, we had to pay 300 krones for access without time limit. We only had to write down a code that was on a small piece of paper.
We had to be on the camping site to sent a bag to Höfn, that's where the busses leave.
Back on the camping site we sat down in the cafe after a nice dinner. Free internet and we saw almost half of the population passing by. Internet from the tourist information turned out to be a waste of (a little) money.

Tuesday August 9th - Taxi to Snaefellsskáli

Still used to the Dutch time we woke up at 7. Supermarket only opened at 9 so we were to early for fresh bread. But a lot of time to do soma packing and we already had some skyr and juice with us.
Bought the last groceries. Layout of Icelandic supermarkets is sometimes a bit confusing. Energy bars have to be collected on 5 different locations. It was a pity eggs were only available in a box with 10. But they sold a lovely box for just 2 eggs and we could buy just 2 eggs in the cafe at the camping site.
It stayed unclear how much we had to pay for the transport of our big yellow bag to Höfn. Nobody knew so we agreed on paying in Höfn when collecting the bag.
Agnar arrived at 11 sharp. Big jeep with almost bigger tires. Distance to Snæfell was about 100 kilometre so we felt the agreed price, 25,000 krones, around 150 Euros wasn't that bad. Prices seem to get more and more normal to us. We had to pay 12 euro for the 5 cappuccino we drank during the waiting on our taxi. And this included the 2 eggs.
Drive to Snæfell was the best we ever made by car. We first crossed the biggest forest in Iceland, which made the landscape very un-Icelandic immediately, and after that the mountains and amazing views. Agnar knew a lot about the surroundings and about Iceland of course.
We arrived at the Snæfellsskali hut around 2 o'clock. Halfway the pressure in the tires was decreased to to be able to drive the road that became more and more rough.
Snæfellsskáli met Herðubreið, koningin van de ijslandse bergen, op de achtergrond
In front of the tent we sat in the sun the whole afternoon, with a small walk in the neighbourhood once in a while. Nice views on the Vatnajökull, Snæfell and even Herðubreið en Kverkfjöll from a little higher up the mountains. Visited the 2 rangers in the hut which gave us some advice on the walk of tomorrow.
They thought it would be nicer for us if they would drop us just next to the glacier. Walk on the jeep track to the glacier wouldn't be the most interesting one and the saved time would make it easier to reach the first hut the same day. After that hut the beauty of the surroundings would increase quite rapidly and we could spend an extra night somewhere over there..
Our original plan was to camp just next to the glacier. Would have given us an easy first day and sleeping next to a glacier sound like a nice experience.

Wednesday August 10th - Crossing the Eyjabakkajökull

Drive trough the park with the ranger was again a beautiful one. Pink-footed gees showed us that they could fly again. They are almost ground bound when they loose some important feathers in the beginning of summer. They are not very quick walkers though, they can't keep up with humans. They play dead when you come too close, one side of their face flat on the ground.
Around 20 reindeer in a the distance, they started running immediately. Reindeer where brought to Iceland as a kind of development aid by the Norwegians. People on Iceland didn't know what to do with them. Dropped of the boat in the harbour they were just sent into the countryside where they mainly caused trouble to the farmers.
Today big numbers of reindeer are living on Iceland, mainly in the east, but they have to organise a lottery to divide the right to shoot one animal. This year there are 1000 permits available. One gets precedence after 5 years of applying for a permit without success.
Before saying goodbye the ranger told us at which hills we probably would have mobile phone coverage and that the emergency number in Iceland was also 112.
In the hut we had received the coordinates for the start and end point of our crossing of the Eyjabakkajökull glacier. Right next to the glacier we looked for the location with the least cracks. Walking on this ice feels really scary, we hardly dare to stop. A bit later we even got used to the bigger glacier cracks
Spleten genoeg op de Eyjabakkajökull, gelukkig nooit verborgen
Beautiful view over Snæfell and Kverkfjöll combined with this intense blue when looking down into a glacier crack. Remarkable how many flies and other flying insects one encounters on a glacier. Most of them seemed to have lost their hope on better conditions.
Steep climb on the other side. We see the waterfalls we have to pass along the top. But to get there we have to descend over a rather steep snow field just above the wall with those waterfalls. We decide to stay on the glacier. When we cross the Kverkkvíslarjökull and Kvíslarjökull as well we have an easy descend to the Geldingafell hut. For a first day the walk had become quite heavy. In the end my knees bended backwards and my shoulders and chest had become rather sensitive. Finally we reached the hut. Drank some soup, ate spinach stew, had a glass of whiskey and a mug of tea and went to bed immediately.

Thursday August 11th - Lónsöræfi

Second day was a lot easier. Open landscape, meandering rivers, white mountaintops covered with snow around us. A lot patches of snow to cross, it felt very arctic. But with a blue sky very comfortable as well.
Track is not very clear, there's no path. We know the direction though, it's easy to find out our own path. Right direction, as level as possible and preferably not to wet.
Vesturdalsa, water valt hier 100 meter naar beneden
After wading the Vesturdalsa that leaves the Fremsstavatn from the south Lónsöræfi really started. To cross the river we had to use our crocs for the first time. Hardly 2 minutes later we arrived on top of a deep valley/canyon. The Vesturdalsa drops down in a 100 meter high waterfall, I hardly dared to take pictures. from here we walked through a landscape with waterfalls, deep valleys and strange rock formations everywhere.
Again only the direction was clear, there was no path from the track to our potential campsite. We put up the tent next to the first of the two small lakes just before Kollumúlavatn. According to our route description from 'Vier Wanderrouten in Island' there where hervorragende Zeltplatze (wonderful places to camp), an idea we liked. We chose the first one, it looked the most sheltered, enough water and flat pieces of land.

Friday August 12th - Reindeer and Tröllakrókar

The next day we started walking east in the direction of the Egilssel hut. We had just passed the second lake when we saw a herd of reindeer. Just a little lower, around a broad stream. There were 25 of them, maybe 8 young ones. Reindeer can't see very well but they hear amazingly good. We tried not to move and the direction of the wind seemed just save. I even dared to smoke a cigarette. It looked as if a few animals saw us but they didn't ran away. We could observe then for about 20 minutes, then 10 others arrived. It seemed if the first group ran for the new ones but in a few moments they ran away together.
We continued in direction of Tröllakrókahnaus to see the Tröllakrókar. We left our backpacks on the plain right next to them. The Tröllakrókar were amazing, as if the rocks had just been designed to be beautiful. You have to go close to the edges to see the most but even I forgot my vertigo once arrived.
Walk to Múlaskáli should have been marked with poles. But no poles wherever we looked. My faith in Icelandic poles wasn't that big anymore after our getting lost on Tjörness but we still fell a little disappointed, the route to the bottom of the valley, 500 meters lower, didn't seem easy to find. We did find more bizarre views down though. Incredible you hardly meet any other people here. We only saw one other hiker in a distance yesterday.
Suddenly the were poles. Arrived from a different direction as we expected from our walking guide but maybe that's a bit outdated and Iceland is a dynamic country. We were lucky finding them, the path was not a path we would have found ourselves. Maybe the path is changed every now and then to prevent damage to the environment but it was certainly not the path described in our book. But the scenery was the right one, that's for sure. At least as beautiful as Landmannalaugar, it's only a bit more difficult to get there.
Lónsöræfi
End of the decent was the right one too, nice Icelandic forest just above the river. At a sheltered spot between the trees we enjoined almost Spanish temperatures. Good to feel again as this isn't the hottest part of Iceland with all those glaciers in the neighbourhood.
After this paradise like forest we had to pass a more difficult stretch, here the book was right again. Heavy when you have vertigo or a big backpack. Because it was impossible to walk through the river bed we had to cross over the steep north slope of the valley. Sometimes assisted by chains or ropes, sometimes not. But steep and narrow everywhere. Fortunately things changes after a while and we could enjoy the landscape again.
Múlaskáli
turned out to be a beautiful hut. There even was a hot shower. Snaefellsskáli had one too but a douche at an Icelandic mountain hut still comes as a surprise to us. It only costs 300 kroner. Found a nice spot close to the hut to put up the tent.

Saterday August 13th - Had we known that before

After a first steep climb to Illikambur the path started as an easy last days walk. Fissures we had to cross became deeper and steeper and the path narrower though. I found it very scary, Monique just enjoined it. Strong wind started to make it more difficult to here too. A wind gust could put us half a meter next to the path when coming at the wrong moment.
Almost at the Eskifell hut we made our biggest mistake this holiday. Instead of continuing towards the hut we crossed over to the jeep track that was quite close at that point. We hoped on a lift to Höfn. Hut was on the end of a mountain range that was surrounded on two sides by big glacier rivers that were only passable by big jeeps, not by foot. At least, that was what our guide from 2004 told us. Having waited for an hour in the rain that just started we decided to phone for transport. A bad connection together with a loud wind made the communication difficult, especially when you have to write down new phone numbers too. It seemed it wouldn't work out when we received a phone call from a person from Stafafell. He had been called by someone I phoned just before. Typically Icelandic. He would pick us up in 40 minutes. We were relieved. Because Stafafell didn't look that far on the map we supposed he first wanted to finish his dinner or something like that. But after 15 minutes we already some 2 headlights on the other side of the plain the river crossed. Road looked straight but the car used big curves to get closer. It turned out that the river exists of a lot of smaller streams that had to be crossed individually, looking for the best place to cross in a situation that changed every day. Whole river crossing took more than 20 minutes. Strange tour, fast streaming grey water and grey gravel banks everywhere, nothing else. The man from Stafafell did this in summer almost on a daily basis and got often phoned by other drivers for advice.
The daily bus service from Illikambur to Höfn didn't exist anymore, one has to make an appointment in advance now. But didn't we know about the new bridge between Eskifell and Stafafell? We could have continued walking until Stafafell at the N1 and take the bus to Höfn there!
We hoped to get this kind of information from the ranger in Múlaskáli but his season ended just 2 days before we arrived there. And we didn't succeed in making a phone call from the mountains. It should be possible on several locations but you have to know where (or try a little bit more!)
Now we had to pay 25,000 kroner for a taxi again. The man, his name was Guðbrandur, obviously didn't feel comfortable with the idea but the whole trip would take him around 3 hours. Normally he would only drive for at least 4 people but because of the bad weather and the bad phone connection he decided to pick us up. We got value for our money though. Because of the bad weather Höfn had already become pretty crowded in the hotels and guesthouses, the town wasn't that big. Guðbrandur drove us from pension to pension and we managed to make a reservation for dinner that night in the meantime. That's a lot easier when you have an Icelander as a spokesman.
Guðbrandur tried to promote tourism around Stafafell. His family already lived for 4 generations on the farm. His brother looked after the camping and guesthouse. Everybody talks about Lónsöræfi, they prefer the name Stafafell nature park. The name Stafafell is known for ages, Lónsöræfi was made up around 30 years ago. Until now they made it possible to walk the whole park with huts on a days walking distance to each other. Even more accessible then Landmannalaugar-þorsmörk when you think of it but much less known. It was a pity we had to say goodbye again.