I spent 3 days trekking through the southern interior of Iceland, from Thórsmörk to Skógar. It had been a while since I had done a trek like this. …Okay, it had been many years. Probably comparable would be the Inca Trail, in Peru, back in 2004. Since then, I’ve participated in mostly kid-friendly hikes. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciated the opportunity to do something active and adventurous. I love traveling with my family, but this trek (maybe this whole trip) tapped into a little piece of me that has been slightly buried in finger paint and dress-up clothes for the past few years. It was sort of like catching up with an old friend.
We first traveled by regular bus to a place I can’t remember, nor would I be able to pronounce if I did. From there we boarded an all-terrain bus that took us through barren land. There were no marked roads and we drove straight through rivers, gravel and lava fields, to what appeared to be…nowhere. Once we reached the middle-of-nowhere, we disembarked and hiked about half an hour to our mountain hut, where we would be staying the night. It was comfortable and felt a bit like summer camp. We helped set the table and wash the dishes and slept in bunks.
I was with a group of about 12 others and a couple of us ventured up the mountain, for a view of the valley before lunch. We went on about a 2 hour hike before dinner as well. We hadn’t even started trekking yet and I had already done more hiking than I’d done in the past decade. Thankfully (as long as you stay relatively fit) it’s like riding a bike. I was invigorated and on turbo power.
That night, we had a group meeting and our guide, Ingibjorg, told us that a storm was approaching. We would need to leave early and hope to reach the next mountain hut before the storm reached us – otherwise we would be hiking in rain (maybe even snow) and high winds.
The next morning we ate a good breakfast and drank coffee outside, watching the sunrise. The weather was gorgeous…the storm miles away.
We hiked through an area called Fimmvörðuháls, between the glaciers of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. In other words, we traversed across lush green valley until we came to more barren hills and eventually larger mountains that lead to volcanoes and lava fields.
About an hour or two in, we spotted a grayish horizon behind us. Our storm was approaching.
As we climbed, we eventually hit snow and the recently formed lava of Eyjafjallajökull, that erupted in 2010 (also known as E15 to foreigners who can’t pronounce it – 15 stands for the number of letters after the ‘E’).
These climbs were tough and although I had good boots, I needed to borrow a friend’s walking stick to keep from slipping with every-other step.
Below are Magni and Móði – two of Iceland’s newest craters. In this area, there is lava just under the earth’s surface, creating steam that rises up and escapes through crevasses. I could stand between these lava rocks and feel the heat – and the lava rocks were warm. Pretty incredible stuff.
And then…after about 5 hours of hiking, visibility got pretty bad and the wind picked up. Thankfully we were about 40 minutes from our hut.
We had hiked for about 6 hours and arrived around 2pm. We filled the hut and had to double up on beds, with sleeping bags placed head to food. There was an oil stove for heat and we melted snow for cooking water. I wrapped myself in a down sleeping bag, reading a book, until I could feel my toes again. People played cards, we ate dried fish and drank Brennivín. Ingibjorg made soup and an amazing trout with rice. It was rough and cozy, all at the same time.
As the night went on, the storm picked up and the wind whipped around outside, threatening to take pieces of the hut down the mountain. With full bellies, warm toes and ear plugs, I slept – hoping that the storm would pass and we could depart at normal time the following day.