Well, six months later, the post is finally finished. Without further ado, here is one of several posts I'll write about our trip to Iceland!
What happened during our 25 km (15.5 miles) 2-day volcanic hike in Iceland has topped our short list of most adventurous hiking adventures (See Torres Del Paine, Kalalau lookout, Kalalau trail (not finished, oops.)
This time, we did the Fimmvorduhals trail. From Skogar, over the Fimmvorduhals pass (between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps) with an overnight stay at the lovely Fimmvörðuhálsskali hut (~5500 ISK/person) and making our final stretch to Basar (towards Þórsmörk). The trail itself was a fairly easy one except maybe near the end of it approaching Basar where one slip can lead to your death or a serious injury. But overall, it was an easy hike. The difficult part was the unpredictable weather which we read much about and knew what to expect but we were not prepared for a hurricane. The remnants of hurricane/cyclone Cristobal was upon us during our hike and was responsible for the high wind and constant rain we endured. That's when I learned that my gear and shoes were NOT waterproof. They were way past their water repellent capabilities when the rain just kept coming down.
Rain, wind, freeze and no waterproofing made the hike just super unpleasant. Dave's shoes and clothes held up but not his bag pack. What should have been a moderate and glorious hike alongside Iceland's most famous volcano became a series of ups and downs.We found ourselves in a pickle many times but with the wisdom gathered from watching hours of Bear Grylls show and Dave's quick thinking, we survived our trek and came out empowered.
Our journey began at the base of Seljalandsfoss. We decided to park our rental car (with all of our belongings) at Seljalandsfoss, take what we needed for our hike and catch a 10:10 a.m. bus (600 ISK/person) to Skogafoss where we would begin our hike. Dave checked multiple bus companies and because we had just hit the first day of low season in September, we had to be creative in finding ways back to our car from Basar where we would finish our hike. The only risk was leaving all of our belongings in our car but with Iceland's safety record, we didn't hesitate at all.
So here are some of the pictures (more than 60+) from our hike...[Warning: Lots of pictures of waterfalls ahead]
|Where our car parked overnight|
|Our bus to Skogafoss|
In the picture above, you can see my big lumpy hat. At the time this picture was taken, I did not know that I had misplaced my gloves which were indeed stuffed inside my hat. I was frantically looking for them thinking that I had lost them forever and needed them for the remainder of our trip.It wasn't until I saw the picture that I had realized my gloves were inside my hat. ah yes...one of those moments.
We arrived to Skagofoss fall by bus in no time..less than 20 minutes. It had began raining that day and so we quickly took pictures by the marvelous waterfall and started our way up the trail which was right beside the fall.
|Greeeeatt picture of us by the Skagofoss.. Lots of water and rain all at once|
Another view of Skagofoss from the side of the trail ...
The trek didn't start out too badly despite the rain. We packed light with enough food for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We also had some change of clothes in case we got wet. We each carried a bottle of water which were filled up when we crossed some fast-flowing streams. We were wary of the smaller streams because the nearby grazing sheeps meant that there could be possible fecal contaminated water. The glacial water tasted cool and crisp. Maybe better than what we had in Torres Del Paine? The first couple of kilometers is a good place to fill up because as you get higher, there were no streams close to the trail. Actually, we found no decent streams from the huts all the way down to Basar. Make sure you fill up your bottles for the trip.
During the hike, we encountered waterfall after waterfall. I mean, I was in waterfall paradise. We saw maybe more than a dozen of them? I lost count but I can look back at all the pictures and figure it out. I didn't even count the ones we could see from faraway. I took a picture of each and every waterfall. Even when it was pouring and my camera or iphone was getting wet, I HAD to take a picture.
We saw a modest waterfall...
a short and wide waterfall...
a thin and long waterfall...
A big long waterfall. This one was pretty impressive...
A waterfall with an ice plate buddy...
A shy waterfall hiding behind a hill...
a really short and wide one..
After a while, they start looking the same ...
We kept trekking on...
Oh hello sheep!
|A little Icelandic graffiti|
As we increased in altitude, we no longer saw any waterfalls. The weather also started getting worse as we climbed higher and higher. The wind was picking up and the rain became more violent i.e. hitting us from the side. We kind of appreciated that it was striking us from behind and not straight to our face. As the rain picked up, that's when I realized that my hiking pants and shoes were NOT waterproof. Well, I kind of knew that but didn't expect it to stop repelling and my pants and leggings underneath were drenched. Water started gathering in my shoes making each step very squishy. Like I was constantly walking in a puddle of water. Squish, squash, squish, squash, squeek, squeek.
After about 6 hours of hiking, about 11-12 km later, we finally reached the first hut (Baldvinsskal) where we could finally rest. My plan to change to change into dry gear and keep going didn't go exactly as planned. The hut is meant for emergencies or resting and not overnight stay but, there was a bunch of trekkers who decided to stay the night due to the poor weather conditions. It was the wettest bunch of people I have seen huddle together. It seemed that everyone's waterproof gears were put to the ultimate test and failed. Most of the trekkers have intended to reach Basar by end of day but decided to wait out the storm and stay in overnight. As we got there, a rescue team was there helping a guy who had slipped on some ice and hurt himself badly. His face was bloodied. Apparently he dropped his water bottle and slipped. We had not been on any ice at that point of our trek so we weren't sure what they were talking about. Ice? Wha ice?
When we entered the hut, I immediately looked through my bag to change into dry gear but to my horror, all my things were soaked. I knew things were wet but did not think that everything would be soaked to the core. Wringing every item amounted to a large puddle of water on the floor. I almost cried as I felt defeated. I needed dry clothes and was so cold! The temperature outside had dropped and the inadequate heating inside the hut was not sufficient for everyone's comfort. Many were huddled around one lone gas heater including myself. I was still shaking like crazy because I had no dry clothes. I did not realize my base layer was also wet from my sweat. When I couldn't stop shaking, another trekker gave me the idea to take off my wet clothes and warm up inside my sleeping bag. Great idea!
We were facing a difficult decision at this point. Dave had booked us two beds in a bigger hut (Fimmvörðuháls) about a mile away but without dry clothes, I did not see myself capable of doing the remainder of the hike. And apparently, there was an ice cap to cross (the one where the guy fell and hurt himself). The current cabin was small, cold, muddy and packed with people. It was better for us to leave so that there was a better chance for me to stay warm and appropriately dry our stuff. As we were about to leave, another concerned hiker questioned our decision to get back out there. We reassured him that we would safely reach the other cabin and thanked him for his concern.
Pictures we took after we left the hut to find Fimmvorrouhals about 2 km away. A large iceplate seperated us covered in ash spewed out from Eyjafjallajökull.
So close to the hut but first, we must cross this ice bridge...yup..completely made out of ice. If the ice was not there, we would have to make a water crossing a few meters up...Crazy!
|Don't slip or fall into the water and down a big waterfall...|
There is no warden at the hut during low season. The doors were locked and for a moment we panicked and circled the hut numerous times trying to find our way in. Finally, we figured out the locks and entered. The fear and panic of not being able to get inside the hut was real. It was already getting late and we didn't have much time before darkness would set in if we were to trek back to the emergency hut. We were also very tired at this point.
After we got into the cabin and relieved to have a place for the night, our next challenge awaited us. This....furnace.
The cabin was empty and not heated. After removing my drenched clothes and hanging everything out to dry, the cold started settling in again and we still couldn't figure out how to turn the heat on. We figured the furnace was the life line but the instruction sheets on how to operate the damn thing was in Icelandic. Desperation sets in a bit. There was a stove hooked to a gas tank we were able to use to make hot water and drink something hot.
Dave was on full boy scout mode and decided to take pictures of the instructions and email his family's Google group email seeking help translating the instructions ASAP. Meanwhile, my body was going on full vibration mode and was bundling up in my sleeping bag while trying to figure the heating situation.
Maybe about an hour later, we saw some movements outside the foggy windows. What the...? More hikers?? This late in the day? We thought most of them camped in the emergency hut and we were not expecting anybody at all. It was an Italian family. Two adults and two kids. They did not speak any english but I was able to communicate with my spanish which the mother vaguely understood.
We explained that there was no heat and that we were trying to figure out the instructions. They had no clue neither but luckily, they had a phone plan and we were able to borrow it to call the warden whose number was posted in the cabin for emergency purposes. The whole thing was a miracle- the Italian family's arrival and using their phone to reach the warden and then one of Dave's cousin coming through and sending back translated instructions immediately- Dave managed to make the furnace work.
Even though the pictures were clear, the last bit of information we could not figure out was pumping the oil into the furnace and using a match to light up the oil. The pump was inside another room which we couldn't open at first. Finally, we had heat and we couldn't be more relieved. The cabin slowly started warming up and we hung every single item of clothing we had. There was a small closet filled with heating pipes which ultimately worked as a dryer. It was super efficient too.
We settled in, made dinner and got ready for bed. There was no showers (the website Dave booked the cabin mentioned showers) and one toilet which was basically two holes in a wooden plank (no septic tank). At least there was toilet paper. I was thankful I didn't need to poo that night.
There was a lot of fleece/wool blankets provided and we used as many as we could since my sleeping bag was still wet and Dave and I had to share one which we used as a liner. Do they ever wash these things I wondered? There was no point thinking about that. They were warm and dry, that's all that mattered.
The furnace was left on and was so efficient we had to shut if off in the middle of the night since the whole place was boiling hot. We stripped down to our base layers and I was profusely sweating. It took some time to figure out how to smother the fire but we managed and went back to bed.
On day 2, we woke up bright and early. Actually, we woke up early but not bright because it was cloudy and yes, rain again. We needed to make it to Basar on time to catch a shuttle bus back to Seljalandsfoss. We had about 12-13 km left to trek. Thankfully, everything we hung out was crisp and dried. The cabin got so hot that night, I wasn't surprised it sucked the moisture out of everything. We made breakfast and packed everything up to get on our way. The Italian family enjoyed their morning coffee (they had a moka pot, ground coffee and everything) and enjoyed their time together. They were doing the complete Landmannalaugar 5-day hike together. It was sweet.
A view from our top bunk...As you can see, the hut is pretty luxurious for a cabin sitting in the middle of the mountains. The kitchen was well-furnished (tea, coffee, condiments left by previous campers) and there was cool running water albeit not sure if it was drinkable.
And off we go again but not without taking a rainy selfie.
See the red magma rocks...
Finally, after a couple of hours, we see some greenery AND a rainbow! My spirit picked up when I saw some semi-clear skies above us. We had been rained on for two days, and this was a gift. I started singing super loudly to pass the time while Dave walked further away from me. He might have thought I was becoming crazy...
It was all downhill from here...in a good way! Quicker and less straining on our tired legs..kinda.
A couple's portrait with lovely glaciers as our backdrop...
|Half of my lash extensions fell off...|
|Totoro enjoying the sunshine and view..|
|One of the campground in Basar. Waiting for our bus.|
The bus ride back to Seljalandsfoss was more than an hour long and we were able to take a short nap after we got out of the rocky terrains. It was a really rough and bumpy ride. When we got back to our car, we quickly changed out of all our clothes and we were ready for our next destination, onwards toward Vik. On our way there, we even picked up two hitchhikers (first time ever!) and decided to stop by Skagofoss to take another look at it without rain in our face.
|Our ride. Those tires are very important.|
|For this type of terrain...|
Back to the waterfall where our hike began in clean dry clothes. Although there was some mild hardship during our hike, I felt nothing but happiness inside and was thankful for the experience. Yes it was rainy and cold but without that, I wouldn't have a good story to tell.
Thank you for reading xx