4-6km (⅔ walked yesterday)
Walking alongside the glaciers, but the views were a bit indifferent. For the first time though you start to see bushes and shrubs before fording the river into Thórsmörk (Thor’s Forest) and seeing a forest and trees for the first time below the commanding glaciers.
No one was around in the morning except my sheepish friends. The skies back at Emstrur seemed to be clear and I felt like I might have made the wrong decision to leave, but I reminded myself that there was nothing left there for me.
I left at 8am, but only to venture up the nearby hill to take in the view for a while.
When I actually set off, it was over. It wasn’t actually as far to go as I’d thought. I think the distance estimates for this section were overestimated because there was no way I was walking at 4kmph last night and today. Other walkers going in the other direction were only just setting off.
I reached what was actually my first major river ford. I didn’t have sandles, so barefoot it was! I remembered bathing in a river fed by snow melt on the Overland Track in Tasmania, but this was the next level – glacial level.
The water was pretty damn cold! So cold that it hurt, but you just kind of had to laugh about the whole experience and reveille in it. The brief moments in between tributaries where it was only the rocks stabbing your feet were pure bliss in comparison. I think it’s a great experience to throw into the day’s mix. The boots off and boots on part is the only annoying bit.
From the freezing ford it was just half an hour to the inhabited areas of Thórsmörk. I hit a signpost for an intersection and it hurt (sorry, lame literal joke) for Langidalur and Húsadalur. I was actually headed to Langidalur, but in the direction of Húsadalur were hot springs and sauna so I was swayed.
Húsadalur was run by Volcano Huts. They have a bar/restaurant with extortionate prices (2,700ISK for breakfast and 4,700ISK for dinner). Camping was reasonable (2,000ISK) given the facilities which included the WiFi, great hot showers (much needed) plus the hot springs and sauna (also much appreciated).
I considered getting some wine there, but when I went to the small shop at Langidalur I found cans of cider for 1,000ISK instead. The shop prices were reasonable and only perhaps 20-30% above supermarket prices. The shop is the red roofed building near Langidalur Hut and opens during weird hours: 11am-1pm, 3pm-6pm and 9:30-10:30pm (not sure if it was 11:30pm). More info under Pre-planning.
I was a bit jealous of the Langidalur campsite view, but really, my campsite worked better for me to have a bit of downtime. After buying groceries I saw signs for the Valahnúkur mountain lookout. I couldn’t be bothered to drop the groceries back so I just went. It took a bit less than 45 minutes return. For some reason people used their walking poles? And there I was with a plastic bag full of groceries and thongs..
Sadly, I didn’t notice the route down to Húsadalur, so I walked back via Langidalur, but it was no biggy. For some strange reason this light pole exists in the middle of nowhere?
When I got back to camp I just chilled in the warmth of the sun. It actually was warm today! Stellar weather!
Stupidly, I went inside to charge my phone and use the WiFi. The sun kept shining in my eyes through the window and I kept trying to ignore it and shuffle around the table. It did this for ages before I realised a red glow on the glacier. I figured “That couldn’t be right, the sun sets in the south-east in the northern hemisphere stupid”, and assumed I was seeing things.
Finally, I realised everything I thought I knew about the path of the sun was wrong. The sun had been shining in my face from the north, but then “Why do they build south facing houses in the northern hemisphere?”, I thought. In any case I ran off up Valahnúkur to see sunset at 11pm. I was quite late and the red light was already fading away.
What I later learned is that the sun does hang in the north here, for most of the day too, but because we are so far north it circles around the horizon at the extremes. The shorter the nights, the closer the sun rises and sets near the north pole. It sounds weird until you have a picture like this and then it makes complete sense.
I’m sure this arctic fox knew all that already though. He looks like a smart guy. Apparently the arctic foxes here stay grey because they spend a lot of their time hunting on the black beaches. Unusual!
You should see the size of him compared to these Super Jeeps that carry the tourists around here! These V12 beasts really deserve awards for ecotourism. There’s nothing like hiking into a beautiful and remote place only to see people rock up in a vehicle and ruin it.
Anyhoo, after kicking myself for being a terrible unprepared photographer, I vowed to get up for sunrise and hope to make it count. Mind you, sunrise was due to happen in just 4 more hours at 3:45am. With some luck, I caught it, but I’m adamant that the sunrise that I missed would have been better. Such is life!