Iceland was an extreme experience for many reasons. Iceland was also “for the first time”, since did quite a lot of things for the first time in my life there. I saw glaciers. I camped for so many days in a row. I chose a northern, rather cold country as my destination (usually, I would head to the south). For the first time ever the trip was possible mainly because I run THIS blog. I didn’t wash five days in a row (and I didn’t really care!). I ate a raw mushroom. 😀 I didn’t care that it rained. I rolled in a thick moss feeling as happy as never before. I bathed in a hot pool looking at a glacier in a distance. I felt so cold that I shivered. I ascended and descended steep bluffs without feeling fear.
Iceland forced me to leave my comfort zone nearly every single day while I was there. Some moments were tough, but all in all I just can enjoy doing more things in my life now. It’s a cool feeling, I assure you.
Initially, I wanted to just write a quick Facebook update with the best/worst/funniest moments of the whole trip on my fan page, but once I hit 500 words and was not even half done, I decided for a blog post. Soo…. Here it is! My „most” moments in Iceland!
Table of Contents
- 1 Pitching our tent during a downpour and showing off (my own!) butt
- 2 Porridge – young gods’ breakfast
- 3 Internet/phone detox – I’m clearing my mind and growing roots in the present
- 4 Steep? That’s marvelous! Deconstruction of my fear of heights
- 5 Is it Mars yet or we’re still on the Earth?
- 6 Hot pool in the middle of the Highlands
- 7 No one’s watching so I will just roll in this moss. OOPS. Someone IS actually watching.
- 8 Not sure where to pitch your tent? In a mud pond!
- 9 „You too are travelling solo? Do you want to be friends?”
- 10 I book a hut. Because I want, I can, and I don’t have to prove anyone anything.
Pitching our tent during a downpour and showing off (my own!) butt
It’s the first day of the trekking from Laki to Núpsstaðaskógur and I am nearly dying. I didn’t sleep for the past two nights, because in my “cosy” 14-person dorm someone was snoring so hard, that I heard it despite wearing earplugs. People were entering and leaving the room all night long, packing their stuff, making noise that prevented me from falling asleep.
I am walking on a thick moss surrounded by Icelandic nature and I am trying hard to enjoy it but I am just too tired. I still haven’t figured out how many layers to put on myself not to get too warm or too cold. The backpack seems to be so heavy and misshapen. It’s starts showering but as long as we are walking, that’s fine. We reach the place of our campsite around 6pm and it starts raining really hard.
The rain is so heavy I can see a white wall of water in front of me instead of the surrounding mountains. Well, so apparently it’s happening what I wanted to avoid so much while being in Iceland. Awesome. With my tent partner, Andrea, we pitch our tent in this downpour really fast, but I am soaked to the skin already.
Even my underwear is completely wet. My raincoat was supposed to withhold 8000 millimetres of water but apparently it didn’t. I get undressed in a nick of time and jump into the tent. No matter what you do, your butt is always behind. In this case, my almost naked butt is exposed to the eyes of Andrea. That’s an impressive start of companionship! We’ve known each other for 8 hours only and she has already seen my butt. What’s next?
It’s raining heavily and we are sitting in the tent. I am getting used to the thought that this might be the weather for the next two weeks and I’d better accept that and have fun against all odds. It’s beyond my control anyway. The resolution I make is to enjoy Iceland DESPITE the weather conditions and make the most out of my stay there. Guess what happens next?
After two hours, it stops raining. My raincoat gets dry in a nick of time, we prepare tea together with the group, I am running around our campsite in my wading shoes to enjoy the thick moss. It doesn’t rain anymore until the end of the trekking.
Porridge – young gods’ breakfast
-PORRIDGE! PORRIDGE! – Loud shouts and steps of our Icelandic guide, Bryn, wake me up from a warm, refreshing, sweet sleep. My first night in a tent in Iceland was surprisingly comfortable! These shouts will wake me up for the next four mornings and I will start missing them after I come back to Poland. I feel awesome! Merino wool pyjamas did their job – I was warm all night long. And the thick moss made it really comfortable to sleep on the ground. I leave the tent and see this Icelandic vastness. The sun has just risen and everything is bathed in a dreamy, golden light. I am speechless. Time to show what I’m capable of!
Internet/phone detox – I’m clearing my mind and growing roots in the present
I wanted to do Facebook live and yet I have no connection! Maybe tomorrow will it be possible? I am thinking nervously feeling the first pangs of internet detox. The connection is lost for the next day too, though. And the next. And till the end of the trekking. The first day feels weird, later on I start appreciate being cut off. My phone battery has depleted and I so much don’t care anymore! I have not felt so RELAXED for a very long time! I forget about my job, about all the frustrations of daily life, about all the things I still have to do at some point.
I don’t feel ANY need to check my mail or Facebook – it’s not that important anyway. Thanks to that, time to just stare at those amazing landscapes, talk to the fellow trekking companions, lay down on this amazing moss has expanded. After the trekking has finished, I reluctantly connect to the Internet with a strong resolution that from now on, it’s me who sets down the rules in this relationship!
Steep? That’s marvelous! Deconstruction of my fear of heights
It’s the second day of our trekking from Laki to Núpsstaðaskógur, around midday. Every step I take seems to bring me closer to more and more exciting landscapes. I feel strong, refreshed, it was worth doing all those high intensity interval trainings back at the gym! At one point we reach a view point on top of a hill. Roaring waterfall to the left, never-ending canyon to the right, bear-paw shaped mountains to the back. And a steep bluff ahead of us. Bryn confidently approaches the bluff and it takes seconds before I realize he’s not going there to admire the views. He starts descending. “No way can I go down this bluff!”
But…. there is no other way.
Bryn, in short, calm sentences instructs me how to approach steep walls. Put one of your hiking poles firmly into the higher side of the wall, don’t use the other one. Never put the hiking pole below yourself, because if you fall, you’ll hurt yourself. Bend your knees, lean forward to the mountain, hug it almost, put your feet slightly diagonally. Move only one limb at a time, don’t take if off the ground unless it rests firmly on the rock or the ground. Easy, isn’t it? And someone had to tell me this to kill my fear of heights. I am slowly walking down the steep wall. One step at a time. Bryn helps me out occassionally. It’s not that bad! It’s actually fun!
The steep walls in the next days are pure pleasure for me. I am no longer afraid, I just walk carefully being in sync with my body. The last day of our trekking, we reach a lunar valley of Núpsstaðaskógur. In order to get there, we have to walk down a long, steep wall. Guess what I think when I see it. “Finally something interesting on the way!”. That’s what you call a significant progress!
Is it Mars yet or we’re still on the Earth?
It’s the third day of our trekking from Laki to Núpsstaðaskógur, my favorite one. The landscape is changing like crazy, every hour there’s something strikingly different. We start the day with a climb over a steep wall. I feel so much power in my body that I don’t need any help. Conquering this wall is pleasure. I see Bryn is helping out the two other girls and the Korean guy. We walk down a vast, endless valley. As soon as the valley ends, we find ourselves in some hind of a draught corridor.
It’s blowing so strong that I have to walk slightly bent down, using my hiking poles to keep my balance. I see clouds of volcano ash rushing ahead of us. Soon I feel the ash everywhere, on my face, in my hair, in my ears. We hid behind a big rock to catch some breath, drink some water and refill our calories. In the distance, I can see the mighty Sidujokull glacier.
We walk for some more time though this sandstorm and once we leave it behind, an amazing landscape emerges. Nearly pitch black volcano ash decorated with light brown stones and rocks. Is it Mars yet? I can see the Hvannadalshnjúkur in the distance, the highest mountain of Iceland. One day, I will climb it, I think.
Hot pool in the middle of the Highlands
Natural hot pools are cool, especially if you haven’t had a shower for the past three days. Natural hot pools are even cooler if they’re in the middle of Icelandic highlands, it takes 2.5 days to find them, there are no crowds and once you’re sitting inside, you can admire the glaciers. Sidujokull on one hand, Skaftafell on the other hand. The air temperature is 4 degrees and I couldn’t care less, because the water is around 40 degrees. I’m in heaven.
No one’s watching so I will just roll in this moss. OOPS. Someone IS actually watching.
It’s the fourth day of the trekking in the Vatnajökull National Park and we have set our camp in an amazingly beautiful place. It’s hidden between the hills, sheltered from the winds, it’s not raining, and we have a “private” waterfall just behind a wall, or a rock I shall say. The “ladies bathroom” is on top of one of the hills from where you can admire the whole panorama of this area.
It’s the evening already, we’ve finished eating dinner and I decide to take a photo walk around the campsite. I want to shoot those little purple flowers growing here. I lay down on the moss and it’s surprisingly comfortable. The sun is warming me up, it’s golden hour so everything looks just perfect, the winds have died down. I take some phtos and, acting on impulse, start rolling in the moss.
WOW. This is SO COOL. I am alone, so I can do whatever I want! I roll a bit more, lay on my belly and watch the moss, lay on my back and watch the sky. Then I get up and freeze. OOPS. I see two silhouettes standing on the hill nearby. There are my trekking companions. Are they laughing or am I seeing things? 😀 That was a bit awkward, I must admit.
Not sure where to pitch your tent? In a mud pond!
Thanks to the Highlands Pass I got from Iceland By Bus, I am now going to Landmanalaugar, a place where most of the tourists start their Laugavegur trekking, and those not fond of spending a few days roaming through the mountains, come to enjoy baths in a hot river and day hikes around those beautiful, colourful landscapes.
I feel a bit blue, because it’s raining, it’s cold, and it’s quite windy. I look around this huge campsite to find a place where to put up my tent. There’s a nice spot of ground nearby, the only without rocks, so I decide to go for it. Why nobody has used this place, I think, and congratulate myself on being so smart. I’ll regret that sooner than later.
Using the technique of pitching the tent when it’s windy that Bryn taught us, I first attach the tent to the ground. It’s not so easy, though, because the ground is very rocky and none of the metal sticks I have goes deeper in the ground than an inch or two. After a good 15 minutes of fighting with the wind, the tent is up.
I notice that my trousers and my shoes are all covered in mud. How the hell did I do that? I look closer and notice that I pitched the tent in a mud pond. In a fucking mud pond. When I press the ground with my finger, brown water emerges and covers my hand. Well, awesome. After all the hassle I had with the tent, I need to move it to a drier place. I look around and feel even worse when I see the trekking path I’m going to take tomorrow is covered in thick clouds.
„You too are travelling solo? Do you want to be friends?”
It’s morning the next day, the day I start the Laugavegur trek. Solo. I am procrastinating the moment when I will have to leave the campsite since the thick fog hovering over the mountains in the distance scares the shit out of me. It’s 8:30 and I see no one hitting the road yet. I can’t wait any longer because I have to cover 24 km today, that’s a long day of walking.
Damn it, I am walking solo anyway, I will manage, won’t I!? When I reach the official beginning of the trek, I see four girls ahead. Three of them are walking together, one is lurking behind. She seems to be procrastinating with setting off, too. When I am closer to her, she asks, “Hi! So you’re travelling solo too?”. “Indeed I AM!” I reply with a big smile. Then she goes, „So do you want to be friends?”. Of course I do! Especially that I don’t want to face this thick fog alone! This girls’s name is Sophia and we hit it off instantly. At the end of the first, long, hiking day it becomes obvious that we will finish it together too. We are well tuned, have plenty of topics to discuss, and also sense where not to say anything and just admire the views.
That’s what I LOVE about travelling solo. You’re hardly ever solo, because you often meet like-minded people on your way. The three days we spend together are really cool. We are in sync. I set the pace of walking, Sophia reminds us to eat regularly (I tend to forget about everything when I am in the “hiking” mode. I can basically walk until I collapse.). Also, a few obstacles are easier to combat. We hold arms when wading through the cold and strong glacier river Thronga. We support ourselves when we get tired. It’s just so much less stressful to be walking through such a trek with someone.
I book a hut. Because I want, I can, and I don’t have to prove anyone anything.
I was planning to sleep in the tent throughout the Laugavegur trek. My plan, however, didn’t cover the variant when it will be raining heavily the second night in a row; my tent will be wet, and I will have slightly sore feet after hiking 24 km on quite a challenging terrain. I don’t mind the sore feet, but I just can’t imagine pitching my tent in this downpour and getting there wet. Nope, nope, nope.
Having no hopes of getting a bed in a hut, I ask anyway. To my utter surprise, it turns out that they actually have space. Plenty of space, to be precise. Why the opinions on internet I read said everything is booked months ahead? Sophia and me make a quick decision and decide do stay in a hut.
It’s one of the best nights in Iceland. It’s cosy, it’s warm. I dry my tent and my clothes. People in the hut are really nice and we eat dinner together. We chat. We exchange hints and opinions about the Laugavegur trek. It’s perfect. When it stops raining, in the late evening, I take a short walk to the Alftavatn lake. It’s silent and the lake is perfectly still. The glass of water reflects the surrounding mountains. I am standing and admiring in awe. That’s yet another moment when I am completely happy.
Stories from the trekking from Laki to Núpsstaðaskógur were possible to happen thanks to the Icelandic hiking specialist, Trek Iceland. :3 Opinions, stories, and everything elsse is mine, as always. 🙂
There were more moments like that. Funny, tough, awesome. I will keep them for the next posts, though. This one is just a short compilation of my Icelandic highlights, expect more to come! 🙂
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