Sandra was the first to bed last night, so she is the first up. After an Indian-style bucket wash, she prepares some soft boiled eggs, apples, bread with peanut butter and blueberry jam for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. The boys get up just after 7:30 and we are ready to hit the road at 8:30, which is quite an early start.
We follow our roadbook’s advice and head out on the track to Langisjor lake. The sky is rather cloudy with distant patches of sun, and there is no one on the track. There are regular fords along the road and we soon establish a completely non-official classification for the fords we cross:
The Legon scale of river fords
|Level 0||Really just a puddle|
|Level 1||Shallow crossing, no visible wave seen from inside the car|
|Level 2||Creating a nice bow wave, get water on the hood|
|Level 3||Wave completely obscures windshield, need to use the wipers|
|Level 4||Water actually starts leaking into the car through the heating vents and pools at our feet|
|Level 5||Panic, need to swim out for help as the car drifts downstream|
We have Lots of Level 1’s, a few Level 2’s, and a couple of Level 3’s on the track to the lake. On arriving at the site we can only see a tiny tongue of the lake, it’s not very impressive. We continue on to a small carpark and information hut. There is no soul in sight. The hut seems very new and not yet in operation, unfortunately the toilets are closed. We start to walk up the hill behind the hut; it’s sandy and slippery, and we feel uncomfortable not being on a path because the Icelandic are very strict about always keeping to a path: the soft volcanic soil holds footprints for years as there’s nothing to smooth them out… until the next eruption! We reach the top of the hill and are rewarded with a magnificent view of the lake: it’s really enormous and stretches towards the Vatnajökull. On our way down, we discover that on the other side of the hill there was a marked hiking path. We feel pretty sheepish, but in our defense there were no signs or maps anywhere. The Langisjor has been off the beaten tracks until now and it looks like they’re preparing the site for more intensive tourism.
We double back on our tracks to leave the Langisjor, and just after the crossroads with the main track we cross a deep ford. Definitely a Level 4 as the wave completely flows over the roof of the car and as we emerge on the other side suddenly Sandra feels that her socks are getting wet: water is starting to trickle in through the heating vents in our footwells!
The water slowly dribbles out as we follow a busy but absolutely gorgeous track that meanders across beautiful mountains, large meadows, rivers, lakes… we keep on stopping to take pictures.
At last we reach the famous Landmannalaugar. It’s jam-packed with campers and buses of day trippers. The camp is right next to an enormous lava field at the foot of multihued mountains of rhyolite. We start an easy trek into the lava field, up to a steaming sulfur vent on an orange tinted hill, then down into the rugged lava field again.
We follow a river that flanks a higher mountain covered in snow and ashes, and which is completely green with copper oxide in some places. Ryo is a pain in the neck at the beginning of this umpteenth walk, but as soon as we reach the tricky descent through the rocky lava he is happy again.
Back at base camp, we need to muster our courage in the windy and cloudy weather to go for a plunge in the river. Skye tries to motivates the troops: “Come on guys, it’s part of the Icelandic mystique!” to which Ryo responds: “I think you mean Icelandic mistake, Dad…”
Skye finally manages to convince everybody to put on their bathing suits and trudge through the chill wind along a boardwalk to the pool. It is a sort of marsh where hot sulfurous underground waters mingle with cold river water, resulting in a warm river perfect for bathing. We slip into the shallow gravel-bottomed river and wade closer to the hot water source. The water is only about 50cm deep, and there are probably 30 or 40 people lounging about. There’s a fun atmosphere as people shift about trying to find the optimal temperature, which keeps changing as the currents mix the hot and cold water in varying amounts. Everybody is very friendly and we bump into the Israelis and Italians that we met in Askja a week ago!
Strangely enough, after coming out of the water the air feels less cold than going in. Everyone crowds on a little wooden deck to change without caring too much if they’re semi-naked in a crowd. That’s bathing Nordic style.
On the road again we wonder what kind of hut we will have tonight. After driving another bit of pretty track we reach Landmannhellir. We arrive in sunshine in a pretty verdant valley of pasture with a river, rolling hills and pleasant small red roofed huts. After our night in a huge dormitory we are very pleased to discover that we will be alone in a tiny hut.
We enjoy a pleasant apero on our deck, basking in the sun sheltered from the wind, before preparing pasta for dinner and turning in for a quiet night’s sleep.