Iceland 2018: Travel report (part 3)

Vorheriger Teil: Teil 2

The third part of our trip. (0.76MB)

Day 8: Hólmsárlón → Strútslaug

After one night at the Hólmsárlón, we had three options on the next day:

  1. Go back and ford the small river Hólmsá, which comes out of the lake
  2. Go up the hill, which we climbed down the day before, and follow the lake from above. Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to go down on the other side, the hill looked very steep on our map.
  3. Follow the shore or the lake which looked quite challenging.

We decided to try the third option and walked directly next to the water. As we discussed in out article about travel preparations, we searched for alternatives and choosed the most comfortable one.

The shore of the Hólmsárlón became small very quickly, sometimes we even had to go through the water. (0.69MB)

After some time we had to climb over a small cliff going into the lake. But apart from that, we were able to walk along the lake the whole time.

The river delta Hólmsárbotnar

After approx. three hours we reached the other side (the northern part) of the lake where a lot of smaller and larger streams and rivers flowed into the lake. They all together formed a huge river delta we had to cross (approx 2 km² / 1.2 mi² large). Shortly after we reached the delta, it began to rain and it was getting stronger as we crossed the cold streams and the swampy terrain.

Streams, mud, quicksand and a lot of water are waiting on the northern end of the Hólmsárlón. (0.55MB)

After an hours, we reached the other side of the delta, where the hot spring Strútslaug was waiting for us.

The hot bath

At the Strútslaug we weren’t alone, a family from the USA was brought by an Icelandic tour guide to this beautiful place and they just came out of the warm water. The tour guide even spoke very fluent German and we had a little chat.

After the family left to probably go back to the Strútur campsite, we put on our swimsuits and also took a bath in the wonderfully warm water. The temperature was really warm and very relaxing, especially because of the rain and wind around us.

Near the hot spring Strútslaug you can take a nice hot bath. (0.87MB)

Going out of the water after some time was not so nice and we tried to “dry” ourselves as good as possible. We didn’t want to hike much longer so we decided to build our camp a bit further north near the river Hólmsá and tried to dry our wet swimsuits. My “swimsuit” was by the way just my underpants – save some weight by not taking swimming trunks/swimsuits with you.

Tag 9: Strútslaug → Syðri–Ófæra

The next day was the only day where I haven’t made a single photo and that had a reason: It was constantly raining the whole day long and additionally we had a lot of fog. Although they say that rain and fog never appears together, Þór has a different opinion on that ;)

From day 8 but day 9 looked the same way: Lots of rain and fog. Here the Hólmsárlón (far in the back) seen from Strútslaug. (0.56MB)

This had another effect: We have no idea where exactly we went but approximately a few kilometers north-east and then east. First between the river Syðri–Ófæra and the plateau Svartahnúksfjöll and later we crossed the southern end of the Eldgjá (world largest volcanic rift), which we haven’t noticed.

Actually, we should have been walking on hiking trails the whole time, but we lost them and maybe followed some sheep paths. Also we expected to come along a crossing shortly before entering the Eldgjá where we wanted to go north, but: No trail, no crossing. So we missed it and went too far to the east heading towards the F233, which we only notices in the evening.

Because it was raining the whole day, our rain gear was not water proof enough for this amount of water and everything became wet – down to our skin. Even our hiking shoes and socks were wet from the inside inside.

I constantly collected water on my elbow (because I used hiking poles) and I was able to pour out the water through my sleeves.

After finding a piste leading to a ford through the Syðri–Ófæra, we build up our camp at that ford. In the evening, we took on some dry clothes and – again – tried to dry our wet clothes but we had no space to dry our wet trousers and jackets.

Still wet on the next day: Our wet clothes on our “laundry line”. (0.26MB)

Tag 10: Syðri–Ófæra → Eldgjá

The next morning looked as bad as the day before. This was the third day with constant rain and our mood was at rock bottom.

Nevertheless, we had to move on and after the breakfast, we crossed that ford. Reeeeeally great. Going into wet clothes and directly ford an ice cold river during rain.

Looking back, in the background you can see the Syðri–Ófæra. (0.59MB)

With relatively bad mood, we went on following some sheep paths along the river. After some time we reached the F233 road at a ford through the Syðri–Ófæra but luckily we already were on the right river side.

And it was light

Suddenly the weather changed completely from rain with 5°C / 41°F into sunshine with 20°C / 68°F. We made a break at the ford and tied all our wet clothes to the outside of our backpacks.

Quickly tie all things onto our backpacks. (0.83MB)

While having a little break and getting some rest, we were able to see the difference between tourists and locals, when fording a river.

Tourists:
A couple considers everything very long and carefully, hesitates, discusses, thinks together, feels helpless and then cancels the whole thing.

Locals:
Woman gets out of the car, takes of her pants, walks into the middle of the river (water went up to her crotch), walks a bit around, goes back to her car and off she goes through the water.

Again through the Eldgjá

We followed the F233 for some time until we switched to a hiking path near by. This path led us along the Eldgjá to the waterfall Ófærufoss.

A bridge says us: We are near a tourist attraction. The small canyon in the background belongs to the Eldgjá. (0.74MB)

Soon we reached the F223, which leads to the Eldgjá and Ófærufoss. At the end of the F223 there was a big parking area with toilets, an information hut and benches and a well maintained hiking path to the Ófærufoss.

We were nearly alone when we reached the waterfall, only a father and his son were also there.

The Ófærufoss, which we only saw from the distance. We went further into the valley. (0.37MB)

A short time later, it became foggy and some clouds flew into the Canyon.

A cloud suddenly moved into the canyon. (0.26MB)

We quickly went further into the Eldgjá canyon. The ground became a swamp and we were only able to walk on the side of the valley but it became a bit better towards the end. Because it was late (11pm) and very foggy, we decided to build up our camp and hide it behind a big rock (to not get caught). You are officially not allowed to camp inside the Eldgjá but it was the only opportunity for us.

Tag 11: Eldgjá → Skælingar hut

To not getting caught, we woke up at 5am and started hiking at 6am. It was still foggy, so nobody was able to see us, but we just wanted to be safe.

End of the canyon

It was foggy the whole morning over and we didn’t found a hiking trail or wooden sticks to follow. However, we only knew one way out of the valley, so we started searching for a hiking path. While doing a small break, Kristina finally found it and we followed the wooden sticks with yellow color on it.

A compass is very very helpful when hiking through fog and rough terrain. (1.12MB)

The way out was very steep, consisted only of sand and was not in any way paved or even somehow maintained. Due to the fog, we neither saw the top nor the bottom of the track.

At the end of the path you can barely see the stick with the yellow color. (0.41MB)

After approximately half an hour, we finally reached the top of the cliff that surrounded the end of the Eldgjá and made a little break.

Edge to the Eldgjá. We came up from the right side. (0.30MB)

To the hut

We moved on to the Skælingar hut near the shore of the Skaftá river. As soon as we left the Eldgjá, we moved out of the clouds and finally had sunshine. However, there was still no real hiking trail, just these wooden sticks with yellow markings on it on a green-yellow-mossy background. That was really hard to see, but it’s not fun when it’s too easy :D

During the hike to the hut, we found a dead sheep which looked quite dismembered. Because Iceland doesn’t have large predators (like e.g. wolfs), we wondered how it died.

After some fords through small streams, we reached the hut which is quite near the Skaftá river. The hut belongs to Útivist and is generally open. One can also rent a hut and then the people renting the hut have priority of course.

The Skælingar hut from the entrance. (0.51MB)

There was even a little kitchen. (0.52MB)

In the protection of the hut, Kristina indulged herself the luxury of washing her hair, so we made warm water and sparingly washed her hair. Because we didn’t had anything to pay, we also didn’t used any of the materials there (like e.g. the gas cooker).

In every hut, there’s a small book where everybody should definitely write something in! You’ll see the reason for that in one of the next travel reports ;)

Our clumsy attempt to write something meaningful. (0.44MB)

After some sticky mashed potatoes, which we “refined” with some hard cheese and nuts, we directly went sleeping. This time in a real and dry bed. Awesome!

Tag 12: Skælingar hut → Sveinstindur emergency shelter

After waking up, we saw three large black ravens outside the window, which can grow up to 60cm / 2ft. At that moment, we knew who hunted, killed or at least ate the sheep from the day before.

After some good breakfast, we started pretty late (at 11:30am) towards Sveinstindur and had lots of wind. Near Sveinstindur was another hut marked on our map and we planned to stay there.

The Skælingar hut from the outside. (0.65MB)

Fog … again …

As we walked up a hill on a piste, it became foggy again, we only were able to see approx. 20m / 65ft far this time. At least we were on the correct piste but had to watch out for a left turn where we wanted to leave the piste. Luckily we both had a compass and constantly checked the direction we were walking to.

After some time we saw a guidepost coming out of the forest and we knew that we have to leave the piste at this point. Right in that moment, the fog disappeared and withing seconds we had a clear and great view over the landscape.

Cars have to go left, we had to keep going straight. Time of photo: 3:32pm. (0.44MB)

Same spot but at 3:34pm. (0.39MB)

Awesome view over the landscape with clouds passing by. (0.65MB)

The fog was actually a low hanging cloud which just passed by and so we enjoyed the view and made a little break. We even were able to see the Uxatindar, three peaks we had to go around.

The Uxatindar (0.71MB)

Along the Skaftá to the emergency shelter

We went around the Uxatindar on the west side on a very good hiking path through a beautiful mini-canyon. It’s probably impossible to go around the east, the Skaftá river is directly next to the mountain.

At the foot of the mountain is a lake and the surroundings were a bit flooded so the trail was under water. On the other side of the lake we made a little break and followed the hiking path up a hill. It was wind and cold but at least we had a great view over the Skaftá and Uxatindar.

View heading south. The Skaftá with the direct hillside of the Uxatindar. (1.10MB)

From here the wind became stronger and stronger and it was really exhausting to walk against it. Sometimes the gusts were so strong we were blown over. After a while we headed a bit down towards the Skaftá and reached a plateau where the river flows over bare rocks without visible river bed.

The Skaftá (0.34MB)

After a last and short bit of hiking, we finally ended up at the hit, which was actually an emergency shelter. It was also equipped with a gas cooker, some dishes, some soups, two simple beds, a table and two chairs. Nothing more, nothing less. Because the wind was way to strong for our tent, we stayed here and were quite happy about this little old hut.

The emergency shelter at Sveinstindur. (0.58MB)

Next to the hut was a second hut (the brown one on the photo), which is some kind of measuring station for maybe weather and the river. We don’t know what’s actually for.

To be continued …

I hope you liked the report and the pictured. The next part will come soon ;)

Next part: Part 4 (coming soon …)
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Hauke

I'm a software developer from Hamburg, Germany who loves hiking and beeing outdoor active. When I'm at home, I work on this blog and other software projects, contribute to OpenStreetMap or watch tons of series ;)
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