Iceland Part 2: þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar

The lava at Landmannalauger
In Selfoss we were caught by the big black rain cloud that had chased us all morning. We had decided that we would take a bus for the next stage of our journey, as it consisted of a long flat main road that is reported to be extremely busy. So we enjoyed the luxury of the bus (especially given the rain spots).

The 'jeep bus' on the way to þórsmörk

When we reached Hvolsvollur we were all piled on to a more 'jeep like' bus because the road into þórsmörk (þ is pronounced as a 'th' sound) is rough and has several deep river crossings. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall called Storidalur.

The Storidalur cascades off a mossy cliff

þórsmörk is an amazing place, the gateway to another world. After crossing wide glacial outwash plains and barren mountain sides we reached the leafy green campspot, with it's own little hot pool (which unfortunately wasn't quite hot enough) and hut. We camped there for the night along with a lot of other hikers who were starting the famous Landmannalaugar hike the following day.

The scenery on the way up to þórsmörk is so unique

The first of many hot springs at the campground at þórsmörk
We realised that we hadn't actually come to quite the right place we had intended, and because of the huge uncrossable rivers which blocked our way, the only way to progress on our journey would be to bike (or carry) the first day of the Landmannalauger hiking trail until we made it to the 4WD road we were supposed to be traveling on.

In the morning we wound our way out of the scrubby gully leading away from þórsmörk and on to the first river crossing. We got some strange looks along the way from the walkers, but we found we were able to ride quite a lot of the route. After a nice lunch stop we could see the track climbing very steeply out of a gully through deep sand, so Chris ran ahead and did two shuttle runs carrying our extremely heavy pannier laden bikes up -just as well - I couldn't even lift mine!

Winding (and pushing our way) out from þórsmörk

Some single track riding with heavy panniers

One of the spectacular gorges we had to get across
Chris thought it was the best day ever! Finally, after about 6 hours riding/ carrying we made it to the first hut on the route, and we were able to join to the 4WD road we had planned to ride on originally. We rode across a rocky moonscape in the late afternoon sun, eventually descending to a pleasant grassy ford where we made camp for the night.

Strewn boulders
A rocky descent, in the background you can see a tiny speck of the glacier
The gorge bridge
Nearly on to a road
Wide views everywhere
Happy riding again
A very turbid river (this one luckily had a bridge)
A cool river crossing

Finally our happy camp spot

In the morning some gray clouds had gathered and it was cooler than the day before. We enjoyed riding on the quite compact road, across lava fields and rocky areas. We cycled past the beautiful Álftavatn and then up some very steep climbs (most of which Chris proudly managed to ride) to a junction. From there we decided to cycle up to Hrafntinnusker Hut back on the Landmannalauger trekking route.

Junction point
Cycling through the lava after leaving Álftavatn

The hut is at 1027 m, so we had to push up through quite a bit of snow near the top. The wind was freezing, and the hut is perched on a rocky windy spot with little rock walls dotted here and there for you to shelter your tent behind. There were several exciting steaming fumaroles nearby.
Steam pots!
The dragon's lair

We snuck into toasty warm hut and dried out some of our wet gear and sheltered a bit from the wind. Outside even with my super warm down jacket it was cold. Luckily the young hut warden was a friendly student and he kindly pretended not to notice our sneaking in. Hundreds of people must be walking this popular route at a time in the summer, so there were plenty of other bright little tent spots dotted amongst the rocks.

On the deck of the hut trying to get some sun...
Rock shelter

After a windy night in the tent we put on lots of clothes, including our very useful neoprene over-boots for our cycle shoes. We biked down the big snow slope, across some glassy black basalt rocks and back to the junction point from the day before.

Pushing through snow shortly after leaving the hut

There we now turned South and climbed steeply to a pass of around 900 metres. The wind was freezing and after several deep ice cold river crossings Iceland was beginning to live up to its reputation. Warmly clad in jackets, longs and gloves we speed down the rocky pass and onto some wide plains. There was a bit more traffic here as it is very popular to drive into
Some funky green moss
Finally nearing the top of the pass
Back down on the flatlands

We passed several cars having difficulty negotiating the deep fords. After a windy lunch stop the road climbed onto a dusty lava flow, from where we could look across to the large lake of , and see dust storms blowing across the road in the distance.
Approaching the dust storms

Soon we were in the dust storms, and were blackened from head to toe. The worst thing was when the grit got in your eyes. Fortunatly it was only a few kilometers before we were sheltered by a mountainside. We climbed over a little pass and drifted down into the Landmannalauger valley, with its beautiful contrasty coloured hills and dramatic spikey lava formations.

Its a very strange place - there were many large buses, hundreds of brightly coloured tents and so many people! Just as I was hauling my bike up onto the footbridge which crosses the deep river just before Landmannalauger I heard a crack. I couldn't work out what it was, but when I reached Chris on the other side of the bridge he pointed out that my entire brake lever had broken from the handlebars...not good!

Feeling a bit tired and concerned we made our way into the camp and found a relatively sheltered spot (the wind was strong but not howling) and we pitched tent, got out of our wet things and headed for the hot pool!

There was a nice big toilet/cooking area, and from there you walk across a series of mossy board walks to a pretty stream - which is beautifully hot! There is also a larger pool with some very hot water running into it and mixing with a cold spring. It was a wonderful place to spend several hours soaking - getting out into the freezing wind and quickly changing was the only hard part.

The hot spring (not the best picture - we were too busy enjoying it to take many photos)

We met an amusing Polish cycle tourist and a couple of German dentists in the cooking area and spent a fun but chilly evening cooking dinner on our stoves and comparing notes on our Icelandic adventures so far.

In the morning it was pouring with rain and pretty cold and miserable. The idea of biking anywhere was pretty unappealing and I was really regretting my decision to only bring my light weight over-trousers to Iceland. While I was moping around Chris was busy attempting a repair on my broken brake. To my amazement he appeared clutching a power drill and some copper wire. Soon he had come up with an ingenious and very secure way of reattaching my brake!

With full storm force clothing on (most of what we had) we left the amazing landscape of Landmannalauger and headed further inland into the desert lands of the Sprengisandur......


Anne said…
What a saga in a strange and eerie landscape. Hope the hot pools made up for all the cold river crossings, cold winds and rain? Not sure if I am so envious of this part of the trip - but the scenery is certainly spectacular.
CrispNZ said…
Awesome photos Silly Billies... :)

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