On Saturday, August 25th I hiked 16k from the Alflavatn campsite to Emstrur campsite on the Laugavegurin Trail.
That morning I woke up in quite the tiff. Both this morning and the first, I had woken with what seemed to be more than appropriate condensation on the inside of my tent. Since my sleeping bag is down and it is imperative that it doesn’t get wet, I was more than a little put off about why this was happening and how I could make sure it stopped.
I also set off for the day blissfully unaware that the 16k hike I was about to do was actually 16k. All my info had said it was 12k. This will come into play later.
The start of the hike was actually pretty fun. The trail climbed up out of the valley and there was the first river crossing where I needed to switch out my socks and boots for my sandals. Water was cold almost to the point of pain but before it could get there your feet went numb so no worries! That’s how it works, right? I would have to do that two times that day and each time I spent more time searching for a dry way across than if I had just accepted it for what it was and switched into sandals right off.
From the second river crossing on though, the hike got mighty flat and mighty slow. At first, it was very humbling and relaxing to be walking along the volcanic plains between hulking outcroppings of rock. But soon I began to fall victim to the same feeling of no progress as I had the day before. When you’re looking at the same environment, no matter how beautiful, for long enough it starts to lose its allure. I think it is a reason why a lot of people do not explore their own backyards and I was surprised by myself that I was affected by it so quickly.
The trail is also a road for a significant amount of time so you lose your sense of remoteness and wildness with every 4×4 Toyota that drives past. The whole trail vs road debate wound up being a lifesaver for me though. Without realizing they separated, I had taken the road right when I was meant to take the trail to the left. By the time I noticed another pair of hikers had done the same and the three of us, all equally confused, had to take a minute to determine what was the right way. Of course we had made the wrong decision but it was that wrong decision that led me to meet two lovely Irish travellers!
The three of us took up a wild conversation about where we had travelled and shared some of our best stories. The both of them were extremely well travelled and I was definitely glad to have their company at that point. Upon hearing about my two trips to Israel, they were quite curious to hear about my opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the events of World War II and the Holocaust, as well as my own personal beliefs. It will never cease to amaze me how my Jewish identity connects me to people and this world. These of course are major topics and they lasted us a good long while before they were overtaken by the unavoidable feelings of, “Where the fuck are we?”
Having already made a mistake on the trail before, we were all a wee bit paranoid about making another. Factor in that I still think the hike is 4k shorter than it really is and the veritable desert we are walking through and you got yourself an interesting last 45 minutes of hiking.
Mainly because my expectation was to complete the day in under 4 hours, the 4 hours and 49 minutes it took to go the 16k seemed to take forever. It wasnt until someone at camp informed me that I had been wrong all day could I laugh and accept my goof.
Camp that night was on the side of a hill facing a huge glacial face. A stream ran right through the middle and the site was tiered like a poor Icelandic man’s Machu Pichu. By now I had setting up the tent and gathering penguin rocks down to a science though so it was up fast and easy.
I finally got my rice to cook right, too! What a relief that was, let me tell you. I ate with a group of Germans who were all traveling together. We had passed each other several times on the trail and they seemed great so I knew I wanted to make a point to sit with them on my last night. They were all very welcoming and we talked about everything from careers to fair trade to the lifelong question of, “What is the difference between a tin and a can?” To my readers, what would you say?
I had an early morning the next day so I could be sure to get to camp before the bus for that day left, so I turned in early, setting my alarm for 6am and happy knowing that there were still so many good people left in the world.
All my love.