general hiking travel trip reports

Day Three of the Laugavegur hike (Álftavatn – Botnar)

When the Moosling woke up and started rampaging around at 7am, we decided we may as well bow to the inevitable and get up. On this hike, at least in the huts, sleeping in seemed to be the order of the day, with plenty of people not even bothering to roll over in their sleeping bags until it was at least 9am. With such short hiking days, there’s no real rush about anything though.

We were out on the trail shortly after 9am (I know, I’ve got no idea how we got ready to hike so quickly either, we’re like lightning in the mornings). The sky was clear, but within ten minutes we had our boots off for the first river crossing, Bratthálskvísl. There’s nothing quite like freshly melted glacier to wake your feet up.

We meandered on in our sandals, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at another nearby hut, Hrengvellir. There we donned boots once more, and added on some rain gear – the mizzle had been getting suspiciously close to being drizzle.

For a while afterwards the hiking track followed a jeep track, one of the 4WD “F” roads that criss-cross the interior, and range in quality from “well, I could do that in a 2WD, it’s a bit bumpy though” to “OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”. More on those later, once we get to the portion of the trip where we’re driving in our rental 4WD.

The jeep track brought us to another river crossing. This one was a doozy; a big wide river with a strong current and water that was creeping well above our knees. All at glacial temperatures. It wasn’t actually difficult so much as extremely cold though, and the Moosling happily slept through the entire thing. We had no plans of hanging around for photos on this crossing, and it was looking ferocious enough that we didn’t want to do it separately. Luckily a German couple were crossing at the same time as us, and the wife bravely returned to the river to pose for some photos (to show their daughters what their crazy parents had gotten up to in Iceland).

After the river crossing the terrain settled into endless flat ash desert, that I’ve heard others describe as boring. Perhaps in comparison to the days before… but there was still an enormous glacier to the left, and madly tortured volcanic mountains sprouting from the plains. With a flat track to travel along though, the view was slow to change.

Until suddenly we rounded a corner, and there were the Emstur-Botnar huts, tucked in not quite at the foot of the glacier, but not far from it.

It was just a short walk away to the canyon of the river Markarfljot, and so with plenty of time up our sleeves, and our things stowed on our bunk, we went for a wander. As an aside – one of the oddest things about the Icelandic huts was turning up and having to find out from the warden which bunk you had been assigned to (I’m used to the free-for-all of Australian or Canadian huts).

The canyon was spectacular, and definitely the highlight of the day scenery-wise. Although I was a bit wary of getting too close to the edge, it looked a bit inclined to collapse at any moment. A busload of people turned up on the far side of the canyon and we sat there for a good 20 minutes waiting for one of them to fall in, as they got closer and closer to the edge. No-one did (although there were 6 free spaces in our hut that night, supposed to belong to people who never showed, so maybe….)

Back to the hut we cooked dinner and chatted with hut companions, then I took the Moosling for a crawl around the boardwalk (there were three huts that each slept 20, plus a toilet block, all joined by boardwalk, just the thing for crawling adventures).

Distance: 15km
Terrain: Overall it’s flat, but I seem to recall there being annoying bits of up and down anyway

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