Friday, 29 January 2016

Iceland 2.23: Landmannalaugar 1

We had planned two nights in Hrauneyjar in order to have a quiet day in the highlands after the rigours of the Sprengisandur crossing.  After an abortive attempt to find out about horse riding and trout fishing in the area, we decided to drive to Landmannalaugar: the northern end of the famous Laugavegur hiking trail which links the Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk National Parks.

Although the journey from Hrauneyjar to Landmannalaugar isn't much more than 30km as the crow flies, the aforementioned corvid is somewhat hampered when forced to drive on ill-maintained F-roads.  Progress was slow and very bumpy, but this was more than made up for by the scenery.  On the way we spotted a lake and decided to see whether there were any birds to look at.  We then discovered that we weren't the first to arrive, as there were three humongous vehicles parked by the lakeside.  Harriet came up with a particularly apt phrase which describes this kind of Icelandic activity: Testosterone Tourism.  We saw plenty more examples of TT later in the day.

There were plenty of rivers to be forded in this part of the world too, including a wide and deep example just outside Landmannalaugar itself.  The service bus had no problems, and neither did the big, recreational 4x4s; other, more normal vehicles, were slightly more circumspect when it came to the crossing.

Unlike the previous example of Testosterone Tourism, which was Italian, the monstrosity here is Swiss.  The scale of the truck is given by the full-sized motor bike which is being carried at the back, almost as an afterthought.

Landmannalaugar is a haven for walkers, and they were absolutely everywhere.  Those doing the Laugavegur trail were being checked off as they departed or arrived, and it was clear that safety in the mountains is taken very carefully in these parts.  Landmannalaugar itself is "tent city", as can be seen from the pictures.

Because we didn't want to get in the way of serious hikers, rather than following the main trail we decided to go for a walk up Grænegil (green ghyll).  It certainly was green too, in stark contrast to the warm reds, yellows and oranges of the rhyolite from which Landmannalaugar is formed.  This, in turn, made a very pleasant change from the interminable black basalt which covers most of Iceland.

It was cold in this part of the highlands, and there was plenty of snow to be found in the permanently shaded valleys.  It was also very damp, with plenty of moss and other plants.  Rather different to our experience of crossing the highland desert the previous day, in other words.