September 8 - September 11, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Laugavegur Hiking Day #3. Alftavatn to Emstrur September 10, 2016

Hiking Day #3: Alftavatn to Emstrur.  Sept. 10, 2016
15 kilometers (9.3 miles) with 40 meters (131 feet) net elevation loss

Everyone on the first floor woke at 4am...not because we wanted to, but because a group of French campers came into the hut and prepared for their day's hike in the kitchen area.  In addition to their bag rustling, they also attempted to cook their breakfast in spite of a large sign right over the stove stating that quiet hours were from 10pm to 7am.  Lars, our fellow traveler from the Netherlands, opened his door and asked them to quiet down.  They didn't.  I opened my door and snarled "Jesus CHRIST" at them, but that didn't work either.  By the time they all left, everyone was everyone proceeded to ready themselves for the day as well.

As we were readying ourselves, the girls and I spoke of our water crossing strategies.  Today's hike would include two crossings, and with all the recent rain, the water was rumored to be deep and swift.  The girls and I are used to crossing water in NH, but the girls have never been in fast-moving water that's gone past their knees.  Well, actually, there was one time...we actually swam across a river once...but it was summer and we were prepared to swim.  This time around, we didn't want to swim, we just wanted to cross and get on with our hike...falling over in the freezing cold water was to be avoided if possible.

Just as we were about to leave (we were once again the first hut people out the door), Brandon came over and asked me to check my boots.  I did...they were mine and all was well.  He then told me his boots were gone and that someone must have taken them.  In their place were other boots of the same brand, but one and a half sizes smaller.  The only people who had been out the door before us were the French campers.  It seems, therefore, that not only were those campers inconsiderate that morning, but one of them had been absent-minded and had taken the wrong boots as well.  Poor Brandon was talking to the warden as we left, trying to see if the warden could contact the other hut wardens to be on the lookout for that group.

Upon leaving the hut, we took a right and followed the wooden markers (this time topped with dark blue paint...which makes no sense since that blue paint is difficult to see even in good weather) up a hill and across a green and black landscape.

The first crossing came quickly; it wasn't bad at all.  We removed our boots, put on our lighter hiking shoes (which we had brought for this express purpose), and sloshed right through.  The water only came up to our lower calves.

After the crossing came another hut...this hut is only a mile or two away from the hut we stayed at in Alftavatn; We didn't get photos of this hut, but it looks lovely and I was later told that it tends to be less crowded than the one in which we had slept.

On we went, through a lava landscape and over a bridge, to the other water crossing of the day.

This crossing was thankfully bridged

Looking back from the bridge

Our bridge-less crossing came less than a mile after the bridged crossing.  We walked along a flat expanse of road until we reached the river Blafjallakvisl.

The best way to cross this is to go upstream about a tenth of a mile.  There's a wide spot where the water isn't quite so deep or swift.  Short, unofficial markers can be seen on both sides of the river at this point.

In we went, me first so I could figure out the best way for the girls to cross.  I stood in the middle of the river, which was indeed swift and came up to my lower thighs (I'm 5' 10"), and waited while Alex and Sage crossed one at a time.  They struggled against the current and the water almost came up to their waists, but everyone made it across without falling over.  That water was COLD, though!

It started to rain just as we were drying our feet and getting our boots back on.  We bundled up and continued walking...the trek was easy from now until the hut.  Just one long and flat stretch of trail (which was mostly road) after another, through a black volcanic desert.

There was one area where we descended a hill with a beautiful view spread out before us.  Other than that, the day's hike was plain and a bit boring (when compared with the other Laugavegur hiking days).

The views improved substantially upon reaching Emstrur.

Emstrur consists of a bunch of small buildings, each with its own kitchen.  We arrived before the rest of our fellow travelers and the girls claimed a mattress on an upper bunk.

Within a couple of hours, the Indian couple, Lars and Dasja, Brandon and Alex (Brandon had hiked all day in the boots that were a size and a half too small -- ouch!), two French women, two French men, and a Spanish/French couple joined us.  It was an amiable crew, and we all enjoyed speaking with each other.

Since the weather was clear, and the girls and I walked around a bit.

Beautiful camping spots!

Warning about what to do if the local volcano erupts

Later, Sage went for a walk with others from our hut to visit a nearby canyon (Alex and I stayed behind).  Dasja took these photos and shared them with me --

The day was perfect...and then I temporarily lost our passports.  As soon as I realized they were missing, I made an announcement in our living area and everyone, without exception, stopped what they were doing and helped me look.  It was incredible -- everyone was so kind and so helpful, they acted as though they had lost their own passports.  Sage went outside and asked others to help, and they did -- this display of support was overwhelming.  The French lady of the Spanish/French couple found the documents...I had tucked them away in our food bag while I was talking with everyone and not paying attention to what I was doing!  So embarrassing!  I felt quite silly for the rest of the evening, though everyone was kind and sweet about it.

The next day would be our last hiking day.  Laugavegur is a very short trail, but its gorgeous and completely worth the cost of airfare.

I'll try to post again tomorrow, sorry about the lag between this post and the last one.  Life gets busy, as I am sure you all understand.

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