Hornstrandir - the most desolate corner of Iceland
Despite the difficulties, I managed to find myself in the Hornstrandir peninsula. In the most isolated place in Iceland. It was Tuesday, 6.30 p.m. The return boat was to pick me up on Saturday around noon, at the adjacent bay. In front of me there were five days of multi-kilometre trekking, wonderful views and truly wild Iceland.
The map below shows the hike I planned on the basis of this excellent article about Hornstrandir. The dots represent the places designated for the camping - only there on the selected path could I pitch a tent. The whole trail ranged between 50 and 60km.
As I mentioned in the previous post, my Hornstrandir adventure began in Hesteyri, which is the base for the rangers of Hornstrandir Reserve. There is apparently something like a seasonally open café there, but it was so late that I let it go. 15km trek leading straight to the other side of the peninsula awaited me .
And that's what Hesteyri looks like from above, seen from the top of the pass on which I had to climb in order to get deep into Hornstrandir.
In many places of the trail the road is marked by stone cairns, which traditionally were used as signposts since the beginnings of inhabited Iceland. Believe it or not, but some of these cairns were created several hundred years ago and still orientate the hikers to this day.
Throughout the whole trip I came across dozens of interesting Islandic textures, as I called those colorful and psychedelic elements of nature which fold up into patterns that can be seen all over while exploring the island. Here are some of them:
Throughout nearly the whole trip the sky was completely covered with clouds. In some places, however, a few rays managed to sneak through this cloudy tangle. Sometimes one may even have an impression that there's someone above the clouds who tries to point out certain things by shedding light on them....
The rawness of nature and contemplative silence quickly generated a specific state of consciousness of reverie and concentration in me. The tranquillity I was looking for generates a contrast to your busy interior, which emphasizes your inner dilemmas, emotions or memories that unexpectedly overflow man. The same process often arises during meditation, an experience which is not unfamiliar to me. Best you can do is to observe it.
The route was not easy and it took me a lot of time to get through. Unfortunately, my left knee with which I had some problems in the past started to hurt. The pain accompanied me until the end of the hike and this internal fight with this weakness of my body was a large part of it. My consciousness was constantly occupied by three kinds of phenomena: majestic landscapes of Hornstrandir, inner voices and emotions and physical limitations of my body. I arrived at the camp late - around 2 a.m.. My tent and sleep were a long-awaited luxury, that I deserved after a long day of hitchhiking, time struggle and intensive trekking.
The next day was an extension of the previous day. I walked through two passes and continued to immerse myself in what is offered by the nature of this isolated corner of the world. I meet literally a few people all day long. At the top of one of the passes I met a couple who shared pain killers with me. Another important thing I didn't think about. They definitely improved my comfort of hiking, although the pain was too strong to be eliminated completely.
Somewhere between the passes, I heard a voice right behind me. I turned around and saw this little, wonderful creature. It was literally one meter away from me and my presence wasn't really impressing him. What kind of animal was that? It is an arctic fox, which occurs in Iceland in large numbers, but only here can it be easily observed. The reason is simple - Hornstrandir is the only place where hunting these creatures is forbidden. As a result, they stopped being afraid of people, as I learned several times during my stay in this reserve. On his tail you can still see the remnants of white fur, which covers them completely during the winter.
That day I arrived at the campsite at a more reasonable time, and I went to sleep unusually early, around 7 p.m. My organism had to get a nuts - just two days earlier at that hour it was still waking up... (as I work nightshitfs). From the camp one could see Horn, literally the corner of the peninsula, full of breathtaking cliffs. Horn was my goal for the next day.
The trail had some interesting obstacles, like the wall below, which could be overcome only with the use of a rope. Many rivers - these I crossed during those five days several, if not more than ten times. Sometimes it was possible to cross them by jumping vigorously on rocks, but I had to get wet few times to get to the other site. It takes some time, but it provides a pleasant refreshment and relief for tired feet.
On the way to Horn I passed another small camp, where two French-speaking men had their tent. Our little brave artic friend was there too! He didn't care much about savoir-vivre and simply started to look for food in their backpacks.
Slowly I was approaching Horn, which was covered with fog that day. Thus it did not show all cards, revealing all its spatiality, but the cloud hanging above it allowed me to get lost in it and added a mystical atmosphere to this place. A few hours stay in this place was really enchanting. Lying on the cliff and looking into 500m abyss straight to the ocean, accompanied by thousands of birds that emerged from the fog and landed on the rock walls.... just wow.
Meal of the day? Harðfiskur, a dried fish. Snack popular in Iceland while drinking beer, usually butter spread on it. It's perfect meal while hiking as it's a good source of protein. It tastes a bit like dried beef with the taste of fish. Tasted so good I ate all I had.
After a few hours I made a circle and came back to the same place where I stayed last night. The following day I set off back across the peninsula, this time heading south. Unfortunately, the last day was full of lasting many hours rain. The way back was equally wonderful, but due to the rainfall I did not pull out the camera too often. Having reached my destination, where the next day the boat was to pick me up, I was completely soaked. Even my tent was wet because I took it down while it was raining in the morning. There was nothing at the place of pick-up, except for.... good, old outhouse. Luckily, there was no unpleasant smell in it. It served me as a place where I could dry my clothes and.... spend several hours reading a book. It was barely 3 p.m., and I was to spend the night here. So I was chilling out in the outhouse reading, sheltered from the rain, with the door wide open to the picturesque view of the bay.
The next day a boat came for me, just about 30 minutes late. It took much longer to get back, because the distance was larger and we made more stops, during which more people were picked up. After reaching Ísafjörður I went to the famous Tjöruhúsið, where you can enjoy a buffet in a really reasonable place considering Iceland, with supposedly the best fish on the island and many other dishes, which are constantly being replenished by the cook. Indeed, it was an amazing meal after such intense days in the wilderness. I also allowed myself to take a short walk around the city. The most noteworthy of my attention was the Freemasons' lodge, which was located exactly above the liquor store... I thought that it must be a lot of fun to live in this place and the stereotypes about bizarre Icelanders from this region must be true.
The hitchhike that day went... Quite badly. I managed to drive about 150-200km. The last driver was an middle-aged Icelandic woman, who dropped up under her summer house. It was just after 6 p.m. and the traffic was decreasing every minute. The woman said that if I won't catch any car, I can knock the door and have a tea or coffee inside, and if I want to, she will find a place for me overnight. I wanted to avoid it and just come back at least as close to home as possible, but after two hours of standing in the cold I surrendered and knocked. Her house was beautiful and once belonged to her parents. I met her children and she served me pasta with fruits and beer. As it turned out, she often hosts travelers and gives a lift to hitchhikers. The awkwardness associated with hospitality passed away a bit - after all, someone must really like it, if they do it notoriously ;)
Hot shower and warm bed were invaluable. The next morning I got up first and even though 10 o'clock had passed, everyone except me was still asleep. I wrote a thank you note and went to look for luck on the road. I had a whole day of hitchhiking in front of me. This time I was exceptionally fortunate - I was taken by a couple returning to Reykjavík after a funeral. "Golden shot" as it is said in the hitchhiking jargon ;) I came back early enough that the evening ended up with a total immersion into civilization - in the cheapest pub in the city...