Sunday, November 22, 2015

On the Way to Landmannalaugar, Iceland

After our Golden Circle tour, we headed off to Landmannalaugar for a day hike. It was a very long drive, along some extremely rough roads at times, but the scenery along the way was stunning and varied. We saw green pastures, rocky plains, hills and mountains, and even this rare tree farm. It reminds me of one of the jokes in Iceland that goes like this:
What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?
Stand up.
Much of Iceland was forested before it was settled, but early settlers cut down the trees for fuel, so there are few forests in the country now.

Over and over again, new landscapes emerged. Steep, rocky cliffs jutting from the slope -- hard against soft, grey against green, growth over erosion. It tells a geological story that I can't quite read, but compels me nonetheless to look and look again.

This hill grabbed my attention, so we pulled off the road so I could take a better photo. The undulating shape and curving lines of crevasses makes it look like the head of a sleeping lizard or snake.

As we approached Landmannalaugar, we left behind paved roads (along with a couple of impressive hydroelectric dams). The unpaved roads were very rough as we went into the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. The terrain included lava fields like this one, with only the barest hint of vegetation beginning to take hold.  It is almost like suddenly finding one's self on a barren moon.

As you can see, the road was unpaved, and was the roughest road we encountered during our trip -- rocky and uneven, requiring a 4WD car. We drove very slowly, but even so, it was a bumpy ride, with fist-sized rocks to jar our passage. Yet, according to the guidebooks, this was the easiest road to approach Landmannalaugar! To be fair, it was certainly driveable, and I was relieved that we didn't have to ford any rivers or streams along the way. Visitors are seemingly not deterred by the difficulty of the approach, however, as we saw plenty of hikers and campers when we got to Landmannalaugar. And maybe the challenge of getting there served to enhance our experience -- if nothing else, through cognitive dissonance.

I loved the acid green vegetation on these hills, over and around the rocks. We didn't get close enough for me to tell whether this is moss or lichen or short grass or something else.

Here we stopped at a lookout-point to take in the view. It was windy, chilly, and spitting rain, but the hills were lovely.

The hills of Landmannalaugar are made of rhyolite, which is a type of mineral-filled lava that cools slowly, creating a variety of colors.  It was the promise of multi-colored hills that inspired our trip to Landmannalaugar.  Even with the cold and rainy weather, I was eager to hike among those hills.

Next up: Landmannalaugar

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