From Reykjavik to Thorsmork
By Taxi Van and Three Buses
7:23 AM to 12:23 PM
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Wow, what a day! Getting here was an adventure in itself although we were a little disappointed that we were in a full size bus and that we made a number of stops just to drop off and pick up passengers. We thought we would be travelling in a small group in a four wheel drive car. We were a small group of six: Serge, Anna and Angel from Barcelona, Quinn from Berlin although originally from Michigan then LA with our two Polish guides: Paulina and her apprentice, Martin. We had to get to Thorsmork though with other groups. The last two buses had four wheel drive and we needed that once we left the paved road.
We stopped at a 200 foot high waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. We did not have time to do as some other groups did, climb a series of steps, walk behind the falls then down steps on the other side. There were also miniature people walking above the falls. They must have accessed that position from somewhere else as we could not see any path to get there.
We stopped at a glacier which had slumped away in the spring and formed a giant lake at its base the roaring waters of which scoured a deep grey valley. We stood at the brink of the valley and took photos of the glacier. There were three or four cars at the base of the glacier. They had driven there on a packed ash road and looked like dinky toys.
We let people off at a mountain hut and camping area on the other side of Thorsmork from where we were going. To do so the bus driver had to raise the bus so that the intake for the engine did not suck in water as he drove over a raging river. I think all of us sucked in our breath As he crossed and were relieved to get to the other side. Of course the last bus took us back across the same river, also successfully to deliver us to our mountain hut.
Paulina laid out the food for us to make our own sandwiches: meats, cheese, pepper spread, mushroom spread, tomatoes, cucumber, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, three different breads, rye crackers, tea, coffee, fruit, cookies. We did not go away hungry on our first hike.
We climbed from 300 m to 550 metres along perilously steep ledges with loose rock underfoot. Not a comfortable feeling for Brian nor for me. Paulina was a good guide. I followed directly behind her. The ledge was the width of my feet. Brian and I were the tallest with the biggest feet and possibly our size made us feel vulnerable to certain death with one ill planted pole or misstep. Paulina wanted us to stand on the ledge and admire the fabulous view. It was amazing but really, I just wanted to get off the ledge. We used a chain to rappel down then walked a ledge that dropped away on both sides of us. I sat down and breathed then took photos of the others. Brian arrived first and said, “That’s quite the view through that hole!” I had not noticed the hole I sat beside, the one big enough to jettison me to the valley on the other side of the mountain. Some things are best left unnoticed. We then went hand over hand to pull ourselves by chain up the next cliff face. The top of Rettarfell was glorious. It was not a ledge, but had a broad path on which I could dance and sing, but didn’t. Instead I took photos of the views and the flowers dotting the mountain top. This area is known as Gotaland: God’s Land and it truly is. We were across the Krossa River opposite Thorsmork: Thor’s forest. That’s where the birch forest grew.
Birch trees did not exceed ten feet and there was very little growth other than wild flowers. This area has only started regrowing since it was made into a nature reserve and no sheep are allowed to graze here. Paulina told us to each pocket a handful of birch leaves. She made tea with these for us after we got down from the mountain.
And we did get down more easily than we went up. Though it’s we slid sideways on the rubble we did not feel confident even though our guide, a foot shorter than me, assured us she would catch us. It had not rained in the area much in the past month, highly irregular. The result was that we and especially our boots were very dusty after three and a half hours of hiking. Our boots looked experienced once again.