Iceland’s 72nd Birthday

Happy Birthday, Iceland!
Hiking 10 km Strakagill and Thorsmork
Friday, June 17, 2016

Last night, Paulina and Martin prepared a delicious pasta with smoked salmon, pepper cheese and onion sauce. I made the salad and dressing. Paulina had “Chernobyl” cake for dessert: a store bought vanilla loaf cake with a chocolate glaze which she said could survive anything.

The evening before Brian ate at the Icelandic Bistro in Reykjavik where we shared a lamb soup and each enjoyed salmon with a mango lime sauce and a salad.

Today is Iceland’s 72nd birthday. The Norse landed in Iceland in the ninth century. Iceland became part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1814. In 1944, the Icelanders sent Denmark a telegram with words to this effect: “Too bad about the German thing you are dealing with. We are independent now. Bye.”

There may have been a variety of celebrations happening in Reykjavik where two thirds of the Icelandic population lives but at Basra, the bunkhouse/campsite where we were staying it was a very quiet day.

Brian’s knee was swollen from yesterday’s activities; so, we elected to not join the group but do flatter hikes on our own. The group hiked up between two glaciers in the direction of Skogar, slid on the glaciers, came down a steeper route than had been planned, completing eighteen kilometres in nine hours. The original plan involved fourteen kilometres in seven hours. We made the correct decision not to go. We did not want Brian to be using a wheelchair to return home.

Brian and I hiked the canyon valley of Strakagill following the winding River and fording it a couple of times, making it across the rocks without falling in. We had 170 metres of elevation change and hiked five kilometres in just over two hours. We returned to the bunkhouse where we sat at a picnic table and had our sandwiches and cookies plus a cup of tea. The tea was a bonus!

In the afternoon we crossed the Krossa River to Thorsmork and hiked two of the paths on that side, another five kilometres in just over two hours. We took our time and photographed flowers and rock shapes high on the mountains. We could see why Icelanders have so many sagas involving trolls and such. There are so many unusual shapes that make the imagination run wild. There was a particularly striking eagle’s head with a small human crawling towards it.

I borrowed the ranger’s flower book to look up the various flowers we had seen. The book was in Icelandic but the flower names were also in Latin. Besides thyme, lupins, buttercups and wild geraniums I recognized, there were Bartsia alpina, armeria maritima, silena uniflora and rumex acetosa. Both here and in England we saw plenty of Angelica archangela.

There were three huts of volunteers here. They come from all over the world. Some come for a couple of weeks, others for months. They work as teams five days a week clearing trails, building steps or boardwalks, doing maintenance around the huts.

Paulina barbecued not one but two legs of lamb for supper. Along with new potatoes and corn we had salad which I made. For dessert Paulina simmered apple and banana slices then melted chocolate on them. Better than Chernobyl cake.

Sunset is at midnight at this time of year. We do not stay up that late of course. At ten thirty the sun was shining brightly on my face through the bunkhouse window as I closed my eyes. I did not fall asleep quickly as I have had a dreadful head cold for almost a week. I watched the sky turn pink as the sun sank, but I was too lazy to get out of bed to photograph it. I did get up at midnight as the pink puffs of clouds dispersed. It was not dark at all, nor was it at four in the morning. It certainly makes it easier to do the hundred metre dash to the flush toilets when you can see where you are going whether or not it is a cloudy night. The second night was warmer than the first; so, I sauntered rather than dashed to enjoy the daylight grandeur in the middle of the night.

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