Distance covered: 30 miles

I’m now where I dreamt to be when I left Myvatn a long time ago (that’s 4 days). It’s been no death march to get here, in fact it was fairly quiet with some glorious times along the way. Now there’s no expected obstacles to get to the F26, once there I’m in relative safety no matter the weather. I feel less vulnerable. That means I’m less worried by an early morning overcast. Now I’ve got some miles to do.

The big lake

Other than a colorful name, Hagongulon lake is another spectacular sight. The conical peak at the far end, Sydri-Haganga and its nearby sister mountain Nydri-Haganga will become a landmark that I’ll keep recognizing all the way along the remaining highland section of the trip.

Sydri-Haganga and the Hagongulon southern shore

These highland lakes look so different from what I’m used to: they’re in bare ground, like the high mountain alpine lakes but they spread in rather flat areas, not enclosed in narrow basins. Hagongulon feeds from Kaldakvisl and Svedja, two major rivers flowing out of the looming, massive Vatnajokull.

A brief spell of brightness over Hagongulon. Vatnajokull in the background

Beautiful clouds over Hagongulon

More clouds

The track skirts the western shore of the lake. It feels dark and cold. A car comes along that somehow spoils the magic, it’s the first people I meet since the Gaesavotn hut the day before yesterday but this time the human touch is lost, it’s just a car that passes by.

After yesterday’s respite, the weather is back to the usual pattern of dark skies and passing showers. Now that I’m facing south, I’d probably welcome the northerlies that have been plaguing my days so far but it seems the weather is back to a more usual south-westerlies pattern. Perfect timing for some more wet times! I won’t complain anyway. It hasn’t been so bad.

The track leaves Hagongulon and veers west to meet the F26. I get some freezing rain on the way that deters me from going for a cross-country shortcut, I hunker down my coat and keep to look-down-and-keep-hiking mode instead.

Impending rain

Nothing lasts forever weather wise in Iceland. It may sound like a cliché and it probably is but trust me it’s so easy to go from misery to glory in this locale. Right now, rain stops, wind calms down and I come to this glorious view of the Hofsjokull icecap partially lit by sunlight. How not to love backpacking.

Hofsjokull icecap

By the time I come down to the F26, clearings show patches of blue sky. I stop for lunch and sit down to enjoy the sunshine.

Unusually blue sky

The party doesn’t last for long. It gets cloudy and breezy again and I need to resume the hiking before I freeze. I now hike with the weather on my face so I don’t need to look back to monitor the short-term future, I can see the showers coming. And come they do.

It’s fine as long as it stops, then the hairdryer takes care of the wet and I get ready for the next one. At some time, a shower starts that doesn’t stop. I get angry at the weather gods violating our hard-earned status-quo. It’s good though to recall who’s in charge here, the relative safety of the road doesn’t guarantee comfortable hiking in this exposed land. When it comes down, there’s nowhere to hide.

Looking south, rain in 3, 2, 1…

Someone to talk to

It’s look-down-and-keep-hiking time again. I scan ahead hoping for the promised lull but this time it seems it’s not going to happen and I’m not having any fun but the icelandic gods are kind to me and send someone to the rescue. Yes, some one. It always works.

My angel comes along in a bicycle and speaks with french accent. The guy rides in shorts in the most non-sporty fashion, quite the same as what I do when touring, how not to empathise. As it happens particularly when riding with the wind on your face, he’s very wet on the front half but he doesn’t seem bothered. There’s some epic to his stance. We chat about life on the trail, or the road for that matter, heading where today, sleeping how tonight, such simple, obvious stuff that feels so comforting to me. It may feel ironic for a solo hiker but it really helps to share a few minutes of trail talk with a fellow traveler.

Just a few minutes later and to make sure I’m fine, the hiking gods send me a couple of backpackers heading north, two enthusiastic young guys on their way to Nyidalur where they have a resupply parcel waiting for pickup. They’re wet yet they smile. I can’t be thankful enough for a fellow hiker’s smile.

These won’t have been the only reassuring encounters of the day. Only a few hours before, I had shared a while with little bird:

Backpackers, cyclists or birds, all welcome

A golden plover according to the literature. At the time of taking the pic I didn’t know the name but I did know the bird well, it was the most common wildlife sight once away from the coastal areas and it often was the last remaining animal before even plants disappeared. Here in fact there was no vegetation except close to water and I was surprised to meet the plover. This one was like trying to call my attention to the point that it followed me, got very close and even played circles around me. It was probably trying to distract me from its nest or something else of importance but it did so in a funny and charming way. I answered in comforting words to the little bird.

It still rains the same but I now feel fine, as if I need any more proof that it’s all in my head.

It eventually stops raining. It’s a bit early for camp for my standards but I don’t really need to go any further. Then I go past a minimal undulation that would make a nice wind break and it turns out to be an excellent campsite with fairly good holding gravel. I’ll be super comfortable once again tonight.

Safe again

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Iceland North to South
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