Distance covered: 28 miles
It’s overcast and gloomy as I wake up in Akureyri but I commit to not worry about the weather, at least until I start the actual hiking. I still need to get to the starting point and that is a few hours bus ride away. This is Iceland and the most mundane bus trip is a spectacular event so I sit back and relax.
Not many passengers in the small bus, most leave in Husavik. A family of three keeps on to Kopasker. The final stretch over moody moorland is just the driver and myself.
The bus drops me off, turns around and leaves. Raufarhofn (say something like “Roiparhop”) feels like a filmmaking fake town in this dark monday morning. Big city boy not used to empty streets. Anyway, there’s nothing else for me to do but hike, it’s 1 pm and I’ve got 30 miles to go today.
I’m not in the best of my moods but I was ready for this. It helps to know it’ll be a technically easy day as I just need to follow the coastal road. It’s gloom but no doom.
The tarmac ends at the very edge of town, the subsequent gravel road is just as wide. It’s 870 in the Iceland road system. There are no villages along 870 but I soon realise it still links human settlements: there’s a farm building in the distance and the power lines can be seen going on as far as the mist allows.
There is very little traffic. I’m tempted to hitch a ride north to my intended starting point at the Hraunhafnartangi lighthouse. It’d save me just 5 miles but it’d help make this a bearable first day while keeping the daily marathon pace that I need. I decide against. I know I’ll regret it later when it’s 10 pm and I’m still a few miles short of my daily goal.
Hraunhafnartangi (say that again) is barely 1 mile off the road but by the time I get to the area thick mist hampers the view. Once again I’m tempted, this time to skip the lighthouse thing and just keep going on the road. This time I know I’d regret it for likely ever so I slap myself in the face and leave the road on a faint trail into the fog. The trail fades away and I keep forward over a rock dam with the arctic ocean on my side. It’s an unmistakable reference but it still feels daunting to head off-trail into the thick grey wall. Eventually, a tall, dark shape gets visible: the lighthouse at the end of the world.
No time for ceremonials. This is just the northernmost spot on this trip. I’d have probably preferred to have had a wider view but the misty environment has an edge of its own. I soon find the track back to the road along the other side of the peninsula.
The place is not that anonymous. There was a sign towards it from the road on this side.
The rest of the day is a trudge along the empty gravel road. It’s very scenic while it keeps to the ocean side. The birdlife display is to be witnessed, not a picture-friendly flock of thousands but a family-like show of the most diverse bunch I’ve ever seen. Lots of different bird species in between air, land and water. It’ll be the most wildlife intensive section of the whole trip.
I see a pattern developing: farm houses are always located near fresh water. They appear ghost-like in the fog. It’s mostly small, modest houses that wouldn’t look like a permanent residence. Only one of them shows activity as grass is being harvested on the fields.
I take advantage of my still fresh physical condition to hike non-stop. I snack on the go. I mean to cover the distance despite the late start, I don’t want to start with a deficit. When I mean to take a little break I struggle to find any wind shelter. It’s only a strong breeze going on but it’s been blowing forever and I get this feeling of being sick of it. It’s on my back as I hike but I feel it as an aggressive presence when I stop. I need a break from the wind more than from the hiking.
The road turns inland and gets even moodier. No water, no farms, very little wildlife in a grey world of fog over an endless grassy flatland. This is the real push of the day. After a several miles long, straight section, the road goes around rocky hills to reveal a welcoming farmland haven. It’s a sheltered spot with several good-looking farmhouses and clear signs of ongoing activity. There’s people living here.
It’s about halfway to Asbyrgi, where I expect to get to tomorrow so I can finally stop and rest. I set up past the farmhouses and I get wet feet for the first time on the trip just by stepping a few hundred feet away from the road over the saturated vegetation. Ah, wet feet…